As the holiday season draws near, families often gravitate towards gameplay, favoring warm living rooms and the company of loved ones to the bitter chill of the winter months. Not wanting to be left out, little ones are often eager to join into the competitive melee. Yet, one questions always looms: should you let them win?
It seems unduly harsh to beat a small child at a game, yet the consensus is clear; experts say that you should not throw a game and let a child win if they are over four. When children hit four or five, they begin to hone a competitive edge and rely on adults and peers more heavily as role models for social behavior. When you beat a child at a game, you are not only teaching them how to lose, but also showing them how to win gracefully. We all know a child who celebrates over zealously at a win and rubs it in others faces. When that child begins to play with peers more often, this behavior quickly becomes unacceptable and often ostracizes the child from the group. When you beat a child at a game and end it with a sportsmanlike handshake, children then learn that this is the proper way to conduct themselves in the face of victory—with tact, poise, and respect for their opponents.
Children also need to learn how to lose gracefully. As a former summer camp counselor, I saw countless children who I would classify as “sore losers”. When they lost at a game of kickball or dodgeball, their first response was to throw the ball as far and as hard as they could, preventing other children from playing. This is the attitude displayed by a child who is always used to winning. When you beat a child at a game, it’s essential to nip this type of behavior in the bud. Asking questions like “why does losing make you so frustrated” and “why are you so upset” can start an open dialog about how to lose gracefully and what losing in daily life means.
While it is important for children to experience losing games, this does not mean parents and family members should use their entire adult strategic prowess to absolutely obliterate children during game play. Introducing handicap rules can help even the playing field and create competitive fun for all. For example, an extra rule in “Puzzle Battle” is that adults are only allowed to play with one hand. Another option is to introduce luck based games. Games like “King’s Gold”, which is a push-your-luck dice game, or “Sushi Draft”, where players don’t know the value of tokens they win until after the game, are great because they give+ children a chance to win easily without adults having to force a win on the child’s behalf. Remember that gameplay isn’t just about winning, it’s about learning how to both win and lose in a constructive and healthy way.
Happy holidays from Blue Orange Games