Aristoplay's founder, Jan Barney Newman, has good advice for making family game time a great time!
Even though we know the value of games as communications tools in families and we're convinced of the importance of teaching our children to handle the dynamics of competition, it's easy to find ourselves unprepared for the emotional heights that games can present. Without preparation, family togetherness can dissolve into tears and tantrums. The following guidelines should help prepare you for some good times ahead.
1. Very early game playing: Hide and Seek; Guess Which Hand? Be positive: Congratulate for a right guess; no "gotcha" for a wrong one. Take turns. You guess which hand. Congratulate your child for fooling YOU.
2. First card games: Play with a partial deck. Play shorter games. Stop when your child shows signs of frustration.
3. Tending tender temperaments: Be flexible with the rules. Read through them ahead of time and decide what will work best for your group. You might want to alter your "Old Maid" game so that the person who ends up with the odd card can be the winner instead of the loser.
4. Encouraging strategical thinking: Discuss the game strategy. What do we have to do to win? Emphasize that there is luck as will as skill involved. Tic Tac Twice and Moneywise Kids, are good strategy developers.
5. Sponsoring sportsmanship: Always compliment other players for good moves, commiserate when a tactic doesn't quite work. (Parents have to show each other the consideration they show to the children if the lesson is really going to take.) It's rewarding to hear an older sibling say to a younger: "Oh that's too bad. If you had just rolled one higher you could have made it where you wanted to go." A slight variance, "Ha, since you didn't roll right, you're going to lose!" can bring on floods of tears.
Don't despair. Observing the above won't make game playing too contrived to be fun. Nor will it mean that YOU can't ever win a game. It will diminish the trauma and give you the opportunity to practice good character habits, good manners and good sportsmanship with your kids. Remember, they'll learn best from your example.
Have good, happy fun!
Jan Barney Newman