Whenever I work out at the gym, I take along my iPhone and listen to songs as I sweat my way through my routine. One of the songs that I tend to replay over and again is Bob Dylan’s, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” As I listen to the song, I think about how meaningful, ingenious, and ageless Dylan’s lyrics are. His song, written in the sixties, carries a message that is as poignant today as it was when it was first recorded over fifty years ago. As a grandmother of two young granddaughters, I often wonder if my attitudes, ideas, and interactions are current. What kind of affect am I having on my granddaughters? What memories of our time together will they carry with them into their futures? And how many of the activities and moments that I share with them will withstand the test of time?
There can be no doubt that today’s children experience a far different childhood from mine or that of my children. Life is indeed more complex. Technology has opened windows into areas that are far more sophisticated than I could have ever dreamed possible during my developmental years. However, with everything the Internet has to offer, some things do remain constant; children need human interactions in order to develop socially, physically and intellectually. A cyber buddy can never replace the lessons learned or the bonds formed through human contact.
Recently, I was playing Chutes and Ladders with my two granddaughters, ages seven and ten. Eloise, my younger granddaughter, got extremely frustrated each time she found herself lagging behind her sister and me. At one point, she took her game piece and put it at the finish space stating with aplomb, “I win.” Her action caused me to think back to when her sister was five years old and how I used to stack playing cards so that she would win in the game of “War.” My reason for doing so was because I wanted her to learn the game without putting the added dimension of losing into the hopper. In the case of Eloise, she already knew how to play the game so I believed that we could play by the rules. I was mistaken. While Eloise, needs to win, as do most young children, I believe, she also needs to learn how to handle losing, a skill in and of itself. I have come a long way in my thinking from five years ago.
During my teaching tenure, I often played games as a way to teach and reinforce academic skills. I also believed in their value as a means to develop interpersonal communication, a skill that is not fostered through the use of technological devises. One of my favorite games to play with my students was UNO a game requiring little skill, but lots of luck, a game suitable for all students.
There was one boy in my class who would join the UNO group whenever it was played, often losing to me, his teacher. Before long, his desire to win the game became a near obsession and, because of his enthusiasm, several classmates joined in his effort to “beat the teacher.” Laughter filled the room as did the lively conversation that usually accompanies any small-group game situation. Eventually he did win and it became one of his proudest moments, so much so that he wrote in his sixth grade yearbook that one of the highlights of his school experience was when he “beat Mrs. Scarlata at UNO.”
The lessons I have learned during my career of teaching young children served to prepare me for my role as a grandmother. Many of the activities and games that I shared with my students have successfully become a part of my granddaughters’ lives some many years after I left my profession. Game playing is timeless. Monopoly, to name one game, is as much fun to play today as it was when my daughters were little. It is a game for for the entire family to enjoy and is a wonderful vehicle for developing, an understanding of money, numbers, making wise decisions, and doling out responsibilities. May and Eloise enjoy playing it, even if Eloise has a tendency to quit the game once her limited attention span wanes.
Yes, the times are changing. Change has occurred since the beginnings of time and will continue to change in the future. It’s a natural progression. But, with changing times, there are some things in life that remain constant and much of what we value in life can be reinforced through interpersonal game playing. What better way to unwind, relax, and talk about your day by participating in a family game? Technology has its place, but its place needs parameters. Time to put technological devices to bed at a reasonable time and give games their wake-up call. Games will change with time, but their importance in developing good sportsmanship, camaraderie, communication skills, and family unity never diminishes.