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9 Principles for Playing Learning Games

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Learning games are a great way to teach your child a well-rounded set of skills and to lay a foundation for all the learning she will do in life. You’ll find lots of examples and activities on our blog and website. Here we’ve collected some principles that will help your experience of playing learning games go smoothly.

Keep it fun and lighthearted. As soon as learning feels like work instead of play, your kids will resist.

Don’t force anything. Invite, make it appealing, demonstrate how much fun the activity is, but don’t make your child do something he isn’t interested in. He may not be developmentally ready, or his development may be centered around a different skill this week. Appeal to his interests rather than what you think he ought to be doing.

Plan ahead. Take a few minutes the night before to get familiar with 1-2 games. Make sure you understand what you will do and what your child will do. Plan how you will explain and demonstrate the games. Gather supplies.

Stop before your child gets bored or tired. You want to leave her wanting more, not sick of the game. While she is still having fun, say, “Ok, we’ll do this two more times, and then we’ll put it away for tomorrow (or later, or another day).”

Play when kids are happy, fed, and rested.

Play when you have the energy and ability to be patient and positive.

Use positive reinforcement. Always point out what your kids are doing well. Don’t get upset about mistakes; instead, gently redirect (say pleasantly, “Oh, you found blue—can you find red?”)

Tell a rule/direction, and then have kids repeat or demonstrate that directive. This helps them to remember the directions, and it lets you know if they understood you.

Fear, worry, and guilt are not your friends. Set your intention to have fun, to get to know your kids, to show them love, and to enjoy each other. Let go of comparison, “oughts,” and stress. Your kids will benefit far more from easy-going engagement than from drivenness.

 

Photo by Chris. P

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