No, I don’t have statistics from a focus group to support this claim! : ) However, I do remember what it’s like being a kid on summer break with not much to do at home to make the hours, days, and weeks go by. There comes a point during the summer (usually not long after the 4th of July) when kids simply start getting bored.
After summer camp and family vacations ended, I can remember my brother and I trying to find ways to entertain ourselves until the dreaded return of school. We usually played countless hours of Battleship, Guess Who, War, and made a big mess trying to build card castles. We even made up lots of games, like scavenger hunts and new house rules for Monopoly.
I’m not suggesting that boredom is a bad thing; I think boredom can be quite a good thing because it makes you DO SOMETHING about it. I don’t advocate for year-round school for kids because I’m a firm believer in kids having to FIND fun and constructive things to do to occupy their time (without killing themselves, hurting each other, or setting the house on fire). Kids need this leisure time to practice entertaining themselves, using their God-given imagination, and tapping into their creativity . . . and often this takes lots of back-to-back weeks of boredom to trigger! Building forts, collecting bugs, bike races, sleepovers, playing Marco Polo at the pool, and everything else childhood summer nostalgia conjures up would not be possible without these long summer breaks.
Playing games is also a big part of childhood summertime nostalgia. Every household needs lots of games (my family had a game closet) to keep handy for times such as these when kids are cooped up in the house for hours on end. Games are also great for rainy days, a bit of family bonding time after supper, and something for your kids to do when their friends come over to play. Especially with today’s technology, good old-fashioned games are a great way to get families interacting with one another instead of with their iPhone, computers, and video games.
Board games, just like sports, are also hugely beneficial for cognitive and social development in children. My brother and I always loved it when we got a new board game because we almost immediately set in to see how many times one of us could beat the other. The loser would always defer to tactics such as best out of 5 (or 10, or 20, depending on how badly we were losing!) or winner-takes-all to give one of us the upper hand. This makes the art of persuasion and salesmanship two handy life skills that board games can teach! Board games are also a fantastic way to help kids learn strategy skills, how to think on their feet, a healthy competitiveness, how to win and lose gracefully, and practice getting better at things over time.
The really good news about board games is that there are lots of great Catholic games available now that do all of these things while providing catechesis at the same time. Many Catholic games are genuinely fun, and not just an educational activity cleverly disguised as a game to make it appear more interesting and motivating. There are now Christian versions of many popular games such as Scattergories, Outburst, Taboo, and Guesstures. A great new Catholic catechesis game on the market is The Divinity Game–The New Catholic Catechism Learning System, which has received positive reviews. There are also beautiful 3-D puzzles of the architectural wonders of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Peter’s Basilica which can be a lot of fun to put together over two or three days. Whatever kinds of games you kids enjoy, you should be able to find one that teaches elements of the faith as well.
What kinds of games did you enjoy playing the most during your childhood summer breaks?