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Benefits of Classic Games

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: I would like to ask you what you believe are the greatest benefits to children's development of the back-to-basics games like Hopscotch, Twister, Dominoes, Card games (like old maid, snap), Jacks, Pick up sticks, etc.?

A: Your question is a leading one, but I will follow the lead. There are enormous benefits to these type of games, benefits that don't necessarily occur so readily from computer and video games and from television. Probably the most important developmental benefit is that all of these games require that children interact and speak with each other. They have to negotiate rules, take turns, correct and challenge each other. Thus they are thinking and problem solving all the time. They can improve their listening and speaking skills. They also have to deal with the emotional consequences of these interactions: handling loss, helping a friend to handle a loss, being a gracious winner.

Beyond the social and emotional benefits of these kind of games, most of the games that you mentioned also help work on motor coordination, both fine motor skills and gross motor skills. For kids in the 3 to 8 age group, these motor skills are very important for success and self esteem, both in and out of school. Improved fine motor coordination will help with writing and drawing. Hopscotch and Twister can help with balance, coordination and flexibility.

The other benefit to keep in mind is that these games are relatively inexpensive ways to promote skills while encouraging kids to have fun. They are a lot cheaper than video games!

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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.


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