Friday, May 25, 2012

Let's forget the rules and have some fun

When I'm playing a game, I get very competitive. Or maybe I should say achievement-oriented. My motivation is seldom to beat another player; many times there is no other player. I want to excel at the game itself--win points, advance to a higher level, set a new personal best, grab whatever rewards the game designers have built in to keep me playing.

My grandchildren are teaching me that sometimes the point of a game is just to enjoy playing. It's a simple concept that I keep having to relearn.

I noticed it the first time we played "Busytown," a board game based on Richard Scarry illustrations. The children had chosen it as a Christmas gift for Pa because we had no preschooler board games and this looked like one we all could enjoy.

The first time we played, I spent a lot of time getting them focused, explaining rules, helping them use the spinner, etc. Later I mentioned to their mom that they hadn't seemed interested in doing the "search for clues" part of the game. "Not surprising," she said cheerfully. "They can get overwhelmed. If they're not interested in something we just skip that part for a while." In other words, let them explore the game at their own pace. Keep it fun and they'll be back for more. That was good advice. An especially nice thing about this game is that all the players are a team and everybody wins together. So if one kid prefers not to look too hard for clues and another would rather not spin for regular turns, we can each contribute what we like or what we're good at and still make a game of it.

(When I was 14 or so, my sister and I had a sleepover with some family friends. Their parents played Canasta with us. When I made a mistake in melding, the dad said no, I couldn't pick my cards back up. I had to leave them on the table and other players could use them. It was a harsh lesson in "rules are rules," but probably a timely one. Augie and Vi know that rules are absolute when it comes to crossing the street, but they can wait a while to learn that about board games.)

A while back we let the kids start playing a few games on our iPads. There's a little game called Snood that involves aiming at targets that get increasingly tricky. Eventually, if you've taken too many shots without reaching your goal, all the brightly colored little faces turn to skulls. For a long time Augie thought that meant he'd won. Now they're both getting quite good at it and they've even learned to bank shots off the sides--good use of geometry, no?

Something similar happened with Angry Birds. Both kids quickly learned to maneuver the virtual slingshot to vary the angle of attack--geometry and strategy in action. And both learned the special powers of the different birds that volunteer as slingshot fodder. Touch one while it's in flight and it speeds up, touch another and it splits into three identical birds. Two birds explode on contact with their targets, but to ViMae's delight you can blow them up with a touch of your finger. I used to say, "But you didn't knock anything down." Finally I've learned to laugh and enjoy her way of having fun.

It occurs to me that this lesson might have come in handy while I was working. Loosen the rules and make new discoveries. Find a way to get the job done but still enjoy the process. Construct projects in such a way that the whole team wins through cooperation. With any luck, Augie and Vi can use these ideas in their own lifetimes, and well before they become grandparents!  

16 comments:

Ami said...

I just read a few posts. You have wonderful grandchildren. And they're really fortunate to have you taking care of them. I really think smalls should be with someone who loves them if they can't be with their parents.

I'm in that phase where the kids have grown up (mostly...25 and 19 in June) and haven't gotten married or reproduced.

So I'm looking forward to grandchildren, but I get my kid fix M-F running a before/after school program in a local elementary school.

DJan said...

I haven't play many board games since Monopoly many years ago... these all sound like fun and a lot different than what I knew back then. :-)

Ms Sparrow said...

Can I come over to your house to play? You guys have all the fun!

Jeanie said...

I like this attitude toward playing games with kids. If they are having fun they are in a much better place to learn whatever the game has to offer.

The Broad said...

Valuable and wise advice! And from daughter to mother, as well! Good post, enjoyed it very much...

Linda Myers said...

"Loosen the rules and make new discoveries." What a concept! I'm learning that now myself.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Sounds like a perfect strategy to me ..enjoy the moment! :)

Teresa Evangeline said...

Richard Scarry's "Please and Thank You" book helped me raise two boys many years apart. I had no idea there was a game. Sounds fun. Both of my sons loved playing board games, as did I while growing up. They were a constant in my life. I've never looked into online games. I fear it could be addictive. :0

Terri Buster said...

I am truly amazed at how quickly my grands (even the youngest one) learn how to play the computer games. Good advice on letting them learn at their pace.

laurie said...

my family was a lot like yours---absolutely cutthroat when it came to games, and no allowances made for age or ability. even if you were just leaning, even if it was the "practice" round for you to get the gist of the game, they were still cutthroat.

and you know what? playing games with my family is not all that fun.

Grandmother said...

What good realizations! I'm still back at wanting to win!

Indigo Roth said...

Hi Nancy! There's Wisdom here; I'm generally poor at having fun with others, and need to find a better way. Thanks for the nudge. Indigo x

Pearl said...

Sounds like the kids could teach us a thing or two!

Pearl

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Amazing what we still have to learn, isn't it? Such a patient post. I would imagine you a most patient grandmother as well. I'll have to remember that in my own learning.

Green Monkey said...

Jackson, my adorable grandson, is such a kind, gentle, spirit and then, one day I saw him on a basketball court. Way, way, wayyyy to competitive. Arguing with the coach, critical of his teammates. "Nanny" had some serious work to do! Basketball season ended calmly, baseball is a breeze. enjoyed your post (as always) you are soooo patient!

Jeanie said...

Never too late to learn, is it? Yes, if only we could bring the lessons of our later life into the past! But at least you know it!

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