Board games + children + parents = FUN ?

What seems incredibly sad is that according to a recent report commissioned by Disneyland Paris and written by Professor Tanya Byron “Parents have forgotten how to play” with their children. This study interviewed 2,000 parents and 2,000 children (aged between 5 and 15) across the UK and the findings suggest that not only have a significant number of parents (21%) forgotten how to play with their children but 30% of parents think that playing with their children is

With the opportunities presented by modern board and card games for having fun, strengthening relationships, developing knowledge, supporting the education of the young and re-enforcing social norms, these figures are incredibly disappointing and when considered with other indicators suggest a lack of awareness of what is available today.

The report states that 50% of parents blame work and chores as barriers to the amount of quality time they spend with their children, yet according to a Which Report in May 2007 over three hours a day is spent watching TV, an increase on the ONS figures in 2000. Whilst this figure includes adults that are not parents most people, I believe, would accept that a significant amount of time is spent in many families either watching TV or with electronic media related activities.

Traditional games such as Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit etc require time and a degree of general knowledge that means those that have not enjoyed or maybe had the benefit of education feel uncomfortable and disinterested in “playing games” and may in part underpin the thought by so many that playing with children is boring. Yet with games such as Straw available (a 20 minute game) which everybody who we have seen play it has really enjoyed, both young and old, there are alternatives (of which this is just one example). However they are just not commonly available through high street shops. So unless you are interested in modern games (frequently seen by society as a ‘geek’) and know what is available and where to buy them the opportunity is missed.

Another revealing element of the report was recorded by the Mirror on the 8th September 2010.

“…you find adults saying that a lot of kids’ play is centred around electronic games. Parents didn’t have games like these as kids, so they feel the skills they have to play with their children are irrelevant.

But when we put this to children, the results were startling – 90% said that while they really enjoyed electronic games, it wasn’t what they wanted to do with their parents.

Three-quarters wanted to do traditional things like board games, card games and playing outdoors.”

This is perhaps a surprise given the millions spent on marketing the electronic options. In comparison modern board and card games require no expensive computer hardware or technical knowledge and can offer hours of fun for all members of the family at very modest levels of cost. If the opportunity is taken up then no longer are non-technical members of the family consigned to just being spectators, a frequent situation even for the technically minded with the likes of Wii. The more traditional opportunities presented by playing around a table are largely overlooked receive few marketing dollars and tend to be forgotten, except at Christmas, yet they offer a highly interactive and inclusive experience for both nuclear and extended families.

With sibling rivalry sited by 30% of parents as yet another impediment it is perhaps not surprising that the offerings on the high street fail to ignite the interest of today’s parents. However again modern board games have at least two ways to counter this and support the concepts of fair play and that winning isn’t everything:
  1. There are now a range of collaborative games e.g. Forbidden Island that pit the players against the game itself; they cover a variety of themes and levels of complexity but being great fun and with victory only being achieved if all the players work together. It may not work for all families but by removing the direct competitive nature of games like Chess or Monopoly this style of game may be worth considering.
  2. Traditional games such as Monopoly often have a directly competitive almost combative element, being won by the person who has dominated or even eliminated every other player from the game. The structure of modern alternatives tends to avoid the elimination of players sometimes including stages that can be won in their own right and which whilst they can contribute to an overall win will not guarantee a successful outcome – the winner is often far from clear until very near the end of the game. These elements seek to make the game an interesting and relaxing experience, remove a lot of the combative competitiveness and reduce the effect of luck that are common features of many games available on the high street. The most well known example is Settler of Catan, although there are hundreds of other examples.
An interesting statistic, when considering the level of awareness of modern board and card games in the UK, is the number of people attending the UK Games Expo – 2,000 approx compared with the equivalent event in Germany – 200,000 approx where games are a really big part of the family and social scene. Maybe the Germans know something that has largely been forgotten in the UK?

The question is how do parents rediscover the fun they can have playing board and card games with their children?

No comments:

Post a Comment