Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid gamer. Video games, board games, pen-and-paper role playing games, sports games, I enjoy them all. The thrill of critical thinking, narrative creation, communing with others, tactical thinking and development, and just plain having fun are all part of what makes games so great (and beneficial). I have been (mostly) waiting patiently until such a time that I can play games with Haden that involve more than peek-a-boo and chasing him around. :-)
What I came across today, however, made me stop and think. While there is nothing wrong with (and a lot right with) playing games with our children, are we intentional in what we are doing? I am a firm believer that we need to be intentional with our children if we want them to grow up to become strong in their personal, emotional, mental, and most of all spiritual lives.
The reason I began thinking about this is because I read an article here talking about how the writer didn't like games like Candyland and Chutes-and-Ladders. The reason is because while they may teach things like taking turns and winning/losing graciously, they're extremely simple-minded. You draw your card, make your required move, and that's it. There's no critical thinking, strategy, or decision making. This isn't to say that these games are bad. I played these games and had a blast doing it. But there are better games out there (Kid's Sequence, Connect 4, Memory) or modified rules that could be used to develop tactical thinking, strategy, memory, and other areas at the same time.
Does this mean I'm going to deride Candyland as the bane of existence? No. I'm sure I'll even play it with my children and enjoy every minute of it. But it does mean I am also going to look for the best things I can do with my kids, and prioritize that as much as I can.
This applies to more than just games though. It is important for us to look for the best things we can do for our families and children in everything we do. It means that instead of just reading a Bible story about the good Samaritan, we go out and be one. Instead of just making a note of sick people, we go out and visit them. Instead of letting schools and Bible class teach them book information, we get them out and teach them the real-world equivalent and application of it.
So do all the basics. Play some Candyland. But don't forget to get out and develop the rest of life too. Because when they're out of the house, life is not a game.
But they'll be ready for it because of what you've taught them through those games and lessons.