The novel coronavirus pandemic has so far not shown signs of slowing down. Getting sensitive to the unprecedented situation, people around the world are gradually resigning to extraordinary measures such as lockdowns and social distancing.
The sense that the pandemic is going to last for longer times than desired is prevailing. There are rising concerns about the mental wellbeing and education of children who are staying at home away from regular learning at schools.
The challenge is to keep kids mentally strong and at the same time continue learning. Other than attending online classes, children have plenty of free time and parents have to take care of them.
British national Philip Bradley is head of Swiss International School Qatar. He carries the experience of around 34 years in international education. The seasoned educator has regularly been sharing his pieces of advice with parents on how to keep children productively busy while at home.
Bradley asks parents to introduce their children to tabletop games. “It is clear that students are staying at home all the time and they must be looking for some fun activities. There are certain games that can help inculcate a wide range of important skills among children. I encourage all parents to establish a family gaming habit. Help your children learn and commit to regular game times - at least once a week.”
The educator, who carries extensive teaching and administrative experience, is convinced that the games promote a range of key cognitive skills. “Dice, counter, letter, word and card games help children learn number bonds, sequence, add, subtract, sort, spell and categorise.
“The repetitive nature of some of these tasks is critical for building strong neural pathways that allow students to be fast, efficient and confident in their number, word and letter knowledge.
Many games promote and improve memory skills; ‘game play’ requires a person to consider different outcomes and hold these possibilities in their working memory while they evaluate the merits of each and then make their play. Playing a game from start to finish helps children develop their concentration skills, which are essential for completing daily tasks and doing well in school. In addition to logic and reasoning skills, many games require children to use creative approaches, think laterally, solve problems, make predictions and test theories.”
Bradley further emphasises games because some of them also develop motor skills. “Setting up and moving all of those game pieces, rolling dice, and shuffling cards help little children and even older ones develop their fine motor skills, dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Packing things away is just as important and a good way to promote a responsible attitude.”
The school principal lays more stress on games because they include social skills, fair play and family time. “There are numerous social and soft skills to be learned from games. Grit, resilience, perseverance, patience and the ability to cope with frustration, disappointment and defeat are critical skills which games can teach and that children need to practice. No one likes an arrogant winner or a bad loser and being able to discuss these emotions and model appropriate behaviours is of great benefit to children and an important part of growing up. Games are also a way for families to spend focused and uninterrupted time together; including grandparents who will know all the tricks. And yes everyone has to put their phone away.
“There is something for adults too in playing different games. There is a lot of research that shows that older adults can gain both cognitive and emotional health benefits from tabletop games.”
Bradley also names a few games that have been popular with SISQ students. “Othello – 2 player counter game; Chess – 2 player game; Set – multiplayer Game of Visual Perception, card game; Rummikub – 4 player numbers strategy game using tiles and lateral thinking; Quixo – 2 or 4 player strategy game similar to noughts and crosses; Marrakech – 2 or 4 players, a tactile strategy game; Scrabble or Bananagrams – 2 or more players word play games; Chinese Checkers – strategy board game 2 - 6 players; and Jigsaws – if you have the space keep one going all the time.”
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