Thursday, October 3

Game-Schooling : Learning through Play

When school gets to be too much, we put it away and spend a day playing board games.  Games are a great way to reinforce what you’re teaching, as well as teach social and life skills.  There are so many options, no matter the age level, and most importantly, the kids won’t realize they’re learning!

Some of the social skills involved in board games include : communication, turn taking, sharing, waiting, encouragement, and healthy competition.  It’s a good way to learn that your luck can change in a roll of the dice, so don’t ever give up and just keep trying your best, because your next turn might be your lucky move!

Some of our favorite board games are :
  • Monopoly.  This classic game teaches about math and finances. Monopoly is also an incredible powerful mechanism for introducing students to the art of negotiation…and, in our house, how not to get taken!  It’s a great game for tailoring to age level, and you can continue to add financial lessons as they progress.  As an added bonus, if you’re really passionate about your alma mater or favorite TV show, it probably has its own version of the game!
  • Clue.  Has there ever been a better murder mystery game for the elementary / middle school set?  It teaches logic, organization, critical thinking, and deductive reasoning.  Plus, it’s a lot of fun!
  • Scrabble.  Another classic, this one works with spelling and vocabulary.  It seems that people are either really good, or really bad, at this game, and in our family it’s about a fifty-fifty split.  Therefore, we usually pair up on evenly matched teams.  Also, when a parental figure plays a word the kids don’t know, they get to practice their dictionary skills!
  • Risk.  It covers world geography, politics, and relationships.  Everyone tries to build an army, protect their territory, and conquer the world – and for my ancient history loving kids, this is their idea of a perfect game.  Not only do you have to conquer the world, but you have to weigh the odds, plan contingency plans, and form alliances to help you pull it all off…
  • Chess.  It’s like a real-life game of war, possibly even more so than Risk…thinking ahead, on multiple courses of action, strategic planning, and competition.  Honestly, it’s not my favorite game, but one of our sons adores playing, and always wins.  We all have our strengths…which is something else we learn as we play!
But what are we really learning???
  • Learning can be FUN.  So, maybe they aren’t consciously learning this one, but they’ll be able to see all of the real-life applications of the lessons they’ve meticulously plucked away at…as they quickly add up the dice in their head, or shuffle out bank notes from the ‘bank.’
  • Turn-taking.  Even littles can practice patience and wait their turn for Chutes & Ladders or Hi-Ho the Cherry-O.  And this is a real world skill….as anyone who’s waited in line at Walmart will attest to…
  • Math skills – particularly arithmetic.  Not every board game requires this, but the vast majority involve rolling dice, adding up those dice (or multiplying), and proceeding with the game based on the answer. 
  • Strategy.  Younger games don’t involve this one as much, but Chess and Risk are good examples of games that require you to develop one or more long-term strategies.  Thinking ahead is a skill that will develop with practice.
  • Decision-making.  Even with a good strategy, sometimes you have to cut your losses.  Learning how to decide when and what to cut, and what criteria help make that decision, are skills that translate to both career and relationships – it’s about risk and benefit.
  • Grace.  This is a skill that most people aren’t born with…we have to be taught, and then have opportunities to practice it.  Both winning and losing should be handled with grace, but human nature doesn’t work that way.  It’s important, as parents, for us to demonstrate this grace and help kids distinguish between healthy competition and a personal attack.

What about printable games?
My hands-down favorite place to find printable games is Ellen McHenry's Basement.  Her games are appropriate for middle schoolers and up, and really reinforce the concepts that we are teaching through FUN.  If you haven't met is the time!
Some of the FREE games you'll find there include :

How do we store all of these?
Printable games can be tricky to store.  The boards themselves are flimsy, but then you have all of those extra cards and playing pieces to keep up with, too.  Two tricks that have worked for us are :
  • Roll up the boards / papers and place down into a cardboard tube.  This was our first mode of storage, until we began having trouble with keeping pieces on the boards during play....because they'd been rolled up for so long, they kept wanting to roll up, and ejecting dice and playing pieces!  (Best option for short-term use)
  • That brought us to our second idea, and the one that's stuck for three years now.  We took an old mailing box and flattened it out...punched two holes in the top, and then punched two holes in the side of every single game board we had.  
    • Using yarn, we tied them all together, but loosely enough to be able to flip the 'pages.'  
    • We put the cards and pieces in separate sandwich bags, and then all of those went into a gallon sized bag.  
Snag a slew of resources in the Homeschool Helpers Bundle!

Covers ten topics to get your homeschool running smoothly!
Getting Started
· A Parent’s Alphabet
· Choosing the Right Curriculum for Your Family
· Motivating Your Teens
· Seven Steps to Teaching Work Ethic
Special Needs
· Occupational Therapy in Homeschool
· Speech Therapy in Homeschool
· Teaching the Distracted Child
Making it Fun
· Game-Schooling – Learning through Play
· How to Snag Free E-Books
· Holiday Foreign Language Fun

Looking for more?  Check out the original Mom’s Bundle and Homemaking & Homesteading Bundle!

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