In Scoil Mhuire, we decided to develop the skills and learning opportunities that can be gained from board games by establishing Shared Maths Games within the school. We started this initiative in 2012 and it proved to be very popular and beneficial. Children are able to choose a game to take home and play with their families during the week & over the week-ends. Games are generally taken on Thursdays and returned on Tuesdays. All games have an educational basis and of course a good element of fun!!
Teaching life skills using board games? It's child's play.......
Board games are an integral part of a child's development & progress helping them to learn English, Maths and a range of life skills.
There is a growing recognition that board games have qualities which set them apart from their console cousins. In recent years the many toy stores around the country have reported a huge increase in the sales of board games. Research shows that during times of financial hardship people pick things they remember from their childhood, the most popular being sweets and old fashioned family board games!! After two decades of steadily losing out to crash-bang-wallop computer rivals, traditional games like Scrabble, Monopoly, Draughts, Connect 4, Guess Who?, Snakes & Ladders, Ludo and Trivial Pursuit are enjoying a big revival.
Playing board games is an invaluable way to help advance children's learning in a fun way that all the family can share.
The advantages for maths are in developing problem-solving skills. In Monopoly, for example, the problem could be that we're way behind. If we bought this particular piece of property, would we make money? Monopoly also involves the skill of sorting. You have to sort all the equipment into the correct categories on the board. It involves counting. How many steps forward will get me where I want to be?
Negotiating and debating the advantages & disadvantages of certain moves and strategies are discussed in the game and the language opportunities are huge for all children.
For Junior & Senior Infant Level children, board games can help teach many valuable skills, such as colour recognition, number recognition, counting skills, letter recognition, problem solving and the invaluable lessons of taking turns and understanding the rules of the game.
A lot of junior and senior infants don't know their colours when they start school. A lot of children would have difficulty saying that's red or that's blue. They might have difficulty if you say to them: 'Can you pick up the red counter?'
Board games are good for developing matching skills, where a child learns to match pieces that are of a kind. They're good for developing grouping skills. They're good for learning how to predict outcomes. What are the chances of this or that outcome? That's a valuable maths skill.
When it comes to learning English, the children have to read and understand the rules of the games. As they play, they have to express their oral language because the games demand they communicate with the other players.
For the very young children board games help with early literacy skills. The movement of the pieces on the board involves hand-to-eye co-ordination which helps in early literacy skills where hand-eye co-ordination is vital in turning pages, pointing to words and moving along step-by-step.
Game playing also helps develop less tangible social skills. They help with the children's SPHE, which is their Social, Personal and Health education, because they have to work together as part of a team. It helps develop empathy, as in: 'Oh, unfortunately you lost. I'm sorry for you.' It's not a ha-ha situation.
It helps to build up a situation of trust, because the next time it could be you that loses. It also helps to build a sense of self-identity, as in: 'This is me. This is my part in the game.' They have their own space to belong in the game and the space to make their own decisions as in: 'I'm going to take a chance on this.'
Children learn from experience. What can we do to improve our experience next time? For example, in Shark Chase, where the children have to roll the dice to keep their pieces ahead of the shark which wants to eat them up. They've learned that next time they will have to roll the dice quicker if they want to avoid being eaten!!!!
Another important lesson they learn in terms of their social and mental development is that sometimes in life you win and sometimes you lose. They learn how to enjoy healthy competition and learn how to handle frustration and disappointment. They learn to lose gracefully and to be happy for the success of others.
Playing games also helps them learn the importance of taking turns. It teaches them about sharing. It helps them address moral problems.
For instance, imagine if a child rolled a dice and it flew off the edge of the table onto the floor...The question for the other children is: will we let her have another turn? What's the right thing to do? It's a moral decision. It's about learning to detect those problems and have the patience to wait for others.