7 Skill Building Games to Play with Your Children

7 Skill Building Games to Play with Your Children

     It's always great to have a variety of toys and games children can pick up to entertain themselves. Whether alone or with other youth, it gives parents a chance to take a break and address other issues. There is so much that needs to get done that it can get tempting to dump your child off in front of a TV or among a pile of toys.

     Many games and toys, such as Legos and Simon, can encourage creativity, dexterity, and memory. Dolls and action figures foster fantasy and an exploration of relationships and personal interactions. Even video games help with problem solving and eye-hand coordination. Youth can learn and hone many skills alone, but we shouldn't forget the value of interacting with our children in play and entertainment.

     When we engage with our children in play, we can model appropriate behaviors, demonstrate coping skills, and prompt and encourage our children to do the same. We can play referee - to interpret and enforce rules, and address cheating and fair play. Or we can simply enrich our relationships through play and laughter. I strongly encourage outdoor activities and joining your children in sports or an afternoon at a park.  Physical exercise, team building, and developing coordination are important pieces of development that, due to advances in the quality and affordability of technology, can get easily lost with a reliance on TV and Playstations.  However, here are some indoor games that are entertaining and enriching for youth that parents will also enjoy.

 SORRY:  A simple game based on chance, Sorry doesn't require a lot of skill. The playing field is even. Younger kids can play with older kids, or younger kids can keep up with the adults. Part of the strategy requires sabotaging your opponents, so Sorry helps kids deal with losing, obstacles, and understanding that setbacks are not always intentional attacks on them. Basic life lesson: Things don't always go your way.

 PICTIONARY: Pictionary helps kids develop some mechanical coordination and fosters creativity. Drawing engages the brain in a different way than speaking. Learning to conceptualize and communicate in images is a nice balance to games teaching logic and strategy. Also - an effective picture is better than a beautiful picture, attacking the myth that art needs to be "perfect" to be good.

 QWIRKLE: Another game that's good for a varied age group. The game involves sequencing tiles by shapes and colors. A player needs to pay attention, but it's not beyond most people's ability. Qwirkle can help kids develop some basic strategy, pattern recognition skills, and problem solving. Your best move might not be there by the time your turn comes around again. Time for plan B.

 SET: Like Qwirkle, Set is a game of pattern recognition. However, Set is much faster and depends more on cognitive processing speed and memory. Set is better for older kids or when played among children of similar skill levels. But the more you play, the faster your brain gets at seeing the patterns.

 LIFE STORIES: Share stories and ideas with family members! This game encouraged sharing and opening up about a variety of subjects and interests. It's a good way to learn about what is going on with your kids, and for them to know you, too. 

FLUXX: "The Ever-Changing Card Came". The overall game stays the same while specific rules and goals can quickly and unexpectedly change. Fluxx teaches strategy and planning, but also flexibility. There is a logical progression to what players need to do to make sense of any given set of rules, but you need to pay attention. There is a structure to how you follow the game. I like playing Fluxx with kids that have ADHD, because it can help with organization... "First you do This, then you do That, then This, and you are in pretty good shape!"

CHESS: Don't be afraid to jump in and play Chess with your kids! You don't need to be an expert. Just teach how the pieces move and the basic objective, and your child is off and running with strategy, decision making, and problem solving. You can learn more about the finer points of the game with your youngster as you go along.