Guest Blogger, Jennifer Cantis
The odds are pretty high that playtime was your favorite part of the day when you were a kid. Playing organized sports, board games with family members, or just being let outside to entertain yourself with friends always seemed to be the best part of the day.
As we grew up, too many of us decided the time for play was over, and it was instead time to focus only on more serious endeavors. Thanks to the findings of recent research, we can confidently say it is time to adjust how we think about playtime. For many of us, it’s also time to start scheduling a playdate with the family.
Play Supports Childhood Development
The notion that playtime assumed a dominant role in helping to form a child’s personality, academic potential, and sense of citizenship is far from a new concept. Researchers and child psychiatrists have invested decades in studying and understanding how children who participate in games compared to children who are denied this opportunity
Playtime reduces stress in children while boosting the productivity and focus of children who are participating in academic events. It even makes them more responsible citizens by enforcing adherence to rules, encouraging respect for personal boundaries, and facilitating communication.
Adults and Special Needs Children and Games
Adults who played similar games to the ones played by children reported lower stress and better focus shortly after playtime, and they were more productive. This science backs up what so many large companies already know and rely on when designing their offices.
Play also carries with it the added advantage of boosting memory and focus for older adults and children who have ADHD. Play can also heighten communication skills for certain children with Autism. The message is clear. If you are looking to heighten the personal productivity of your child, build family bonds, and boost your child’s communication skills, the best thing you can do is to play a game.
What Makes a Great Game?
A great family game is one that helps open communication across generations. Now that the stage is set, you need to work to build an environment where your child is comfortable communicating with you. Give your child a sense of safety and empowerment by letting them pick the game and explain the rules of the game to you.
One of the biggest challenges in getting a child to speak about their problems can be overcome by getting them to talk about something they feel they have control and authority over. When they are explaining the rules of the game, they will be put at ease, which makes them more likely to confide in you.
Finally, suggest games that promote the outcome you want. Playing Simon Says could be a fun way to help your child read physical cues, but if you’re trying to encourage open verbal communication, it is likely a poor game choice. Picking a game that emphasizes physicality or verbal responses matters and will dictate what kind of communication skills are honed by the game.
Games That Improve Communication for Adults and Children
Classic Bean Bag Toss
Classic bean bag toss is a fun summer game that’s also called cornhole. The game is simple enough to play and provides an excellent opportunity for open communication and face-to-face interaction. Whether you’re looking to pull distant relatives together during a summer barbeque or trying to introduce some physical activity into your elderly parent’s life, cornhole is a great game to play to build the paths of communication.
What’s so great about it? First, it requires some physical activity but is far from taxing. Adults and children of all ages can fully participate in the game. It’s easy to spend time talking and acting silly with loved ones when playing cornhole. Finally, it’s a great conversation starter. You can start with some good-natured banter to keep it lively.
Finish the Story
Want to play a fun game that doesn’t require any toys or equipment? Cut photographs out of magazines and put them into a bag. Take turns with your child pulling out pictures from the bag. Whoever pulls the story out of the bag must start the story. Once the story is halfway done, it’s up to the other person to finish it! This is a great game to play with younger kids because you can focus on pictures that show people’s facial expression to build their ability to read emotional responses.
Emotional charades is a great game to play if your child is suffering from communication or emotional challenges! Let your child start out as the leader. They must act out an emotion, and it is your job to guess how they are acting. If you’re right, it’s your turn to be the leader and act out an emotion. This is an engaging game because there is no talking so the focus is on developing emotional intelligence and your child’s ability to react appropriately to other people’s emotions.
Feed Me Pie
If you’re okay getting a bit messy, Feed Me Pie is a ton of fun! Make a whipped cream pie and take turns with the other person giving detailed instructions on how to feed you pie while they are blindfolded. What’s so great about this game? It proves that details matter, and it encourages active listening by the blindfolded person.
Playtime is a critically important part of a child’s development, and, as we learn more about how it promotes healthy and productive lives for adults, it becomes clear that it also keeps adults well adjusted.
Games not only are a great way to have fun, but they also reward adherence to boundaries, clear communication, and disconnecting from the digital distractions. So, go ahead and book a playdate with your child, colleague or friend to feel refreshed and renewed.