Activities like create new games or play popular games should not be restricted to only moments of leisure.
Teachers, researchers, and educators are increasingly integrating play into their classrooms since it is an alternative that offers countless benefits to children’s learning process.
Play develops children’s specific skills, needs, and traits in a lighthearted, enjoyable way. It also brings people together and, in turn, lightens up the environment, filling it with surprises — not only for the kids, but also for the adults, whether at home or at school.
A scientific study published in 2016 by the American Psychological Association reinforces the benefits board games can bring to children’s learning.
The study observed how groups of kids can be more inflexible towards the conventional rules of a game or activity when said rules are taught to them, rather than when they make up their own rules. However, they still sat for hours playing simply because these activities were pleasurable and fun.
The result was an increase in levels of concentration and motivation. It is a complex article gathering data that, ultimately, proves it is possible to learn and acquire skills by playing board games.
What Harvard says
The University of Harvard, in the United States, is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world. At Harvard, there is the Center on the Developing Child, where many studies with and about kids are conducted, with countless partnerships with other American institutions and from around the world.
One of the materials made available on the website of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard explains that the science of child development points to three basic principles that can orient what society needs to do to help children and their families to prosper. These principles are: to support responsive relationships, to strengthen essential skills for life, and to reduce sources of stress. Play in early childhood is an effective way to support these three principles.
Laura Huerta Migus, Executive Director of the Association of Children’s Museums, states that, when we play, we can reach our maximum happiness, but we can also handle great difficulties. When we play, we engage in complex interactions with other people at the same time that we build our brains. When we play, social interactions become relationships. We need play in order to connect these three basic principles.
Lynneth Solis, researcher at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, asserts that “…as a child, play prepares me to better respond in the face of the unknown and the uncertainty of the environment where I live.”
Play strengthens essential skills for life. It is possible to observe these skills during some moments in a game or activity:
- Children need to think and decide how to interact in a game. That is, they need to think about what they are going to say, how they are going to say it and how to position themselves.
- The use of planning and problem solving skills to complete the activities is necessary. That is when the strategies, the moves, and even their approach to building a lego tower come in.
- Following the rules of the game is necessary, but it is also important to be flexible when a friend wants to change these rules. In other words, negotiation skills in a different social group – which is not family – are also developed here.
Lynneth Solis explains that play reduces stress levels and develops essential life skills that allow kids to assess a situation and know how to change it, in a way that they don’t feel attacked or stressed. We also know that it develops confrontation skills as well as reduces parents’ and caregivers’ stress levels.
The possibility of finding new alternatives to play:
The logical reasoning used in many games stimulates the search for alternative approaches to everyday situations. Reflecting about the possibilities when faced with a challenge and understanding what can or cannot be done makes kids experience their day-to-day events in a significant way.
Games are also about the possibility of experimentation — imaginary scenarios full of different perspectives. In order to look at these perspectives and at all the angles created by them, focus and concentration are needed, which is then reflected on other routine moments in which kids go through similar situations.
Chess for kids:
Chess is a game which brings together several of the benefits mentioned above. It not only reinforces the importance of concentration and attention, but also teaches to respect others, to trust in yourself, and to be creative during each possible move in the game.
In december 1986, FIDE (International Chess Federation) and UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) created the “Commission For Chess in Schools” with the goal of diffusing and democratizing chess as a learning tool inside schools.
The creation of this commission has made chess even more popular within the school environment worldwide. Beyond that, its creation reinforces the aforementioned benefits brought by this game.
Learning from mistakes:
Before you make a move in a chess game, players must also think about their opponent’s reaction. Moves are made mentally and both players can predict what will happen. Of course, there are unexpected moves — and that is why, after each match, those who play chess always learn a bit more from their own mistakes and victories, as well as from their opponents.
Think before you act:
Acting compulsively and making a move before giving it much thought can bring negative consequences to the chess player. For this reason, chess cultivates players’ ability to “think before they act”.
Chess also develops autonomy and decision-making in kids, without adult interference. Before making each move, kids need to search their own memories for all the possible moves, without relying on other people’s help.
Another game that offers many benefits to kids is the classic puzzle. The practice proposed by the game is very positive for the short-term memory as well as for quick-thinking since you need to be agile and assertive in order to find the missing pieces.
Just like in chess, puzzles consist of solving a problem — and in order to do that, a lot of concentration is needed. The trial and error approach to putting the pieces in the right place drives logical thinking. Visual perception and a notion of space are also present in the game. Figures, numbers, and words formed by completed puzzles will enrich kids’ vocabulary and knowledge.
Motor skills improvement:
The act of putting puzzles together makes kids learn to control their movements — the ones necessary to fit in the pieces. Sight is also an important ally to this game, alongside the careful attention to details.
These games can not only provide all the benefits mentioned above but also bring kids and their parents, siblings, educators and caregivers together.
Each failed or successful attempt is lived together, which is extremely important for socialization. These classic games are also a great alternative to spending hours glued to a screen.
Kids communicate through play, and it is through that that they express themselves freely while having fun. Chess and puzzles can be allies to this communication. Let’s play more games with our kids, shall we?
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber