Board games bring people together and help parents to reclaim family time. Through games, parents can create an irresistible offline world that will restore balance, deepen relationships, develop transferable skills and create shared, long-lasting memories.  In this article, Ellie Dix, author of The Board Game Family: Reclaim your children from the screen, shares 14 benefits of playing board games as a family. See how you match up by taking our Board Game Family Scorecard.

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Board games provide engagement away from screens

With daily stories in the media about the dangers of excess screen time, parents are always searching for ways to occupy their children offline. Board games satisfy our desire to play, without staring at a video game. Many board games offer beautiful components, which we can hold and feel connected to, and amazing artwork that draws us in.

Playing board games improves family relationships

When playing games, players focus on one another, but within the comfort and safety of the structure of the game. Interaction is increased. To be successful, players need to communicate effectively in order to achieve their objectives. Board games give families opportunities to see each other in a different light.

Playing board games improves awareness, consideration and respect of others

Through games, we learn to consider the impact our actions have on others. This is played out in front of our eyes, in real-time. Players learn to truly listen to obtain information about other players. The timbre, pitch, tone and volume of the voice gives indications about how a player is feeling; body language gives micro-clues about their next possible plays and overall strategy.

There are both physical and mental health benefits

Game playing has proven health benefits as it induces laughter and reduces stress, boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Board games help us to escape from our daily worries and focus on something else for a while. They bring us balance and help us to relax. Teenagers may seem to want to spend a lot of time on their own in their room, but it’s not usually in the best interests of their mental health. Taking time to play together reduces isolation. It’s good for adults too – people who play board games are less at risk of cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Playing board games develops learning skills

Playing games improves memory formation and cognitive skills, increases processing speed, develops logic and reasoning skills, improves critical thinking, boosts spatial reasoning, improves verbal and communication skills, increases attention and concentration, teaches problem-solving, develops confidence and improves decision-making.

Playing board games develops social skills

Board games give children an opportunity to learn how to take turns, practise patience, work as part of a team, negotiate with others, compromise, communicate ideas, take risks, follow rules and directions and manage restrictions. Players have to sharpen up social skills to be successful at playing games. These transferable skills will take children far, both in the classroom and beyond.

Children are presented with a model for appropriate behaviour

Playing board games gives parents an opportunity to guide children through common difficulties and frustrations. Parents who are humble in victory and cheerful in defeat demonstrate great sportsmanship. Regularly rejoicing in the good fortune or praising the clever choices of another player normalises these positive attitudes.

Children can see their parents play

Many interactions parents have with their children are functional or transactional. It is all too easy for parents to get caught up with what needs to be done (homework, tidying, chores) and forget about stealing moments to have fun together. It’s important for children to see their parents play. Playing should be a normal part of life: for adults and children. You are modelling that.

Playing board games helps children to learn from failure

Board games provide a platform for us to fail, over and over again. Here the stakes are low; it doesn’t matter if we lose. Odds are that most people playing games will lose. It is normal, and that is liberating. As children become more comfortable with failing, they start to learn from it. Board games provide immediate feedback: a player can analyse what brought about their demise and why another player triumphed. Children start to learn about the impact of their own decisions, but in a very safe and friendly environment.

Children have an opportunity to be equal to parents

Families have inbuilt hierarchies. Parents mostly make the decisions for the rest of the family to follow. But all players are equal in a board game. A temporary balance is achieved and this can be liberating and exciting for children.

Board games create shared experiences

In busy households, deliberately shared experiences can be rare – as everyone is going about their daily life. Playing board games brings families together. Good board games evoke all sorts of emotions; happiness, delight, tension, intrigue, awe, trust, anticipation, surprise. Our emotional reactions connect us to the game, the experience and the people we’re playing with.

Board games spark conversation

Your children often don’t listen because you don’t say anything interesting. Your adult day is of no real source of intrigue to them. But carving out moments for doing things together, like playing board games, gives families a natural focus for conversation. Tabletop chatter spills over into post-game analysis. Great experiences act as bookmarks in our mind, giving us memories to chat about time and time again.

The bar to entry is low

Anyone can get hold of a game and quickly learn how to play it. No special skills, knowledge or equipment are required. As activities go, board gaming is cheap. The amount of replayability inherent in games offsets any initial investment in buying any particular set. Board games are portable and easy to store, and each board game provides a complete experience in a short time frame and can easily fill gaps in the day.

Board games are inclusive

There is a huge variety of board games available. There truly is something for everyone, from party games to heavy strategy games … from 10-minute fillers to epic afternoon war battles … and everything in-between. But it’s more than that. Anyone can play. All ages can play together. Many disabilities can also be catered for. The structure and rules of games appeal to many who find more free-flowing activities challenging.