I have never been a big fan of any specific board game other than scrabble and chess...the love for scrabble and chess being primarily due to nostalgia associated with the times spent with grandparents and extended family, playing these on many a Sunday afternoon. The dislike for the broader genre of board games has been primarily due to the fact that as an adult, in a social environment, I have often observed that the competition and aggressiveness associated with the desire to win a game, specifically the so called 'strategy' games often takes the charm away from a perfectly enjoyable social evening. I have also often noticed that the lure of these games, socially, results in folks being more interested in knowing about the strategies a specific person used in a game in the past few meetings, rather than the more important and real things going on in their lives, at a personal level. That's a big turn off for me sometimes . I would much rather spend an evening chatting with a friend about the going ons in life and learn a few life lessons from shared and individual experiences rather than sitting at a table, playing a strategy board game, manipulating or getting manipulated by another player :). Sometimes the line between strategy and manipulation in these 'big kid/adult' board games seems too thin for my liking. But that's just me being me:).To each his own, of course! Either way, I will have to caveat this with the fact that I do acknowledge that, when played in the right spirit, there are a lot of skills that we can consciously and subconsciously imbibe from playing board games...diplomacy, goal setting, creative problem solving, the habit of abiding by rules, judicious risk management and just the simple fact of life that you win some and you lose some..to name just a few!
I have also realized that the benefits of board games and the skills that one can imbibe from playing board games are particularly magnified in the context of what some of the games meant for kids, can potentially teach them...number and shape recognition, grouping, counting, letter recognition and reading, visual perception and color recognition, eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity, verbal communication, sharing, patience, taking turns, and just enjoying interaction with others. Board games for kids can foster the ability to focus, and lengthen a 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 aka the simple message : your luck can change in an instant...for the better or for the worse. So 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. Small lessons, big lessons, life lessons.
So essentially what I am trying to get at is the fact that the notion of parenting and just the presence of my little munchkin in our lives, has made me look at board games from a completely different perspective, like so many other things in life :)
In this context, here's a specific bitter-sweet incident that happened at home. So last time my parents were here, they got Raya a board game involving alphabets and numbers. The rules of the game are pretty simple. 52 cards with a little or big alphabet written on it with a picture of an associated object that starts with the alphabet. A board with 52 blocks/squares again with alternate little and big alphabets. A spinner that that would make the needle land in any number from 1 to 4 to determine the number of moves a player needs to make towards the final goal. Each time a player lands on a block/square, the player gets the corresponding alphabet card, unless another player already has the card in his/her possession by virtue of having landed on the block earlier. As soon as one player crosses the finish line, the player with the maximum number of cards is declared the winner.
'D' and Raya first started playing this game. Initially, playfully, whenever 'D' would land on a block/square , the card for which already belonged to Raya, 'D' would get a bit melodramatic in front of Raya, pretending to be sad and tearful and little munchkin would immediately feel sorry for him and hand over her card to him with, "Ok, Baba...I am sharing my card with you". This went on for a while, and at the end of the game, when it was time to count the cards, 'D' did not volunteer to give the cards he had gotten from Raya, back. He just waited to see if she would just forget about those, which would be sad since it would mean she was accepting defeat after being playfully 'cheated'. The 'hooray' moment was when she began counting her own cards and soon enough told 'D', 'Baba, I gave you 3 cards. Give them back to me!' :)
So that's that. On the flip side, Raya thought the way 'D' was playing the game was a rule in the game. So when she started playing the board game with me, she would do the same. She would give me her cards, when I landed on a block/square, the alphabet card for which, she already possessed. She would voluntarily give the cards to me, because that's how she played with her 'Baba' and expect me to do the same. When I resisted taking her cards, saying that that was not the rule , she just said, 'But mama, you will give me back the cards at the end.I am sharing with you'. Involuntarily, my immediate response to that was, 'Raya, I will give your cards back to you. Not everyone will'. As soon as I uttered the sentence, I literally bit my tongue. I can only hope that she didn't get a vibe of that inherent adult cynicism in that statement...that inherent lack of trust, which I rarely exhibit, being the optimist that I am .I was quite upset at having uttered that cynical statement to my innocent, completely moldable pre-schooler. But that's that. There was nothing that I could do to take it back. So I just let the statement brush over, gave her the cards that belonged to her and moved on. There was nothing more to do. On another note, the concept of 'You win some, you lose some', of course, is still quite alien to my little toddler LOL. As of now, she always wants to win board games and get a surprise at the end of the game from 'Mamma' or 'Baba'. There is invariably a fit thrown when that doesn't happen. Oh well, we are working towards getting over that hill...one small step at a time...sometime soon, sometime soon... the magic will manifest itself!:)
Happy Tuesday folks! Enjoy the rest of the week.