Our family has this silly game called crocodile dentist. I got it way back when my youngest was 2 or 3 to try to teach her more about her teeth. All you do is alternate pressing a tooth down to see who gets “snapped” by the gator.
It seems like a simple game with no real value.
But there is actually a lot of complexity that could be discussed beyond just trying to figure out which tooth to push. In fact, after 3 or more years of having not seen it at all my daughter brought it into the kitchen tonight. As we giggled and played a few things started happening…
- We would get down to one last tooth
- I would lose and Jenn would choose a random tooth to start the next game
- She would press the first tooth each time with more nervousness than any subsequent teeth
Why are these three things important? Because they gave me the opportunity to introduce some basic probability to my six year old. “What is probability?” she asked when I was trying to help talk through it.
“It’s the likely hood something will happen. So how likely is it that we would not get the ‘bad’ tooth until the very last one?”
“Unlikely” she replied.
“What about the likelihood of getting the tooth on the very first press when there are so many options? Or what about how likely the game will choose the same tooth that it just did? Probably unlikely. So when I lose and it snaps me, why don’t you choose the same tooth that just got me?”
… and so on.
So if Crocodile dentist can introduce my child to probability, I whole-heartdly and firmly believe that all games have value and all games are educational. But how?
Almost all games require some level of strategy and planning ahead. Even when playing the solitary game of Pyramid with a deck of cards, one must think out which card to take and what it’s freeing up underneath it.
Cooperation & teamwork
Whether a cooperative game or competitive, players have to be amiable and cooperative enough to actually play and get it set up. It takes cooperation to work together in organizing and laying out the game board or even keeping score.
Nobody likes to play with a sore loser. Even worse, no one wants to be around a winner that brags. Learning how to both win and lose graciously is actually one of the most important life skills that kids [and some adults] can learn.
Especially for the youngest crowd, learning to sit still and pay attention is a new concept.
But even older kids and adults learn from attention when it comes to more complex games as they have to watch for moving parts or intricacies in game play.
While I’ll admit, we typically sit down and watch a video for new games to understand how its played, reading a rule book reminds kids of all ages that with every new adventure or task, there is research to be done before starting to have a general understanding.
Learning to follow instructions also helps because sometimes rules are made to be broken. So as you play games, if you find a flaw in the game [or at least a perceived flaw], then it’s ok to “fix” it and create new rules. I mean… that’s what governments do when creating laws and amendments, so the same can be true in game play.
Score keeping, adding dice, sequencing cards, and beyond. All of these things are basic math skills and keep numbers flowing through our kids minds.
Juts like we were able to find a probability lesson in a super simple toddler game, I am sure there are many other lessons to be had in some of the most basic games.
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