Have you noticed a decline in your children’s social skills during the pandemic? Experts Say Playing Board Games | Putnam News
As we enter the third year of the pandemic, school closures, lockdowns, isolation and reduced socialization have taken their toll in many ways. The US Surgeon General issued an advisory in December on the growing crisis in young people’s mental health, and experts are seeing a drastic decline in children’s social skills.
Parents have racked their brains to keep their children social while social distancing, but according to 7 in 10 parents surveyed by OnePoll, they see children’s social skills at risk. Two-thirds of parents surveyed fear their children have become more socially awkward, and 30% or more fear they find it difficult to share, stay silent for long periods of time and wait their turn.
The best predictor of academic performance in eighth grade has been proven to be a child’s basic social skills in third grade. But kids currently in third grade haven’t had a regular school year or life since they’ve been in kindergarten.
What could you do today? The answer might surprise you.
What’s an affordable solution for parents that doctors recommend that kids will put down their braces for? It’s a 4,000-year-old invention that everyone can agree on: board games.
They are such an effective tool for developing social skills that leading experts and therapists have been playing board games with children for decades. That’s why Dr. Jon Freeman, clinical psychologist, neuroscientist, board and card game enthusiast, and founder of The Brooklyn Strategist, offers an after-school social skills program at his Board Game cafe.
“After observing a shortage of social skills in children, we realized how much work there was to do,” he said. “Our programs focus on neurodevelopment through having fun and developing and articulating strategic approaches through socialization and gameplay.”
It’s been such a game-changer that school administrators are recommending kids play Brooklyn Strategist after school, even before the pandemic.
“As an occupational therapist for 20 years, I’ve played a lot of board games with kids of all ages and abilities,” says Keri Wilmont, occupational therapist and toy expert. “Board games are a great way for kids to take turns listening first and learning to cope when others might not want to follow the rules and try to cheat or to bend the rules in their favour.”
“Therapists don’t play games with kids by accident,” adds emotional dynamics expert Erik Fisher, Ph.D. “Games can be a way for them to develop many of the cognitive skills necessary for academic success, as well as life. Games train and strengthen attention, concentration, memory, critical thinking, reasoning and problem solving. And as a bonus, it helps them learn how to manage to lose and gives them a chance to see that failure tells us when it’s time to learn.
“Making new friends and being able to collaborate with another person is important in a school environment. Board games allow children to practice basic social skills through play,” said Dr. Amanda Gummer, widely regarded as the go-to expert on play, toys and child development. “Quick-paced, fun-focused games can be a great way to give kids more opportunities to play with others and start developing an understanding of friendly competition.”
“Newer games have introduced cooperative elements, and this is a big game-changer (no pun intended) when it comes to social dynamics. Instead of rewarding neurotransmitters (e.g. dopamine) from the being declared the winner at the expense of everyone else, the reward is now associated with working within a larger group,” says Dr Jon Freeman.
Are you up for this approach? Here’s a list of 10 beloved board games that experts recommend, kids love, and parents love. If you want to take a test drive before buying, many local libraries have board games you can check out, as well as books.
1. Sneaky Squirrel Game
2-4 players | 3-6 years | Social skills: taking turns, perseverance, sportsmanship
For five years, it’s been the best-selling preschool game, praised for its ease of play. Little kids love spinning the top and feeding their squirrel five different colored acorns. While you might be in the lead one minute, you might have a strong breeze next and have to flip your acorns and start over.
2-4 players | 3 years and over | Social skills: taking turns, perseverance, sportsmanship, following instructions
For over 70 years, this beloved, easy-to-understand game set in a children’s candy dreamland has been a staple for families. Although it sounds simple, it introduces the concept of rules, taking turns, following instructions, winning and losing for preschoolers.
2-6 players | 4 years and over | Social skills: sportsmanship, following directions, attention skills
It’s Bingo with a Zing! Fifty million families have bought this child’s favorite toy of the year. Swipe the zinger, make a visual match and fill your photo bingo card to win.
4. Busytown by Richard Scarry, the eye has found it
1-6 players | 4 years and over | Social skills: collaboration, teamwork, following instructions
If you want to introduce your young child to the fun of board games, but they’re still getting used to losing, try this game. the world has not come to an end. This approach focuses fun on the game and not necessarily on winning, avoiding tears.
2-5 players | 6 years and over | Social skills: sportsmanship, following instructions
This award-winning board game is so popular that they’ve released a Juniors version. If your train-loving toddler is now older, try this beloved train adventure board game. Players collect and play cards to own railroad routes connecting cities across America, from Miami to Seattle. With a total of 11 boards, you can play across India, Europe, and Asia.
2-10 players | 7 years and over | Social skills: sportsmanship, following instructions, attention
This classic 50-year-old deck of cards can be had for $10 or less and is small enough to pack for a family vacation. Although it seems like a fun and competitive race to get rid of your cards first, kids practice laser focus, follow directions, and are a good winner and a good loser.
2-4 players | 8 years and over | Social skills: attention, following instructions, sportsmanship
With over eight awards to its name, this game is enjoyed by a wide range of age groups. Described by the creator as a mix of Rummy, Sudoku and a Rubik’s Cube combined with inspiration from Hawaiian myths, try this fast-paced tile game.
2-4 players | 8 years and over | Social skills: following instructions, sportsmanship, confrontation
Created by the same game designer behind Magic the Gathering, it’s no surprise that it’s won numerous awards, including Best Family Game. Who wouldn’t love to play with mutated monsters, giant robots and strange aliens destroying the city to become the king of Tokyo?
2-4 players | 8 years and over | Social skills: teamwork, collaboration
There’s nothing like the challenge of saving humanity from a pandemic to keep a family or a group of friends working. This multi-award-winning cooperative board game gives each player a role such as a doctor, scientist or quarantine specialist. The party recognizes and applies the strength of each player’s role in curing a deadly disease before it’s too late.
3-4 players | 10 years and over | Social skills: sportsmanship, confrontation, attention
This 25-year-old board game, bought by 20 million people, has been called the most beloved board game of all time by tabletop enthusiasts. The countless ways you can expand the island of Catania lends itself to endless fun replays. Players as young as 6 years old can enjoy Catan with their pirate-themed junior version with a simpler style of play.