When I think of board games, I think of those commercials we see on TV of Family Game Night. You know the ones I mean, a group of people sitting around a table with smiling faces and easy laughs, everyone having a wonderful time.
And yet what I often experience with the kiddos in our Social Adventures Groups is something quite different.
One child likes to stall as long as possible when it is her turn, another distracts everyone with silly talk, another grabs everyone’s pieces and still another child begins to cry as soon as he falls behind in the game?
Does any of this sound familiar?
It’s about as far from the carefree group seen on those Family Night commercials as one can get, and yet, I am absolutely certain that these same kids want to enjoy these games. They really aren’t trying to frustrate everyone, they just haven’t yet learned the rules for a successful game.
Kid Established Rules
So last week, we decided to have the kids help to generate some rules for successful board game play. Given a bit of support from the leaders, they were actually very insightful. They really seemed to know which behaviors were taking away the fun. Having the kids help with writing the rules also helped them be more invested in abiding by them. In fact, after the rules were written on the board, the kids had a much more successful game and a LOT more fun!
The Kid Generated Rules
Friends Don’t Make Friends Wait
This simple phrase really helped the “staller” in the bunch. Rather than friends becoming negative and inadvertently keeping the stalling going, friends simply used this phrase and the “staller” began to move right along.
Only Talk About the Game
This one was for the kiddo in group who liked to gain attention by being super silly. This had always been problematic because some of the other more impulsive kids jumped on the silly band-wagon (something all of us adults dread…), while others simply became annoyed. But, once we had this simple phrase to use, the silly boy switched to making comments about his friends’ play such as “Yikes, you were really close to losing a turn” or “Wow! You got another 6!”.
Only Touch Your Piece
This phrase helped our kiddo who liked to “help” his friends by moving their pieces for them. It reminded him to only worry about his own piece. Occasional reminders from the leaders to “keep hands in your lap when it isn’t your turn” were also helpful for this little guy.
Keep the Dice on the Table
While not every board game is played with dice, this rule is still somewhat universal. Once the dice flies off the table or the spinner only moves a little or the popper doesn’t really pop, somehow repeating this “mess up” can become a game unto itself. The exception is that we all know it is only fun for that one kiddo.
This simple phrase reminded kids that everyone is expected to at least TRY to keep the dice on the table.
NOTE: With dice in particular, this can be a genuine challenge for some kids, so we often have the kids throw the dice into a shallow box.
Sometimes We Win – Sometimes We Don’t
OK, I would be lying if I said that a simple phrase is all we need to help the kids who really can’t tolerate losing. This one isn’t always as successful as the others, but it does help for lots of kids and it can work for the most reactive kids, particularly if we have already done some preparatory work.
NOTE: Not being able to tolerate losing can become a HUGE social challenge, especially if the child reacts by crying and if the challenge continues until age 8, 9, or 10. For these kids, we do lots of role-playing and other work before we ever introduce winning/losing games.
Although we did not create the vision as seen on television but with these simple rules, we sure did increase the chances of everyone having a good time.