I have always been a lover of board games. As a kid, we often had marathons of Clue, Sorry, Monopoly, chess, checkers, and countless other games going on in our basement - often for days or weeks on end. Our game area (a corner of an unfinished basement) was a kids’ world - a place where we learned to play fearlessly, to win humbly, and to lose graciously. It was a place where we measured our wits against our sibs and neighbors and friends - always, it seemed, with a critical assessment of our own skill, and an awareness that our skill was often tempered or assisted by pure luck. As a result, we learned a lot about our skill and talent sets.
Games taught us to take risks; they taught us to be daring and do unreasonable, unpredictable stuff because “it’s only a game.” In this way, games taught us to sacrifice our need for perfection, and to explore the “what ifs” of life. We learned that failure is part of life, and that life goes on (even if we think it won’t).
Games taught us persistence; if the game was long and borrrrring, or if we weren’t winning, or if someone was being a pain, we learned to persevere, or to remedy the situation creatively (and usually compassionately…). Adults were not part of the scene, so we kids learned to compromise, collaborate, and correct behaviors in ourselves and others without adult interference.
Games also introduced us to the concept of “flow,” a term coined by psychologist Dr. Mihaly Czikszentmihaly, Flow is a state of being in which one becomes so joyously absorbed in an activity that one loses all sense of time. Rainy days spent in the game area were often days spent in blissful flow, so much that we sometimes forgot to eat lunch, or were amazed that the day had flown by. We learned that flow felt great, and learned to watch for other serendipitous incidents of flow in our unfolding lives. For some of us, flow bubbled up in the creative arts; for others, flow surfaced in sports, for others, flow accompanied long periods of writing, or other joyous activities. Flow is an amazing gift in life, and games can be a wonderful introduction to its beauty.
Surreptitiously, I think, games taught us the thrill of challenge, and the boredom of “too easy.” To avoid boredom, we often made up our own rules, upped the ante, added our own creative touches, and imposed a myriad of homegrown, and sometimes unfathomable, rules. These practices enhanced our critical and creative thinking, and taught us what to do with boredom.
Finally, games taught us decision-making and problem solving skills. Without being formally taught, we were hypothesizing, investigating, observing, and drawing conclusions. We learned how to “go back to the drawing board,” and to rectify mistakes that we’d made to improve our performance. And the best part of all was that it didn’t cost us anything but, perhaps, our pride.
So many of the skills that are taught by playing board games are skills that all kids need, and are skills that gifted kids especially need to counter-balance some of the social and emotional needs that they encounter.
With all of these benefits of gaming in mind, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a great list of board games for kids and their families. Here it is: 100 Games for Gifted Kids by Renee at greatpeace.com. I have played many of the games on this list, and perhaps you have too. I love the way this list is organized; perhaps it will help you find the best games for your child and your family.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts. Together we grow.
Jacquelyn Drummer, Past President
WI Association for Talented and Gifted
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.