As I write, it has started to snow, and my daughter is dashing outside in the hope of catching a few snowflakes. For me though, it is definitely time to consider the best ways to snuggle up indoors! January can be a hard time of year at the best of times, but with lockdown this is a January like no other. Now that the novelty of Christmas presents has worn off and online schooling is once again a reality, how do you entertain the children when they are squabbling and you are trying to keep them away from YouTube?
One great way is family board and card games. Board games have had something of a renaissance in the last few years, with the springing up of Games Cafes (sadly a distant dream at the present time) and the rise of so many new and exciting themes to play.
However, games offer more than just the opportunity to keep the kids entertained for an hour – they are a great way to promote thinking skills. Games offer the chance to problem solve, to make decisions, to process information and to make swift logical choices. They can develop team-working skills (for example in collaborative games like Forbidden Sky and Pandemic where you all win or all lose together), working memory (who wouldn’t have fun as a pirate in the great memory matching game for younger children – Ah-haar! – complete with eyepatch!), creativity (try Dixit – a visually beautiful game that uses your creative language and imagination skills) and good sportsmanship (it is always so difficult to lose!). Some games have themes which are great jumping off points for capturing a child’s imagination – Photosynthesis for example with its links to nature and climate, while Ticket to Ride Europe or Mapominoes Europe can definitely develop a child’s interest in geography!
Board games are also great for developing social skills and even for keeping you in touch with loved ones during lockdown. At Christmas time we missed visiting family members in person but caught up with my sister and brother-in-law for a mammoth online games’ night. It was a little shaky to start with, trying to find a medium we could both use – my sister had an iPad, we had a laptop – in the end we settled for Facebook live which worked really well for us all throughout our 4 hour session! We both had a copy of the game “Would I Lie to You?” and it was great fun playing with both board games on our respective tables (with the occasional hitch when we had to ditch a card that had already turned up on the other person’s game board).
A lot of board games lend themselves to this way of playing, with a little adaptation, including traditional games that most families have available, such as Scrabble, Monopoly, Cluedo or Pictionary, or newer games like Ticket to Ride, Codenames, Taboo. The next time you are looking for a way to engage with grandma at a distance, maybe an “online night” will help. Many of the most popular board games, such as Catan, Risk, 7 Wonders and Ticket to Ride now also have online versions.
You might have a little trouble playing Twister though!
Board game time is a precious time when you can have fun together as a family – and in years to come when your child recalls what they did in lockdown, board game nights may be high on their list of things that they enjoyed!