Sunday, October 12, 2008

Game Night

"Mr. Mazenko, do you have game night at your house?"

That question has been asked numerous times over the years in my classroom, and the answer is always the same. "Game night? Every night is game night at my house." In the past three nights, my family - my wife, my three-year-old daughter, my six-year-old son, and me - has played Uno, Zingo, and Monopoly Jr. after dinner and before bed. We always play after dinner - all summer long, if it's nice, the neighborhood kids are out on the driveway playing ball tag, kickball, four square, hide-and-seek, wall ball, or other games. When it's rainy or cold, which is coming with winter, our kids are inside playing board games, or hide-and-seek, or any variation of indoor ball games. Thus, the concept of "game night" is rather odd, and it's sad but indicative of contemporary culture that we think that way. Even as I write this, my kids and three neighbors (ages 8, 10, and 12) are in our house on a rainy day playing Monopoly, Jr. (If I can I'm joining the next game, which I'm hoping is Trouble).

Whenever my students ask me about game night, I posit that the world would be a far better place if they asked the question, "Mr. Mazenko, do you have "TV night" at your house?" What if TV weren't the norm, but something families did occasionally on the few nights they weren't playing together? Granted, it's easy for me now, with such young children, to spend a lot of time playing. We don't have many extracurricular activities and homework, and my kids are in bed by 8:00 every night. However, it's not just easy; it's so important to developing skills and relationships and cognitive functions. My son learned his numbers very early - and we spent a lot of time playing the game sorry. My children's verbal skills are often complimented by friends, teachers, and complete strangers - and we spend a lot of time talking to our kids.

Game playing and interpersonal relationship development are integral to raising healthy, confident, productive kids. Perhaps, someday it will be the norm in contemporary families.

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