Board games don’t just bring us together – they remind us how to play.
When I think of board games, I think of family. I grew up playing board games, and back then, it was just a fun activity and a great way to get the upper hand on my older sibling.
Now, as a parent, I see a different value in playing board games with my own kids.
How Playing Games Helps Families
Playing games is about more than just rolling the dice to determine the outcome of skirmishes, with an ultimate goal of world domination. It’s about more than pushing little plastic men around or laying down certain cards.
The real action happens around the table, rather than on the board, as players practice diplomacy, make and break alliances, develop vendettas and pull off hustles, and let others leave us in the dust with grace.
In other words, it’s great practice for family life.
Indeed, games teach useful lessons about taking turns and handling defeat. They provide an outlet for healthy tension and rivalry. They require family members to sit down and interact with each other – increasingly important in a world where we spend much of our time in separate rooms, triple-screening and arguing over social media about whose house they're going to next.
Games bring us together as a family.
But perhaps best of all, they remind us how to play. And for adults, especially me, sometimes we need a reminder of what we did intuitively when we were kids.
How Playing Games Helps Adults
I know I get wrapped up in the adulting and the list of tasks that need to get done. Sometimes playing games can feel like a waste of time when I could be getting so much other "productive" stuff done. But I've come to realize, if we lose the ability to play in the chaos of responsibility, then we're doing ourselves a great disservice.
Play is not just essential for kids; it's essential for adults as well.
“We don’t lose the need for novelty and pleasure as we grow up,” notes Scott G. Eberle, Ph.D, vice president for play studies at The Strong. Play brings joy. And it’s vital for problem solving, creativity and relationships.
I like Hannah Eaton's statement in her article, “Choose a Partner You can be Playful With”: "As we grow older, more often than not, we are encouraged to subdue playful tendencies and to replace them with a more serious and professional air, as we strive to have it all figured out. We are discouraged from climbing trees ... or dancing freely when the music moves us. Our culture conditions us that publicly pursuing childlike activities may run the risk of appearing foolish or unprofessional. We are taught that you only dance when it is appropriate, like during dance classes, in a club, or at a wedding.
And yet, deep down, I believe we all yearn to experience that deep sense of joy and delight we often see on the faces of young children, when they are creatively playing, or dancing freely anywhere they hear music."
And, as the Pacific Standard notes, "By abandoning play, we're abandoning an important part of ourselves."
Why I Embrace Play With My Family
So, as I've been raising my children, I've actually found myself increasing the amount of time I try to dedicate to play, both for myself and for my family.
Because I don't want to lose myself.
Because I don't want to teach my kids that play is childish and non-productive.
Because I don't want any of them to lose a single part of themselves, or suppress their joy and creativity.
I look at my older children and am proud of how creative, kind, and driven they are as they enter their adult lives. I look at my youngest baby and watch as she's still in the thick of the natural play inherent to a toddler. I look at my partner and know that we have limitless opportunities to create, grow, and learn together.
And I can look around the game table now and know that this is a part of it.
I think I'm doing it right.