A Healthy Way To Nurture Relationships

By Dr. Reetu Verma 

Parents with school-age children are currently experiencing a double whammy of school holidays and lock-in mode. For many, it may be the first time staying home for the entire duration of the school holidays. Adults and children alike can become restless and there is pressure to keep everyone engaged in order to keep the atmosphere calm.

Currently, most families are working and/or attending classes from home, video calling for work, socialising and exercise. They are also streaming more movies and television shows for downtime. 

Many parents are looking for ways to keep children busy that don’t involve screen time!

What better way to connect the family and keep the kids (big and small) occupied than board games. 

Yes! Board Games! 

Board games offer the perfect escape from stress and screens and are great entertainment. They also bring families together through cooperative and healthy competitive gameplay and as there is no age limit, everyone can join in! 

There is something comforting about reliving your carefree board game playing childhood days to spend quality time and create new memories bonding with your family.

Board games have travelled through the ages in most cultures and societies and evolved over time. Interestingly, sales of board games escalated by  240% during the first official week of coronavirus lockdown in the UK with Monopoly Classic being the best selling game. This trend in the UK followed a similar pattern to other countries in lockdown. 

 

Health Benefits Of Playing Board Games

In addition to strengthening family bonds and nurturing relationships, cultivating a habit of playing board games, provides us with many other health benefits as follows:

Helps us Feel Good:

One of the effects of playing board games is fun and laughter. As our previous newsletters have stated, laughter increases the feel-good chemicals (endorphins) within the body, placing us in a happy state.

Helps in Child Mental and Social Development: 

Board games help build a child’s mental and social development, including skills such as decision making, critical thinking and social interaction. Playing board games on a regular basis exercises the mind, building it stronger, and helps one to concentrate and focus for a longer period of time. Studies have found that playing analog games may be associated with better cognitive functioning.

Helps with Fine Motor Skills and Coordination:

Most board games require players to use fine motor skills (such as picking up or moving pieces), thus improving coordination.

Well-Being:

Studies indicate that traditional habits of playing board games can enhance  both mental and emotional well-being.

Better Learners – Young and Old:

Research suggests that regularly playing board games is great for your brain. As well as improving logical thinking and making the little ones better learners, seniors “who play games …are more likely to stay mentally sharp in later life.” Interestingly, the study also found that a behaviour change in later life could still make a difference.

My Top Picks

Here are three of my favourite mind games which build concentration and cultivate patience to keep the kids (both young and old) engaged through the lockdown period while we are all doing our bit to help flatten the curve from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monopoly:

Monopoly was first manufactured and sold in 1935 by Parkers Brothers in the U.S. and UK.  Classic Monopoly helps develop skills in dealing with money and for older kids, can teach them about property (rent payment and investing). Today there are many different varieties of monopoly to suit all ages.

Monopoly is a game that requires time, it can keep the players occupied for hours and hours. I still have fond memories of playing Monopoly with my brother and cousins in India, the only difference between my games today and then was that our games went on not for hours, but for days!! 

Chess: 

Chess is a game of strategy, exercising fine motor skills, and the mind, developing problem-solving and decision-making skills. Chess was popularised in the 1950s and 1960’s and can be enjoyed among participants of all ages, from the young to the elderly. Playing chess will not build your biceps, but research shows that your lifelong mental health can certainly benefit from it. Loved playing with my Dad!

Cards: 

A deck of cards is a versatile old-time favourite companion. There are many games to choose from starting with basic games like SNAP and OLD MAID, giving your brain time to unwind, relax and have fun! 

For those seniors who like a challenge, BRIDGE, a game of strategy, also known as the game for a lifetime”, is actually recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a sport! 

When you have had enough of family bonding and need some quiet time alone, SOLITAIRE is a good choice! Did you know that Solitaire is derived from the Latin word “solitaries” which is a combination of two words: “solitas” meaning “isolation” and “solus” meaning “alone”. 

Staying healthy and happy

Research by University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States in 2014 found that the frequency of playing games is associated with greater brain volume and can help older people retain their mental sharpness.

https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-2015/bridge-for-brain-health.html

It seems the age-old tradition of playing board games has many wonderful health benefits including closer connections with loved ones. To play a slow game and just hang out with each other is taking us back to basics and provides a welcome refuge from the crazy fast-paced digital life we are used to. If we can just slow down, breathe, be, play and connect with each other again…how much richer will our lives be?