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Subject: Do you hold back when playing games with kids? rss

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Jonathan
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I would say that original choice is a false dichotomy. The third choice is that you play an appropriate game with children. There is no reason to choose one or the other approach, let them win or play fully invested. The problem is the games many adults choose to play with their children. The majority of the games played with children need to have enough randomness in them that even if the adult plays full out the child will still win through chance enough times to stay interested. The randomness should never be at 100%, as in a game of Candy Land, however. Otherwise the child has no goal to shoot for. But the younger they are, the more randomness should be in the game to offset, somewhat, the skill difference. But the adult should win most of the time in the game, until the child masters the game. Otherwise you raise children that feel entitled to win and can't stand losing. The younger the child, the easier it should be to master the game. By “mastering” the game, I mean the results should be a roughly 50% win rate (in a two player game). Then it is time to move on to another game to master. The problem is when adults choose games that are their own favorites and try to get the child to play them most of the time. Often the adult feels proud their child is playing such an advanced game. But the adult is then in the position of either playing basically dishonestly or crushing the child over and over in the play. So, they should instead be playing games with their children where the children have room to grow at an acceptable rate that allows them to see their own improvement and then mastery of the game. That gives them a sense of accomplishment. And it develops "grit" in them. In teaching we have a concept called the "zone of proximal development". That is the level of difficulty at which a child can do the most improvement without frustration. Not too easy, not too hard. Picking games to play with children is the same concept. That said, it certainly doesn't hurt a child to be exposed to games beyond their intellectual ability to "master" them anytime in the foreseeable future. But those types of games should be the minority of games played. And remember, by "master" I mean the ability to push their win rate to parity with the adult they are playing with. I don't mean "master" in terms of something like chess where you can theoretically never fully "master" it as compared to the theoretical opponents you may someday face. If you yourself aren't great at chess, then they might "master" that game and reach parity with you, their adult playmate, soon enough that chess is an appropriate game to play with them. Otherwise, you just have them play chess with another young player who's at a level that will appropriately challenge them, and you act as coach to both children. But thanks to companies like Haba, there are now tons of games scattered across all levels of intellectual development with which to challenge your children and have fun as an adult playing them. No, it's not as intellectually stimulating as playing Scythe for us adults, but that's not the point. We can still have fun playing these new children's games and not get into the quandary of whether to start throwing games or not. So, when you start playing a game with a child just ask yourself, "how long will it feasibly take for my child to master this game enough to push the win rate to 50% (in a two-player game)?" Compare that to your knowledge of how long your child's attention span lasts and where their frustration level is at, and then you can make a determination as to whether the game is in their "zone of proximal gaming" or not .
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Brian Garmon
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I think it's also important to differentiate between little kids (say, 10 and under) and kids who are pre adolescents. When younger, it's about teaching a love for gaming and sportsmanship. This means that even if they lose, it's my job as a parent to make sure they have fun. I'll never just let them win everything, but I'm certainly not bringing my a game for a 7 and 8 year old.
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Well, I only really play with my kids. If they were someone else's kids, I might. But with my kids, I go full steam ahead. They do, too.

I'll often beat my daughter in our first try of a game, and she'll usually figure it out and beat me the second time.

Today we pulled Azul out, which we haven't played in maybe a year or so, and she beat me and I was trying, too. I screwed her over a couple of times by leaving her bad tiles.
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Thomas M
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I rarely hold back, but since my daughter (11) likes the more thinky games sometimes it is necessary.

What we do is play with open cards in new games if viable. It leads to less "surprise wins" and actually helps to teach rules faster.
We also sometimes talk about moves. Why a move is good or bad, etc.

As to intentionally playing bad, I only do that when I am fairly certain she will not notice. She gets really upset if I let her win, and she has almost no enjoyment out of winning if she feels it was not earned.
Often I can keep track of her strategy as well as my own and if possible I may choose a "race to win" strategy rather than a conflict or blocking strategy.

If there is dice involved, I need to bring my A game to have a chance. I am ridiculously unlucky.
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Craig Fox
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I try harder.
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When they're learning a new game, or haven't fully grasped the strategy of a game, I hold back. Even in a simple game like Uno, I try not to purposely decimate them - like I'll play a number card instead of a pick up 2 card sometimes. I just want to keep it fun for them and for everyone. My kids inevitably lose enough games without me having to try really hard just due to luck or random choices. (They're 4 and 6.)
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Jeffrey Allers
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gtpgame wrote:
I would say that original choice is a false dichotomy. The third choice is that you play an appropriate game with children. There is no reason to choose one or the other approach, let them win or play fully invested. The problem is the games many adults choose to play with their children.

Oftentimes, it's the children who want to play "daddy's games." I remember when I bought all kinds of beautifully produced childrens' games (Haba, Selecta, etc.) but my sons went right to the shelf with Ticket to Ride, Puerto Rico...

So, we just invented new rules on the fly. Later, we started playing by the actual rules, but I wasn't going to play my best game. It would have been the same if I would have kicked the soccer ball as hard as I could when my 4-year-old was in goal.

But, you know, let parents parent. Every parent should know their kids better than anyone else, and I think they will have an idea of what works best for their children. Every child and every parent is different, and there should be just as many different approaches to learning how to play games together.
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Ethan Fisher
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jeffinberlin wrote:
Oftentimes, it's the children who want to play "daddy's games." I remember when I bought all kinds of beautifully produced childrens' games (Haba, Selecta, etc.) but my sons went right to the shelf with Ticket to Ride, Puerto Rico...
My sons are the same way. We have a number of good games that are designed for children but they never seem to be as attractive to my boys as the ones I play with my gaming group.

Like a child who has seen what a real hammer can build or felt the power of a real cars engine, the play substitutes will never satisfy them.

 
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Anitra Smith
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Izaan wrote:
Like a child who has seen what a real hammer can build or felt the power of a real cars engine, the play substitutes will never satisfy them.

The key is not to think of them as substitutes! Find a few family-friendly games that you wouldn't mind playing in a group of adults. My family first witnessed this when my sister-in-law brought Suspend to our house at Thanksgiving. The adults had a blast, and then the kids wanted to play too!

(We do still have a hefty "kids shelf", but we also have 3 kids. There are plenty of games there that we all like and plenty that the 3 of them play together with no adults.)
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Ethan Fisher
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MrsNightskyre wrote:

The key is not to think of them as substitutes! Find a few family-friendly games that you wouldn't mind playing in a group of adults.

Thanks Anitra. You are right. While some games are simplified substitutes of more complex games (My Little Scythe) there are many games that are family friendly that are also enjoyable with only adults. laugh

Classic games like Jenga, Sorry! and Skip-Bo are enjoyed by everyone in my family (even my wife). In that respect, they are really family friendly games.

However, truth be told, I still tend to give myself some sort of self-imposed handicap with my kids. Or, at times, I help my children find stronger paths of play.
 
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Kevin W
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I approach boardgames with my son the same way I do with sports, if we are having fun then it's working. Rules can be adhered to later in life.
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Allie Tyndall
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"It depends" because there's a big difference between helping someone learn to think and play strategically and just going "there you go, honey, you win"
This thread did remind me about playing Mario Kart with my son when he was five and sometimes lingering near the finish so that he could be eleventh occasionally. Now I don't stand a chance, with Mario or any of our board games.
 
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Jonathan
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I think a few factors come into play:

My son is who is 7 and is autistic so loosing is hard for him. He's gotten better over the years but winning really boosts his confidence and overall puts him in a good mood. I was the same way at his age.

My daughter (age 5) really just wants to have fun. If she's having fun, we are laughing, the game is entertaining, etc. the scores don't really matter to her.

I selected these:

Sometimes. It really depends...
Only if it’s their first time playing
Only for other people’s kids
Only for my own kids
Only if they are under the recommended age

I think it's important for my kids to learn to lose/win graciously and still be good sports about it. I think it's also important for everyone to pick up the game together.
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