You know that face that our children get when they are really proud? Their faces glow and their sense of accomplishment beams through. It’s one of those special moments we get to enjoy as parents.
We want our children to work hard to reach their goals, but then we struggle trying not to encourage too much competition. Play is supposed to be about playing. Not winning. But winning can be something special as well. So what’s a parent to do?
Are we prepared not to teach our children about winning? I’m not. I think winning can be a great motivator. I do, however, struggle to find a balance between winning and playing for fun. Not everything needs to be made a competitive game (despite the fact that my children try to sometimes).
How do we raise ambitious kids who work hard to achieve their goals, but still get to have fun? I think we need to turn back to play. How our children play is extremely important. Summer is here and it’s a perfect time to return to cooperative, fun games that the entire family can enjoy. These games are simple but teach our children to work hard and that there is value in trying – all while having fun. Here are some of my favourite backyard games to play:
- Hopscotch – This simple and classic game doesn’t really have a winner but encourages our children to get better each time.
- What Time is it Mr. Wolf? – In this game, one person stands at a distance as the wolf who, when asked what time it is, offers a random number for the others to walk towards them. When the others are near, ‘lunch time’ is called and the wolf sets off in chase to catch the next wolf. The wolf may always seem like the winner, but everyone gets to take turns being the wolf. This game rarely ends without giggles and laughter!
- Playing Catch – Often underrated, just passing a ball back and forth is not only great for hand-eye coordination, but it is fun. Encourage the kids to try and catch it, but if they don’t that’s ok. They can keep trying.
- Obstacle Course – If you are looking for a bit more to encourage competitive spirit, an obstacle course may be the perfect thing. You can set it up for the kids to try and beat their own personal time (rather than their siblings or friends) and different stations can vary in degree of difficulty.
Other cooperative games like scavenger hunts and tag allows our kids to play together, work as a team and take turns without having clear winners.
Our job as parents is to encourage our children to achieve their goals, and to try very hard – even when they don’t win or aren’t the most skilled at something. We teach them that success can be found in the journey, not just the end goal. And we need to teach them how to be graceful winners, and losers.
But most importantly we need to teach them to have fun. When we support our children in their playing, we all end up being winners.
Article by: Rebecca Stanisic