When our daughter was younger, we played lots of board games. Over the years, the games changed as we moved from CandyLand (one of the happiest days of my life!) to Monopoly to the challenging family and friend games my husband now invents. I also began to realize these days and nights of game playing helped us teach and reinforce many lessons on godly behavior.
The great thing about board games is that you can often find them at yard sales for a couple of dollars. Many families may be willing to give or loan you some of their old board games. In fact, some older versions of games are an interesting look back at how popular culture has changed over the decades. You can also create your own games with some poster board or your computer.
Once you have your board games, what lessons can your kids learn from them about how God wants them to live their lives?
- How to lose gracefully. This skill is becoming a lost art in our society, yet it is tied to having the humble heart God requires from His people. For very young children, it really is traumatic in some ways to lose a game. It’s often hard to tell if the reaction is more about a lost dream or a lack of humility. I don’t believe parents should lose a game on purpose to avoid the possible tears. I also don’t believe it is in the child’s best interest to be ultra competitive and absolutely crush them in a game. Rather, try to choose games at this age that are about luck rather than skill or strategy. Look for games that even the most competitive adult can still lose with the wrong roll of the dice. Then model losing gracefully when you do lose. Encourage your child to move away from tears to sweetly congratulating the winner.
- How to win gracefully. This is also a difficult skill and often family game nights are the seed of the other side of humility issues. Save the silly, fun gloating for when your kids are older and have mastered the art of winning humbly. When playing games with young children, model encouraging your opponents with statements like, “Great game!” or “Thanks! You played a great game, too.” Discourage gloating and ugly words or behaviors from the winner.
- How to be a godly team player. Some games require two or more people to work together to win. There are many important skills to teach your kids about team board games. They will need your coaching and practice to learn how to be patient with other team members, to encourage their teammates no matter what happens, to learn how to lead without controlling everyone and more.
- How to have fun without hurting others. At times, board game fun can hurt someone’s feelings. In their enthusiasm, your kids may find themselves saying ugly things to someone or pointing out their flaws. Make sure your game night fun isn’t teaching your kids it is okay to be unkind to others.
- Honesty. Competitive children may be tempted to cheat to improve their odds of winning. Most of their attempts are transparent, but watch for those older children who may have mastered the art. Remind your kids cheating is basically another form of lying and stealing – both sins. Help them learn winning isn’t really winning if you have to sin to win.
- Christian life skills. Depending upon the board game, you may be able to reinforce other characteristics and skills like money management, planning, patience, perseverance and more. Look for these opportunities as you choose games to purchase or borrow. Some of them will also just happen naturally while playing certain games. Don’t stop the fun for a lecture, but make sure to reinforce godly ideas and concepts as you play. (Think short, pithy statements along the lines of a proverb.)
So grab those board games and have regular family game nights. It’s a great, fun way to help your kids get practice in the ways God wants them to live their lives. As a plus, you will also build relationships and create warm family memories. It’s definitely worth the time and effort!