Back To School – With Games
It’s back to school week…
Children of all ages are easing back into the rhythm and structure of classes. For some, a new school year is reason for excitement. It’s an opportunity to make new friends, learn new things and navigate new social environments. However, the very same things can trigger anxiety and fear in others. After all, getting comfortable in a new environment and interacting with new people takes effort and energy.
I grew up in Germany, and we Germans have an adorable tradition where a child receives a ‘Schultuete’ (pronounced, shool:tyoo:teh) or ‘School treat bag’ when they enter the first grade. It’s a large, attractively decorated cardboard-cone filled with treats, toys and school supplies. The point of the gift is to lower the anxiety that often accompanies a child’s first steps into the world of structured education. I have fond memories of my first day. I couldn’t wait to explore all the goodies my parents had sent with me (see picture).
Even though we don’t have this particular tradition here in Canada, we do similar things when our kids go back to school. We buy them new outfits or colourful new school supplies to give them something to look forward to. Perhaps they even receive a new electronic device that serves both as a status symbol and a way for them to connect socially. Well, why not also give them something to facilitate good old fashioned face-to-face social interactions? A small card game or board game may be a great addition to their school-care packages. I know the first day of school has already passed for many, but there are plenty of opportunities to add a treat into their backpack in the mornings to come.
Games can be a great way for kids to interact with either new or familiar friends. Games allow them to share time together, away from their cellphones, while they get to know each other a little better. This can be especially true for kids who are a little shy or who find it challenging to start a conversation with new people. It can also serve as an invitation to newcomers to join a group of established friends.
So, what factors might a parent want to consider before buying a game for their child’s school backpack?
Firstly, these games should be small and portable; something they can carry easily or even put in their pockets. There are many excellent games which are only slightly bigger than your average cell phone. Don’t let the size fool you! Many of them are of outstanding quality and offer a lot of re-playability.
Secondly, find games that don’t take too much time to play. Breaks between classes are around 15-20 minutes. That’s plenty of time to play a well-chosen board game. A game should be easy to explain and easy to learn. The mechanics of some of my favourite games are very simple but they still manage to deliver a lot of fun.
So far, I’ve focused on games as a way to socialize and relax between classes but there are plenty of enjoyable titles out there with the potential to teach kids more than just social skills. There are games that teach everything from history and language to resource management and negotiation skills. No matter what grade or age, board games are a great addition to anyone’s back-to-school kit. After all, most of our life revolves around how we interact with those around us. Why not make it as fun as possible?
Here are my top 5 suggestions for games to take to school. All of these games can be found for less than $20:
3-6 Players, Ages 5 and up
Draw a card and flip it over for all to see. Does the coloured symbol on your card match another player? if so, be the first to shout out a word that starts with the same sound as the image on your opponent’s card. Sounds easy, right? Think again! Our brains do some silly stuff when we’re under pressure.
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