Playing board games doesn’t always have to be competitive. Some games are designed to get kids working as a team. This is a common theme in our Social Adventures Groups – working as a team. It seems a simple concept, but difficult for our kids to grasp. Kids in general are pretty egocentric around ages 3-7, but some kids really have a difficult time thinking about others. This makes it difficult for them to play collaboratively with others and this can lead to them being left out of lots of play opportunities. So we break the idea down into small steps and try to play games that highlight how working together gets everyone to a final goal quicker than if everyone tried to do it alone.
One of the games that we often use to bring this idea home is the Mermaid Island Game from Peaceable Kingdom. Here’s the set up. There are three mermaids who start off together on an island. There is also a witch who starts off on a different island. The goal is to get all 3 mermaids to the island before the witch gets there. But here’s the kicker, the players do not identify with one mermaid as they would in say, Candyland. Instead, as each player takes a turn, they must decide which mermaid to move in order to keep them all together. This is an excellent game for teaching the concept of “the needs of the group are more important than individual needs.” Almost every child who first plays this game becomes invested in a particular mermaid. It requires a lot of processing to make the point of working as a team. Once they get it though, it is a great way to talk about the same concept in different contexts. Oh and for those who may feel that this game is a “girl game” because it includes mermaids – we have never had a boy complain – whether boys or girls are playing, they are helping others and that is just wonderful!
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