Those old board games and deck of cards collecting dust on the top shelf of the closet aren’t just a thing of the past. They could actually be what we’ve all been missing, especially our kids, when it comes to having fun, being social, and actually learning and using our brain while doing it!
So go on. Go get them out of that closet and put them in plain sight!
They don’t need Wi-Fi. They don’t need an app. They don’t need a password, cord, plug-in, headset, controller, speaker, or adapter of any kind. All they need is someone to crack them open and start a game.
The multitude of games available today, along with the classics we all grew up with, of course, Battleship, Clue, Monopoly, Game of Life, Pictionary, Scattegories, just to name a few, offer a unique and vast mix of fun, skill, critical eye, wit, interaction and risk that you would be hard pressed to find a match in any videogame.
Games – like good ol’ fashioned board, dice, and card games – build more skill, more character, and more critical thinking than we may have ever given credit, and with that, now more than ever, we may need to give that some thought. The more time spent staring at screens (myself included!) the less time spent face-to-face with other people, making choices and solving problems, taking risks and keeping the brain active.
There’s more to those dusty old games than we may think; more real life in that cardboard box than we care want to admit. Here’s why we say to go dust those games off and get a game started. ,
8 Reasons to Play Games with your Kids
Yes, yes, you get to spend time together as a family. Yawn. We know this one’s obvious, the ‘Family Game Night’ has become a bit more widespread now. But why? Just to spend time together? Or is it about the memories your kids will have when they are all grown up? The moments spent attempting to beat you, learning the tricks to getting faster, thinking quicker, taking risks and learning how you got to be so good? Or those awkward family reunions where the kids don’t really know each other and instead of hiding behind their iPad screen they start laughing, moving around, hollering a good time because they got into a good board game? Rain or shine, inside or out, electricity or not, know each other or not, a good game bonds us, instantly, creates memories and moments to share with one another. It takes us out of our comfort zone. It builds a connection we would otherwise not have.
Board games force us to make choices. Sometimes tough ones. We need to weigh options and think on a deeper level. We need to decide what’s the best thing to do, or the best place to move, or the best time to use a card. It requires us to dig deep into our background knowledge – things we know about the world, people, emotions, reactions, experiences like this before – it requires us to apply both our understanding about the situation in the game and the information we may already have deep inside us. Even while we’re playing we are still learning and taking mental notes of how things play out, whether we’d do that again or do it differently, watching how others play and strategize, and learning unspoken rules or mannerisms. We’re planning ahead, thinking back, organizing information, and reading how others interpret. All of this not only builds, but IS critical thinking at its’ best. To not take everything as it is, to always trust your gut feeling, to learn who to trust and when to trust them, to question and word things appropriately, knowing how to act and react to a situation – these build skills that are above all else the most useful in real life.
Ah, patience. Waiting. Being prepared. Planning ahead. Letting others take their time. We’re all born with these skills naturally, right? Games can help teach these skills by giving a real situation where they’re actually required in order to have fun. And then those skills can come out in real life! Modeling how to support others, offer advice only when asked, making use of waiting time to plan and prepare for you own turn, being ready to play, learning the appropriate times to act and when to wait – these are all essential life skills that can be taught by playing games. These skills will stick with you through life, and be a major character builder – for the better!
Real Life, Purposeful Mathematics
Adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, shapes, figures, transformations, reflections, rotations, strategizing, probability, sorting, organizing, grouping, counting, estimating, totaling, averaging, partitioning, parts of a whole, matching, logical reasoning, money, time, visual recognition, number sense, multi-step instructions, solving problems – well, that’s an entire year of basic mathematics skills right there. No kidding. Right there in a good ol’ board game. Enough said.
Real life, Purposeful Language Arts
Listening, talking, sharing, expressing ideas, making notes, reading instructions, re-reading for comprehension, making inferences, making predictions, making connections, building responsibility for your own things, understanding respect for others and their things, adjusting to the flow of other’s thinking, recognizing a different perspective, solving conflict and disagreements, compromising, taking pride in self achievements and the achievements of others, reading emotions, taking risks, trusting your gut feeling, looking at something with a critical eye – yes, you guessed it, these are all Language Arts skills, being put to good, practical use. Talk about real life learning!
Actions and Consequences
All actions have consequences - in the game and in real life. Now, some of us know this, and some of us have yet to have learned this. What better way to learn than in the comfort and safety of a board game. All actions have an effect on something, or someone, else. Sometimes negative, sometimes positive, sometimes on both yourself and on others. A simple board game, card game, whatever it is, provides the perfect controlled environment to practice these essential skills, and actions, and learn how to handle the consequences. A safe environment to be risky and learn through making tough choices, deciding between risk or reward, to punish others or to reap the benefits. Good old board and card games are full of daring moves that force us to decide how we will handle the circumstances that follow. They have the potential to teach us much about ourselves and about the real life waiting for us. .
When you’re engaged in an epic game of Sorry! or Catchphrase or Apples to Apples or even good ol’ Cribbage, there’s moments when every bit of you is working. Your mind, your hands, your heartbeat rises, you’re all in. Kinesthetic learning like these is beneficial to us all, and often, is missing most in education today. When your whole body is into it, you can feel it, live it, and relive it. It’s a real thing happening that you’re apart of – for many children, this kind of the learning that sticks, it’s what helps us connect to the why and how of learning. We remember it. It’s face-to-face, real life interaction with human beings. Not on a screen, not happening before us, but actually with us. It’s tangible family fun at its’ best, which is something we could all benefit from nowadays!
Win some, lose some
Let’s just talk about this one for a minute. Fear of failure is a real phenomenon surfacing more and more in generations growing up today. Teachers feel it, grandparents feel it, and parents feel it. Just in life, you win some and you lose some. But if you never lose some, then you must assume you’re pretty brilliant... Wow, real life is going to be rough! If you never lose some growing up, if you never witness it in your own life, how will you be prepared when losing comes at you fast and furious once out on your own? Games provide the perfect environment for learning fair play, hard work, winning and, the obvious, losing. With grace, of course. It provides the perfect environment for modeling these behaviours and how to deal with the feelings that surface. It provides moments to teach that cheating doesn’t always feel good when you could've won with your own hard work. Or that you just love the play of the game and not just the win of the game. Or how to actually play tactfully, without making personal attacks that hurt feelings deeper than the game itself.
And the best part? Most of these life lessons that can be carried on into their lives as they get older don't have to be directly taught - they can just be learned naturally through the experience of playing games. Win, win for all.
Don't Buy Those Curriculum Activity Books Yet... 5 Ways to Boost Summer Learning and Still Have Summer FUN!
Let's go down memory lane for a moment here...
Images of kids running out of school, throwing their school work into the air as summer vacation begins. You may even start singing Alice Coopers 'Schools Out' song -- No more school, no more home work, kids get to do what they want for two months! Wahoo!
Remember those days? Carefree summers of playing sports, playing with friends, and going on vacations. Boy oh boy, those were the days!
We want to help make sure that those memories of fun summers continue on..
Don't let the words summer slide, brain drain, summer learning loss, make you think that it's impossible for your child to have an enjoyable summer and keep up their skills at the same time!
Yes, the studies can be a touch shocking when they are reporting that in the summer kids can lose about one month of overall learning, two months of reading skills, and that teachers can spend up to six weeks re-teaching old material that was lost in the summer months. It sounds scary and alarming. We know. But don't despair! And definitely don't buy those curriculum activity books just yet! It's actually a lot easier than you think to keep 'em smiling and skilled in time for September. Enjoy those precious months of sunshine, warmth and family memories. They're worth more than anything else!
You don’t have to sacrifice your summer plans in order to keep your child’s skills sharp.
Five Ways to Boost Summer Learning While Still Having Summer Fun
Keep them reading
Everything in this list is helpful, however if you only have time to do one thing, do this. Reading feeds into nearly everything else, is one of the most practical and useful skills, and it can be done anywhere. Read to them, have them read to you, read signs, newspapers, road signs, menus, instructions, anything, story books, chapter books, comic books, anything. Anything that comes up and is of interest, take it! Reading for 20-30 minutes at bedtime, in the car, all at once or throughout the day will help your child to continue to expand their vocabulary, grow their knowledge and questions about the world, and will help keep their academic skills progressing.
Let them experience real life mathematics
Plan a budget for a weekend camping trip and shop together. Read maps, figure out distance and time, divide food equally, follow recipes, measure ingredients, figure out money spent and change. Get them using their math skills in real life situations as often as possible. This will help reinforce what they’ve learned, help them make a connection (maybe even question!) how to do other skills and can bring real value to practising math skills.
Ask them as many questions as they ask you
If you're planning a trip to the zoo, do some research ahead of time to learn more about some of the animals and where they came from. If you're heading to the beach, look up some strategies on how to make a drool-worthy sandcastle. Ask them, 'Why do you think that?" "How does this work?" "Where would we find out that information?" Get them thinking about the world around them, but more importantly, instil the idea that they have the power to learn to about the world around them. All they need is an interest, a question, and someone like you to help them out.
Keep them active and outside
To keep the mind sharp you have to make sure the body is staying active. Try new activities! Go for a hike! Spend the day at the beach! All of these things keep us moving, keep us exploring, teach us new skills, and inspire our whole bodies to grow. Let alone the memories you'll make! Maybe even give logrolling a try! Try something new this summer. There are so many things to do outdoors and many of them are free or cost very little. You never know, a new family favourite activity could be discovered!
Have fun and let children be children
Let's be honest, the summertime is supposed to be laid back and fun. The last thing we would want to suggest is that you take all the fun out of it by over-planning or overdoing it on any end. Life truly is about balance. With all of our suggestions above try to incorporate as much excitement and ‘fun’ into the activities as possible, but also remember to relax and let the moments happen on their own. Learning honestly is so natural, that if we push too hard, we can take all the fun out of it to begin with. Children naturally want to learn about the world, but will take in more and make something of what they've learned if they get to experience it, usually, on their own terms. So, let them run. Let them play. Let them explore. Let them ask questions. Let them experience summer.
Be sure to follow Via Vita Academy this summer on Facebook and Twitter. Every Sunday, we’ll set a new weekly Summer Brain Gain Challenge to encourage everyone to have fun while learning this summer!
Please welcome Abbie and Carter, two grade five students who have shared their thoughts with us today about learning outside on a field trip. Written from their own experiences and all the wisdom that 10 years of life can bring, we (and they) are eager to hear what you think! We are very excited to have their input on this interesting topic, and honestly, we find their points quite compelling! Take a read and enjoy!
In both classroom learning and on a field trip, you learn. You do math. You learn about language. You learn about the world. You learn about cultures. You learn how to live. You learn how to work together.
But, in classrooms you’re limited to whatever the teacher has planned for you in the day, You’re limited to whatever you can do in the classroom. You’re limited to what your classmates have to say. You’re limited to the walls around you.
A field trip is like outside learning. You can experience learning. You have more to explore, more to think about, and more chances to express yourself. Here's Abbie and Carter's 10 reasons why we love learning outside on a field trip!
1. More Activity
You’re walking all day, you’re playing, you’re being a kid. When you’re in a classroom, you feel like an adult stuck in an office all day. All you want to do is run, play, and have fun. Just by being outside, you’re being active and using your body to learn. Your mind thinks more as you touch and learn about the world.
2. Less Stress
When you’re in a classroom, having to do your work, you might worry about not getting it done on time, or not having enough done, or doing it wrong. When you’re outside on a field trip, you’re less stressed because you don’t have to worry about things. You have lots of things on your mind that are exciting. Your mind is racing because you can’t wait to keep exploring new things.
3. Easier to Focus
When you’re in a classroom, there’s distractions that take you away from the one thing you’re supposed to be doing. It's really easy to not do your work and not learn anything. On a field trip, there’s never just one thing you’re supposed to be doing. The fresh air, the wide spaces, the freedom makes it easier to focus. You remember the things you do because you're living it.
4. More Social
On a field trip, you have to work together do discover things or make things. When you’re outside learning, you might meet people, Talking, working together, and learning how to get along with others is a normal thing that happens on a field trip. In a classroom, you could work alone all day or never get to work with anyone, or be sad and no one might notice.
5. Hands On
When you get to feel and experience your lesson, you really get to know more about it. In a classroom, you have to force yourself to listen because you don't get to touch it or be in it. But when you see or do it for yourself, you really learn it.
6. Spend Time Wisely
Sometimes you take class for granted because you say to yourself, "Oh, I'll do this next time because I have class every day", but when you go on a field trip or outside somewhere you spend your time wisely. You get to experience it all. You know that this may be a special time and you need to soak it all up. You actually want to learn this stuff at the time you’re supposed to learn it.
7. Think Creatively
There’s more things to ask about on a field trip. It really gets your brain thinking more. There’s more things to see and to do out there than being stuck in a classroom. It’s like the classroom is a box and you’re thinking you can only go so far. There’s only so much to inspire you to think creatively. When you’re going on a field trip its feels like there’s a hole in the box and everybody is ‘freeeee’ to explore beyond using their own thoughts and ideas!
8. Try new things
In a classroom you do try new things, but you can only try things that are offered to you or can work with what you have. When you’re on a field trip it opens more opportunities, like ‘POP’! Things happen on a field trip like they happen in real life. You will learn from experiencing things and you'll use it again or remember it more. Sometimes you're more interested in them because it's outside of the classroom and by trying it there, you might like learning and it could change your life and way of thinking.
9. Better Night’s Sleep
When you’re in a classroom, all day, even lunch and snack, the energy that you needed to get out doesn’t leave you. At home that night, when you need to go sleep, you still have that energy and it can make you go coo-coo! You may not want to go to sleep and you'll stay up too late, which makes you cranky the next day. When you’re on a field trip, you are more active, and thinking a lot, so you are ready for a good sleep that night. Which means you're in a better mood the next day, too.
10. More Fun
Outside or on a field trip you have fun. You can do different things and you can do what you usually don’t. You get to explore, be yourself, hang out with other people, and see the world! In a classroom, you don’t remember every single day because it all kind of blurs together. On a field trip, you remember the moments because they are filled with fun and laughter.
Welcome to Our Blog
Each post is written by a supportive member of Via Vita Academy, be it a teacher, parent, student, community member, who is invested in the topic of education. Take a read and comment below!