The educational value of children’s party games

*Guest post

Every parent wants to do the best for their child. We all understand that value of reading with children to encourage their literacy and verbal expression; we also understand the need to get to grips with numeracy, from counting the fruit and veg as we shop to learn how to tell the time.

In our pursuit of making sure our kids get the best possible educational and learning in life, we often focus on the more traditional and accepted learning vehicles and processes, assuming that some other common aspects of life hold little in the way of educational value.

Party games, for example are not the first things that spring to mind when we think of some of the ways and means we use to educate children. But, with many educationalists advocating ‘learning through doing and play’, it would seem that party games could be perfectly placed to help a child learn.

So the next time you shop for party bags and supplies, take a moment to think about what skills a child learns from some of the games we play.

The types of party games and gaming activities

Playing games, competitive or otherwise, has for centuries, been the accepted norm for how humans socialise and interact. If nothing else, teaching a child to engage with his or hers peers is a great way of teaching them how to socialise, social skills, reading the emotions of others and also team work, in many cases too.

Playing is something that children do and they do this for various reasons; these reasons are also the very reasons why we no longer ‘play’ as such, as we get older. And when we do, it is in a different form.

Children playing

Children play because it is the way that they learn all kinds of skills, from problem solving to being confronted – in a positive and negative way – with their peers. Unlike other settings, playing with their peers is a safe, yet powerful way of learning, whilst having fun.

Every day, we are bombarded with information and data; for children, this can be anything from how to carry water from one bucket to another, to understanding why their friend cries when their hair is pulled.

There are also other, hidden emotions that children need to learn to deal with; the excitement of going to a party to dealing with disappointment of not winning. There is also understanding why some things are fair, and others are not.

Party games have the innate ability to combine and enhance all the different ways we deal with this information and data, from the hard facts to the emotions that surround us. Playing a game can highlight quality and skills you have, as well as those that are perceived as lacking. They also help us practice in this sense, so that we develop these skills such as catching a ball, to getting the hoop over the coconut are all hand-to-eye coordination skills that need developing.

The problem with party games

… is simple – we stop playing them, at some point in our lives, because we see them as ‘uncool’, too old, too traditional and, from an education point of view, too frivolous. After all, you didn’t think you could have so much fun playing a strategic game such as tag, and yet, rugby is considered an honourable sport, but don’t they use the same skills and discipline?

Games and gaming activities are important

It has long been realised that games are important but, the educational value that has been applied to them has, over the years, been somewhat lacking. However, the Internet is full of party game ideas and, providing you choose age appropriate ones that match the skill level of the age of the child, then you can have a huge amount of fun and learning, all rolled in to one:

– Conjuring tricks and magic – again, not seen as the main vehicle for much learning or educational value, take a step back an objectively appraise what you see. Magic has a way of drawing people out of their shell, in to a world of wonder. Active participation is something that can happen, without the child realising it.

– Board games – clever and fun, playing a board game requires strategic thinking and fore thought; a simple games of noughts and crosses, in the great outdoors with your peers at a party is all about spending recreational time with peers, but also developing thinking skills.

– Mind games – puzzles and having to ‘work things out’ either individually or as a group is a great way of developing some serious thinking skills. Many party games that require people to work together towards a common goal, is a skill need in adult life, at work and other places too.

Play is important; party games are important and you will be amazed at how much bearing on the learning of children these traditional and modern games have.

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