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Benefits of Playing Board Games




November 18, 2013

Children of all ages want and need to spend time with parents and friends, why not use this time in an activity that is loads of fun and works your brain, which is a muscle after all – playing board games!

The mission of Games for Educators,* a joint venture between the Chicago Toy and Game Fair and Live Oak Games, makes some excellent points regarding the value of playing board games (includes ALL games, not just educational games).

Some highlights include:

One of the things we’ve learned over the years is that the brain is like a muscle. The more it exercises, the more it can do. In fact, in this study, researchers found that playing board games twice a week increased the brain speed scores of elementary students by a staggering 27 – 32%!

Does this mean that playing games will turn kids into geniuses? Probably not, but those numbers are tough to discount.

To make matters more interesting, two studies in the journal Cognition (one from MIT and the other from UC-Berkeley) indicate that in some situations direct teaching is actually inferior to experiential learning. Outrageous, right? It turns out that children who are playing develop a stronger sense of creativity and inquisitiveness, exactly the things we need our students to have.

Play isn’t just for elementary school, either. In a May 2009 TED Talks presentation, Dr. Stuart Brown does a great job of showing us that play is for all ages andthat it does a lot more than just help us exercise our brains. Through his research, Dr. Brown has noted a strong correlation between success and playful activity. His book Play describes the impact play can have on one’s life.

Those benefits often come in surprising ways. For example, here’s a research-based article by Dr. Sarah Itzhaki about shyness and how playing can help a student break through into a world of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Playing board games can help grandma and grandpa, too! A study by Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center confirmed that regular game-playing and puzzle-doing (as well as other thought-provoking activities) were shown promote mental stimulation that dramatically kept memory function (as well as language function, attention span and spatial ability) performing at a higher level. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was shown to be reduced by 47 percent for people who did these activities the most often.

Finally, Scholastic adds to the importance of play in a recent article:

“…board games can teach important social skills, such as communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying interaction with others. Board games can foster the ability to focus, and lengthen your child’s attention span by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game. Even simple board games like Chutes and Ladders offer meta-messages and life skills: Your luck can change in an instant — for the better or for the worse. The message inherent in board games is: Never give up. Just when you feel despondent, you might hit the jackpot and ascend up high, if you stay in the game for just a few more moves.

Board games have distinct boundaries. Living in a complex society, children need clear limits to feel safe. By circumscribing the playing field — much as tennis courts and football fields will do later — board games can help your child weave her wild and erratic side into a more organized, mature, and socially acceptable personality. After all, staying within the boundaries (not intruding on others’ space, for example) is crucial to leading a successful social and academic life.”

Study after study (there are many more than what is referenced here) has confirmed that play is good for everyone. From preschools all the way up through nursing homes, educators and caregivers are using play to engage the mind and fire the imagination.

Are you all pumped up to play some games now?  Hope so! They also make wonderful gifts that can last a lifetime.  Come Out and Play with us at The Chicago Toy & Game Fair in Festival Hall A at Navy Pier on November 23 – 24. Visit www.chitagfair.com for more details.



About: Mary Couzin is CEO and Founder of the Chicago Toy & Game Group, which includes: playCHIC Toy Inspired Fashion Event, Int’l Summit for Professional Inventors, Int’l Toy & Game Inventor Conference, Toy & Game Inventor of the Year Awards, DiscoverGames.com and the Chicago Toy & Game Fair.  Mary serves on several  Toy Industry Association Committees, is a Selection Committee Member at National Toy Hall of Fame, writes a blog for Global Toy News and actively promotes the importance of play and toy/game inventors. www.chitag.com


This article is reprised from an article Mary wrote for Chicago based ASTRA – the American Specialty Retailer Association’s Discover the WooHoo Factor Newsletter. http://www.yourneighborhoodtoystore.org/play-together.asp?i=89



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