Those of us old enough to remember the time before video games (yes, there was such a time, younglings!) are very familiar with board games and jigsaws. I remember huddling around the centre table with the heater full on, excitedly whiling away yet another a wet winter afternoon playing Monopoly with my family.
The game solitaire was my absolute favourite and a game that develops logical thinking as chess does ….monopoly was my second favourite because it could involve quite a few friends or family members and taught us money skills and the art of negotiation.
Despite the Xbox, PlayStation and online gaming revolution of our times, not to mention binge watching Netflix, it appears that these old fashion two-dimensional static play things are making a comeback. The UK has seen surprising sales of jigsaws and board games over the past few years, making sure that Scrabble will never go out of style.
Scrabble, chess and Monopoly seem to be leading the popularity stakes, with favourites like Snakes and Ladders and Trivial Pursuit close behind. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that many people are choosing to spend their afternoons or evenings unplugged from technology, interacting literally instead of virtually.
It also makes me very happy as a teacher, because many of these games have educational value. Indeed, that may be one of the reasons parents are choosing them. Next to reading to and with your kids, playing Scrabble with them is a great way to build their vocabulary. Chess helps with logical thinking and Monopoly helps with Maths.
The rise in demand of board games must be because families are looking for time together in an unplugged way. People can talk to each other in real life rather than be glued to their various electronic devices. When Christmas comes about, there is no doubt that some parents will choose to buy toys and games that are not just fun and family-friendly, but also teach skills and creativity. The British weather also helps!
The boom in board games is not just confined to the home. There are cafes and bars that have them or are, indeed, all about them, welcoming you to play a convivial game with your drinks and friends. And apparently driving the trend across Europe, the UK and the US are the Millennials. The 20-somethings who were born or raised around the turn of the century are choosing to bring their competitive spirits to retro-style games made of cardboard, rather than consoles.
One of the reasons for this could be that these young people are living on a tight budget, deep in debt from student loans, credit cards, cars and houses. Plus you can play these games with a drink in your hand. You buy them for a relatively small amount of money and can reuse them and take them anywhere. These games are not just board games like those we play as children. They are based on current movies and world building, very much along the themes that computer games have nowadays.
The new craze for adult gaming started in Europe and is very popular in Germany. These games can be competitive or played cooperatively. You can play games based on the Second World War, on global epidemics, detective noir and even religious disputes. The cooperative games require skills such as trading, negotiation and social networking that emphasise soft-skills so needed in today’s world.
Games like Catalan and Qwirkle have changed the playing field of board games, so to speak. However, it is still the classic games and jigsaws that are the most popular amongst families and children. Jigsaws especially help with problem solving and pattern recognition, which are very important in mathematics. They also teach patience and help increase the minute attention span we all have nowadays, especially children.
Start setting aside time every week to have some family board game time. Put some jigsaws around the house and put them together with your children anytime you have a few minutes. An on-going Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit battle will have you and your children running to the dictionary or encyclopaedia (avoid Google to keep with the unplugging theme) and build both vocabulary and general knowledge. Chess and Monopoly will keep everyone counting on their fingers and planning strategically ahead.
What better way to hone these skills in your children, or anybody, but through play, laughs and competition. That’s the best way to learn. Not to mention the hours of fond memories you are building with your fun family time! With board games, everyone wins.