The Importance of Family Communication through Play
Families that play together, stay together
Everyday life is busy and it can be difficult to spend quality time together as a family, but family bonding is important to maintain close relationships. As they get older and want more independence, you may find your once talkative child now only gives monosyllabic answers to your questions, and it becomes harder to communicate with them. But shared activities such as board games capture children’s attention, and as they become immersed in the experience, their focus shifts and they are more likely to express themselves, share their thoughts, and engage in conversations.
Here are several reasons why board games are a great way to promote open communication in children;
- Each time family members positively interact with one another, it builds and strengthens the bond between them, and playing games together fosters the face-to-face interaction that’s needed to connect with each other. Communication is not only achieved by speaking, but also by listening, and doing this well as a family is extremely important. Without it, a family will find it difficult to effectively interact or problem-solve as a unit.
- Board games can act as icebreakers and conversation starters, especially in situations where children are hesitant or too shy to initiate a conversation. Unlike direct questions that may feel like interrogations to children, games create a natural flow of conversation as players discuss strategies, make decisions and comment on the game’s progress. These organic conversations give children a comfortable space to express themselves and communicate without feeling pressured.
- The experience of playing board games is usually an enjoyable one and creates a relaxed atmosphere. This environment will encourage children to feel comfortable and open to communication, meaning they are more likely to engage in conversations and share their thoughts.
- Playing games can prompt a range of emotions, such as excitement, anticipation, joy and frustration. Sharing these emotional experiences within a supportive family setting helps children to develop emotional intelligence and encourages them to communicate their emotions more openly. Some children can struggle when they lose a game, but by modelling being gracious in defeat, you can help your child to enjoy games without tantrums. It’s also a good opportunity to praise your child for how they played the game, not whether they won or lost. The most important thing is that everyone has a good time so they will want to play again.
- Competition or different interpretations of rules etc can sometimes lead to disagreements, but these situations create opportunities for children to develop conflict-resolution skills. They learn to express their point of view, listen to others’ viewpoints, negotiate and agree on solutions.
- Children need to learn how to recognise and interpret non-verbal communication cues, including eye contact, facial expressions, vocal tone, gestures and body language. Board games can provide opportunities for children to work out how to decipher these signs, strengthening their observational skills and social awareness.
- Many board games require collaboration and teamwork, requiring players to plan moves and strategies. This teaches children to communicate effectively by listening to other people’s ideas, and contributing to the discussion. Having to think in this way also helps children to develop their problem-solving and decision-making skills.
- Playing games together teaches children the importance of turn-taking and active listening. They learn to patiently wait for their turn, listen attentively to others and consider different perspectives.
Many children, especially older ones, may choose to go online or play video games when they have free time, so it can be challenging to coax them to the table with a board game for some quality family time.
Here are some tips to help encourage them to join you;
- Communicate – Get your family together to talk about how important it is to spend time together. It’s important that your child knows you enjoy their company and want to do things with them. Ask if there’s anything else they would like to do together – they are more likely to buy into the idea if you involve them.
- Put it in the diary – Agree on some time each week when you can all get together, making sure the days and times are convenient for everyone. If it’s a group decision, you’re more likely to stick to it.
- Set some limits around screen time – Explain to your child that it’s important to be aware of how much time they are spending on screens. Talk about how they can use their devices in ways that feel in balance with other parts of their life, which is good for their overall well-being. If you agree on some ground rules, it frees up time for you to do things as a family without constant requests for screen time.
- Find games that align with their interests – A good way to get your child interested in board games is to find one that appeals to their interests. There is a board game for just about every theme and interest, so there’s sure to be something that your child will be keen to play.
Strong family relationships are built by families who enjoy spending time with one another and communicate successfully. Board games are a great way to bring the family together, as well as being readily available and usually inexpensive.
Try declaring family game night once a week, take the whole family shopping for a board game (or more than one to ensure all ages are covered), and enjoy the time together!