In this age of smartphones, tablets, and awe-inspiring graphics, it’s hard to see the appeal of playing board games. Especially with teenagers, board games are now seen as archaic, cumbersome, and frankly, boring and dull.
But nothing can be farther from the truth: the board game industry is actually a thriving one that’s rich with creativity and opportunities to learn. With the right board game, you can teach your children about soft skills that they may have missed in school or are in need of further development. Far from the simple Snakes and Ladders of our youth, board games today are very complex and entertaining, with complicated but easy to pick up rules, comprehensive board pieces, and highly interactive content.
Most importantly, board games teach children soft skills. Soft skills are a skill set that deals primarily with how people interact with each other and how they navigate the world around them. By teaching or reinforcing soft skills in your children using board games, you get to teach them a lesson while having fun and bonding with them!
Here are some soft skills that your child can practice on your next game night!
Attention and Focus
The beauty of board games is that there are rarely any tutorial levels: you read the rules as much as you can, and then you dive straight in. Anything you don’t understand, you have to look up on the fly. This means that players need to process a lot of information in a very limited time. This requires the use of two important soft skills: paying attention and focusing on solutions.
Especially for games that require collaboration and strategy, players need to be attentive to their team’s plans, and they do this by focusing during strategy-building. Paying attention to your opponents also helps you strategize better and come up with creative solutions that will bring your team to victory.
Some of the best board games nowadays require working together with other players as a team to either defeat an enemy group, or to survive certain situations as a group. This requires a strong sense of teamwork and collaboration. Using your collective strengths, players must work in harmony with one another to achieve their team goal.
Teamwork also practices a child’s empathy. If a teammate slacks, other team members have to pick up the slack. How a child deals with this situation is crucial: will they be compassionate and adjust their plans accordingly, or will they be practical and leave that teammate behind. While decisions like this require the input of every member in the group, it’s a good way for your child to explore how they see their place in a team and how they see other people.
Effective Resource Management
There are plenty of board games out there that help children develop effective resource management skills by presenting them with a scenario wherein their very survival in the game depends on how they control their stock of money, materials, or currency.
The most popular games of this genre are Settlers of Catan and Monopoly. In Settlers of Catan, players are tasked with achieving a number of victory conditions that require managing very limited resources. Monopoly, on the other hand, requires strategic budgeting and money management. These games practice your child’s resource management skills, whether its money, project materials, and other assets that they may have control of in the future.
Negotiating With People
One of the most important soft skills that can be applied in real life situations is negotiation. Negotiating belong to a higher order of soft skills because it requires combining multiple skills like communication, empathy, resource management, adaptability, compromise, and problem solving. It also teaches children a bit about ethics: will you work together with someone so that you can both achieve your goals albeit in a compromised manner, or will you lie about what you’re willing to do for them so that you remain on top?
Problem Solving and Critical Thinking
Board games require players to study carefully the conditions of the board, their opponent’s positions, and their own team’s resources and possible strategies. This level of critical thinking is crucial in adult life, where people are tasked with taking in information and weighing options as much as possible before taking a calculated action.
Once players have a big-picture understanding of their situation, it’s time to practice their problem solving skills. With all the information at hand, how are they to act with regards to their current situation vis-à-vis the game mechanics, the opponent’s resources and positions, as well as the victory conditions that they need to fulfill.
One of the crucial skills an adult needs in life is creativity. Specifically, creative and lateral thinking. Sometimes, it’s not enough to make the most obvious move; you need to think of how your move will affect future actions. It takes certain leaps of calculated risk to win at board games, and by practicing their creativity, children can learn how to apply their creative thinking into solving seemingly impossible situations to come out on top. This out of the box thing will serve useful in real life situations that require multiple ways to get to the right solution.
Perhaps one of the most important skills that board games teach is patience. From waiting for other players to take their turn to waiting for teammates to come to a consensus, every step in a board game is riddled with situations that will force them to become patient. With board games, children will learn the value of sitting back, listening to advice, and acting with restraint.
Even the simplest board games promote logical thinking. From chess and monopoly, to Settlers of Catan and even Dungeons and Dragons, board games help children practice acting in a logical and strategic manner. By teaching your child how to think 5 steps ahead, you prepare them for a life of strategic decision making that’s backed up by a mindset that’s rooted on reasoning and scientific thinking.
Board games, specifically ones that have a strong role playing element, force us to communicate in new ways, offer us opportunities to take our critical and lateral thinking into a higher level, all while keeping everyone engaged and entertained. And the best part? It’s a great way to spend a Friday night with your family, giving you an opportunity to bond with them in a fun and often hilarious way.