The theme of parents, children and play is one we have visited a number of times before in various guises within this blog. However, recently I unearthed a study reported in NewsWeek concerning a 32% improvement in reasoning abilities and a 27% increasing in processing speeds achieved by a group of 7 to 10 year olds who started using games in school. This level of gain would normally only be achieved over a year of education but was in fact achieved over an 8 week period using games for
16 sessions of an hour and fifteen minutes each. The full report can be read here.
What was perhaps most interesting was that the gains were most significant in those children from the neediest backgrounds. This is a finding that is consistent with other studies I have unearthed which also suggest that for maths (although may well apply to other areas) part of the reason children from poorer backgrounds perform less well is because they haven’t played even the simplest of games such as Snakes and Ladders, or at least not regularly.
The opportunity to help children make significant gains is clear and ultimately comes in the form of playing games whether at home or in schools. In schools Imagination Gaming are spearheading efforts in the UK (with some interesting case studies on their blog) but if you want to start at home then the likely challenges you face are:.
Finding The Time
In a working household the greatest challenge might be to find the time. It takes time to find the games that will engage children and then crucially the time to use them and make the experience a fun one that will have the children asking for more. Yet study after study shows that children love to play and contrary to popular opinion it doesn't have to be via technology (although the marketing might have you think otherwise). An article in the Mail Online earlier this year talked about the time gained by just turning off the TV, and the dramatic impact it had on a young child's performance at school.
The second challenge is identifying suitable games. Try and invest a little time looking at Boardgamegeek (not the most appealing name to non-gamers) but they do have some excellent discussions under the forums Gaming with Kids. Having identified a game or games they can, in all probability, be sourced through Imagination Gaming or the other retailers mentioned on the right hand side of this blog.
With the UK Games Expo running from the 3rd to the 5th June there is also the opportunity to bring your family along for a great day out and why not visit the Family Zone where there will be lots of great games to try out.
Your budget might be a third challenge - if it does not run to expensive brand new games, start small and with patience the charity shops, Boardgamegeek European Auction (they have a monthly auction of games being sold off) and eBay can yield some tremendous bargains. If the games are at times unfamiliar then you will find a wealth of information about them on Boardgamegeek. BUT do remember to question eBay sellers as to whether anything is missing if buying used games.
Good luck and happy gaming