The Good Things of Childhood Should Last a Lifetime

Following our summer trial of the "Social Afternoons with Games" at St Mary's, Crowborough, Peter Lanaway, a highly regarded English teacher at St Gregory's school in Tunbridge Wells (until his retirement), kindly took the time to send me this feedback.

I would encourage anybody who doubts my  belief in why these modern board and card games are such an excellent tool, to read his comments.

I have intermittently played board games: when I was young; when my children were young , and nowadays with my grandchildren. Games also tend to appear at larger family gatherings, especially at Christmas.

We have hitherto stuck to traditional games: draughts, dominoes, chess, cards, -especially whist and crib,- Othello, Battleships, and tiddleywinks, at which I used to be amazing... Games for larger groups have included word games such as Boggle and Lexicon. ( I have never taken to Scrabble.) Jenga is an unfailing winner. Of the bigger games, Monopoly has never appealed as its outcome is
protracted, nebulous and rarely satisfactory,- a comment perhaps on Capitalism... Cluedo and Totopoly are more fun.

Why do such games appeal? One reason, of course, is that most encourage mental alertness and give young children some of their first experiences of using maths, vocabulary and strategies for practical purposes outside the classroom. They also help keep older brains and reactions ticking over. Those, however, are not, I think, my main reasons for their appeal. They also bring people together in doing something purely for enjoyment and friendly competetiveness without any serious concern about usefulness or targets, or even winning. Education has in recent years dangerously shrunk to an excessively utilitarian view of life in which success is measured by the attainment of targets to improve exam results and thus chances of a better job etc. etc. The habit of doing something "merely" because it is fun is too easily overlooked. Young children have it. Teenagers can repel the tendency towards world-weary cynicism, and older people can stay young in their enthusiasms, and thus can become like little children again ( with all the heavenly rewards that brings!) by developing or rediscovering the fun of playing games together. Games should bridge the generations and the good things of childhood should last a lifetime.

I now descend from my soapbox. I was impressed when your summer-afternoon sessions introduced me to new and in some cases more sophisticated games. People of all ages sat with no obvious signs of self-consciousness, all intent on enjoying themselves. I was a little abashed to note that the younger ones were much more adept at understanding the objectives and rules than I was. Indeed, their concern that all should know and keep to the rules reveals how socially-formative games are. Yet the beauty is that, through games, these lessons in life are intuitive and implicit.

Of the games you introduced, "Carcassonne" is one I shall buy, partly because it is so beautifully presented and can be enjoyed by all, yet clearly is capable of a higher level than I have yet reached. "Patrician" didn't make quite the same impact, but that is probably because , although I won hands down, I didn't fully understand what I was doing. I did not play "Castle Panic" but understand it was raucously popular. "Straw" and the game with chopsticks (Sushizock im Gockelwokwere excellent "fillers". 

Thank you for opening up new vistas for us. I know that my grandchildren are enthusiastic and are hoping that the holiday sessions will continue. I shall certainly suppport them.

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