This pandemic has certainly given all of us a lot more time with family and children. And this family time has not just helped us bond well with our children but also gave us an opportunity to share so much more about our own childhood, our life back in those days with long power cuts, holidays with cousins, picnics to India Gate and more. And trust me, you just can’t miss the twinkle in their eyes when children learn about the lives of their parents and grandparents!

I also got a chance to revisit all the fun stuff we used to do when I started talking about my childhood- the games that we loved as kids back in our times, all such DIY stuff that we 90s kids used to indulge in during our summer holidays – games like ‘Name, place, animal thing’, hopscotch, snakes and ladders, tippy-tippy-tap and what not.

And now when I think of all those games, I do realize that learning isn’t just about mastering spellings and times tables. A lot takes place outside the classroom, and spending some time learning practical life skills through this kind of play helps set one up for the future.

Yes, you heard it right!

While life skills can be developed through instruction, they can also be developed through gameplay. Classic childhood games don’t just help the child be busy during playtime, but also teach some crucial and essential life skills- the skills that help us live and survive.

Broadly speaking, a few being:

  • How to take turns
  • Patience
  • Attention and Focus
  • Teamwork
  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking

5 Childhood Games That Teach Life Skills

These classic childhood games are both fun and educational for young children.

1. Monopoly

Financial literacy is amongst the most important 21st-century life skills. And Monopoly is probably one of the best games for teaching children (ages 8 and up) about money management. Through the game of Monopoly, children learn about investing, how buying and selling works, and just how much bang they can get for their buck.  Furthermore, they can learn about the art of negotiation and the consequences of being fiscally irresponsible.

2. Musical Chairs

Musical chairs help to teach many life skills, while also being a whimsically competitive game that children enjoy. To play musical chairs, set chairs in a circle, one fewer than the number of children in the game, and then play music as kids walk around the circle. Every time the music stops, children must try to sit on a chair. Kids who don’t get a chair are out. Then remove a chair and begin again.

On a non-music level, the childhood game of musical chairs is a great way to teach skills like fair play, sportsmanship, and focus. As a game of Musical Chairs progresses, children must learn to deal with the frustration of being out of the game, therefore practising patience and waiting graciously. If there is a disagreement, a child will need to use their words to settle it.

In other words, this game helps teach kids to resolve arguments peacefully, deal with disappointment and practice patience.

3. Simon Says

One of the most popular games amongst toddlers and kindergartners, and for obvious reasons! Simon Says is an excellent game for helping kids learn to listen and pay close attention to instructions, while also giving them a taste of leadership. In Simon Says, one kid who plays the role of “Simon”, asks their peers to do silly actions by saying “Simon says tap your head” or “Simon Says jump like monkeys”. Then the other kids will do the action but only as long as the leader, Simon adds “Simon says” to their instructions.

In short, kids who don’t pay attention to the instructions are the only ones doing the silly action. That gives them extra motivation to listen closely to the entire set of instructions before getting started.

This ability of children to self-regulate is a critical element in their language and literacy development. Kids who are good at self-regulating can manage their emotions and behaviour in order to achieve a specific goal including things like remembering information and ignoring distractions to focus on a specific task.

4. Hide & Seek

Hide and Seek is a great game for teaching problem-solving skills. The end goal of Hide and Seek is to stay hidden for the longest amount of time without being found and the last one to be found, wins the game. While the rest of the children hide, there will be one child who “seeks” and thus will close their eyes and count. In order to stay hidden for the longest possible amount of time, Children will have to quickly assess where their best hiding spots may be, utilizing the process of elimination and honing in on their decision making. This also builds spatial awareness as kids look for a hiding place that offers the most cover as per their body size.

As the game progresses, kids take an even more in-depth assessment approach, thinking about which spots are frequently used during free play and therefore most likely to be checked first. The “seeker”   needs to utilize their problem-solving abilities and check multiple places while trying to find the other children. The skill to be patient in this process and not get frustrated comes in handy here. Instead, the child must direct that energy towards trying new spots to check.

5. Hopscotch

Hopscotch was one of my favourite games as a child and it still is today. In fact, Hopscotch proves the most basic, but lesser accepted fact:  what’s fun for kids is good for kids.

Kids draw the hopscotch shape on the sidewalk, then take turns tossing a rock underhand at the hopscotch shape. They then must navigate the hopscotch course while avoiding the square the rock landed on, all this while being on one foot!

Since it’s often difficult to avoid the square with the rock while hopping on one foot, kids will need to plan ahead to find the best ‘route’ through the course. This requires children to perform advanced planning to figure out the best way to avoid their rock. This game also allows children an opportunity to be patient while they wait for their turn to play the game.

This classic sidewalk game is perfect for developing critical thinking skills. Because the game board changes on each turn, children have to work out how they are going to approach it each time.

Planning and strategizing are life-long skills learned through play. Hopscotch allows children to physically realize their plan while developing on-your-toes adaptability. Also, you would see how friendships begin on the playground because kid-sized social experiences like Hopscotch create the framework for learning about peer relationships. Moreover, there is a great deal of character development that happens with the inbuilt winning-losing concept of this game. When light-hearted competition is introduced into playtime, kids naturally push themselves to be better. The natural, human drive to succeed is all the incentive they need to try harder.

When children develop good sportsmanship, they are developing the skills and attitudes they’ll need for a well-balanced approach to life. Because in the end, winning feels great but losing build character.

So next time your little one asks you to play, just grab the opportunity and see for yourself the difference these games make!

Go Mommy!