Q: Our kids have been asking us to start playing board games together. We used to do this all the time as kids and it was really fun and didn't cost money. We would all get together and play, eat and laugh. But our four kids are ages 5 to 12. Will their different ages matter? And will they learn as much from playing games with us as they would from playing video games? -- H. and B.
A: They will learn way more important things from playing real-time games with you than they will from video games. It's something like the difference between cuddling a toddler and telling the story of "The Three Bears" in your own special style before bed, as opposed to putting them to bed with a CD recording of the story.
Kids learn about who you really are as a person and they learn you can have fun with them and that you love them. A CD cannot give them that.
No matter how many brainwashing ads companies do about skills learned from video games, research proves that children learn more from hands-on experience with people-to-people games and activities than from computer or video games.
Taking time to play family games is a very economical pastime and it will also restore a family tradition. You'll all have fun and it will help your kids learn life skills as well as educational skills. Most games focus on particular educational skills like math, spelling, vocabulary, logical thought, memory, record-keeping, money management -- even spatial relationships and balance.
But when children play games they are also learning many other things that parents want them to know. Family games teach children patience and perseverance as they learn to wait their turns, wait for a particular card, or come back from a loss. They learn to finish the game, sticking it out to the end, whether they win or lose. And they learn to win or lose graciously.