Written by Bryan Parke
Hi everyone, Bryan from Varchilde’s Vault here with another article for your enjoyment. Today I’d like to focus on introducing children to the joy of playing games; why it is good for them and good for you! I’m a father of two and really enjoy the time I spend at the table top with my family; for me this has been a really positive experience!
OK, this sounds interesting, but shouldn’t I be encouraging my kids to get on with their studies/chores/etc? They don’t need any help slacking!
OK, first a little secret; playing games actually supports children’s development. Here are a few examples:
- Unless you are playing a purely luck based game (such as Snakes & Ladders,) then we will introduce kids to the concepts of strategy and tactics. There is likely to be decision-making involved.
- Analog games are competitive by their nature (ok, yes there are exceptions, I’m looking at you Pandemic and Castle Panic), but we are showing our kids how to win and lose well.
- Analog games encourage the development and application of math skills (estimation and probability in particular). It shows how something seemingly dry when taught in the classroom and can be useful outside of school.
- Analog gameplay is a social, communal activity, both at the table top and within a larger gaming community (especially if you are lucky enough to play at a club or store). This encourages social skills and gives opportunities to develop friendships.
- Analog gaming is a hobby which encourages skills you wouldn’t necessarily expect. Play Pictionary and have fun drawing. Play Dixit and discover that imagination and articulation are your friends!
- Many games are based on popular IPs (Lord of the Rings, Dr. Who, Firefly, Star Wars X Wing for example.) This is a great way to introduce children to cool worlds and lore (love the game, then read the books.) And you can always see if there are games based around shows or books your children enjoy as a hook to get them to the table top.
Certain genres of games have other benefits for children as well. Let’s look at miniature based games:
- The preparation of miniatures and scenery encourages craft skills (model making and painting.) A side-effect of this aspect of the hobby is that it teaches patience and focus.
- Miniature-based games are visually appealing, but it can take some time to set up. They reward planning.
Role Playing Games are another great avenue for gaming with children. These typically pit a team of players (the “party”) against challenges posed by another participant (the Games Master.) Don’t worry. It’s not all Stranger Things (go look it up, great show.) Your kids won’t be sucked into alternative dimensions.
- The players work cooperatively. This requires teamwork and communication skills.
- The Games Master and the players verbally describe events, locations, people and creatures and how they react to the challenges. This fosters imagination and creativity.
- There are plenty of activities that kids can do “offline” that are related to RPGs; painting miniatures, writing adventures, drawing maps, reading books for inspiration. It gets them to spend time away from PC, phone and tablet screens!
OK, I’m convinced. But how do I actually encourage them?
Good question. Luckily we have some tools in our toolbox, and (may be) some allies to help us.
- Play the games that your kids want to play to begin with. What have they expressed an interest in? You may need to play simpler games than you are used to (oh I remember the horrors of the Tinkerbell flower fairy game,) or you may need to simplify the rules to begin with to make games easier to grasp. And for some RPGs consider the subject matter; Grimdark and Cthulhu horror may not be appropriate for youngsters.
- Consider playing “gateway” games. These “bridge” games that may be too simple for experienced hobby gamers, whilst not being too complex for novice hobby players. Takenoko is a good example, it is easy on the eyes, and easy to pick up whilst still providing a level of challenge for all players.
- I mentioned this earlier, but it is worth restating: pick games based on their interests (e.g. Star Wars, Harry Potter).
- Let children borrow/read gaming material/books/etc. This helps build trust but I’d suggest you don’t lend anything irreplaceable.
- Encourage children to involve/play games with their friends. You don’t have to do all the work. This teaches something about planning and taking the initiative. Make sure you know where they are though.
- Finally see if you can involve their youth clubs or school teachers; you may strike gold and get access to a room or venue.) It is worth mentioning that if you are gaming with children in a public venue/location/organisation then school teachers and club leaders can guide you on any associated child protection issues that you’ll need to be aware if.
Good stuff. But you said there was something in this for me as well!
That’s true, this isn’t just altruism. There are several really important benefits for us old timers as well:
- The really selfish reason: Encouraging children to participate in the hobby increases the pool of players we have to play games with. Simply put this is the next generation of players who will be sat at our tables tops.
- Gaming is a great way to spend quality time with our families and loved ones, and is a great bonding experience. (Apart from when the kids boo me for blocking in Ingenious, and laugh at me when I lose. That sucks.)
- Most importantly this is an opportunity to play more game and have fun. What other reason do you need really?
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and this might encourage you to get some youngsters you know to come and join you at the table top. Have fun!