The following is a guest post from Kathy Flute:
Games have a proven track record of bringing people together, whether through family game-nights or team-building corporate retreats. While games are designed to be entertaining, they also provide a considerable amount of developmental, physical social and mental benefits, especially when games are played with others.
Playing games with others encourages the development of logic, critical thinking, coordination and spacial development, especially in children. Games force the brain to solve problems, as well as utilize association and recognition skills, especially when playing word games like Scrabble or strategy games like Monopoly. When a game requires the movement of game pieces, or requires participants to draw or act out key words or phases, this benefits hand-eye coordination and dexterity. Playing games also forces players to focus, which can help to increase attention spans. Games like Cranium or Pictionary also help people of all ages to develop creativity, innovation and imagination.
Team games and sports that require movement have additional physical benefits. Active indoor games like Charades, or outdoor active games like tag increase physical activity, which increases exercise and burns calories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all individuals get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week, and playing games can help meet those requirements when they involve running, jumping or other physical movements. The CDC recommends even greater amounts of physical activity for children, or about an hour a day. Staying active helps stave off obesity and a long list of conditions, ranging from heart disease to cancer. Over time, active team games help children develop healthy habits with benefits that will extend way beyond adulthood.
Playing games with others helps build social and life skills, such as verbal abilities, teamwork and how to appropriately interact with others. These skills are especially important for developing children. Children can learn how to take turns and to talk appropriately to each other while playing. These skills help children build important relationships. Winning or losing activities also helps develop sportsmanship, and teaches children how to appropriately respond when things don't go as they want them to.
If you're more concerned with psychological issues, then playing games encourages social interaction, which can combat loneliness and reduce depression. Most games are designed to be entertaining and cause laughter, which reduces the presence of hormones that contribute to stress, such as cortisol and epinephrine. Even children experience marked mental health benefits from playing games, especially with outdoor games. In fact, playing games outdoors can help reduce symptoms of ADHD and emotional disorders in children, suggests Dr. Garrett Burris, a pediatric neurologist from the Baylor College of Medicine.
While any type of game provides benefits, look for those that include educational or physical activity elements for maximum benefit. Video games can offer some of the benefits listed above, though more physical and interactive activities are preferable. That said, every platform has its pros and its cons!
Kathy Flute is a mother of three earning her master's in special education who enjoys writing articles about family, teamwork, and the Top 10 Special Education Master's Degree Programs Online.