Why Playing Games Boosts Emotional Intelligence

Games with Shurley English.jpg

Last time, I told you about nine ways to ignite emotional intelligence in your classroom. I discussed how music can impact emotional connections to learning. Now, let’s examine how bringing games into the school day can support emotional intelligence.

Game On. From the time we are infants, games often play big part in our lives. From Peek-a-Boo to Simon Says—playing games makes us happy. But games do a lot more than meets the eye. Some research says that teaching kids how to play board games, games of strategy, and digital games improves interpersonal and social-emotional skills.

Two Heads are Better Than One. Have you ever heard of collective intelligence? Well, it’s a real thing! Researchers have learned that two heads are better than one, three heads are better than two…you know the old adage. Turns out it’s true, at least for a lot of people. And it’s important for kids in classrooms, too. Games make this dynamic possible.

Decision-making and Predictions. Games, especially games of strategy, promote decision-making and the ability to make predictions based on actions. Think about how important it might be for kids if they learned and practiced how to analyze a chess move or a strategic move on a checker board. Every action leads to an outcome; and the better the kid is at predicting that outcome, the more likely the win. Decision-making and predictions are part of every day life and these are skills worth practicing!

Can I Live With the Risk? What about risk-taking? Yep! Experts agree; risk-taking is essential to learning because the brain is always sizing up situations to decide if staying and fighting is better than running away. Kids who are willing to take risks within reason show increased resilience in the face of adversity. They also show better wisdom when they know when to walk away from a fight. Know what that builds up inside of kids? Persistence! Persistence is one part patience and one part discipline. So, start playing games with kids and you up the odds that they will become more persistent and wiser about their actions. Of course, it’s not as simple as all that. It’s not a one and done proposition, but it has power if it is practiced consistently.

Cooperative Learning. In our learning environments, in or outside the home, games can prompt growth in other ways, too. Did you know that most of the jobs our kids of today will have don’t even exist yet? And did you know that those future jobs, more than likely, will be done in cooperative teams of employees? You know where I am going with this. Never underestimate the power of game play to help kids learn how to get along with one another. We call it cooperative learning for a reason. Yes, game-playing can sometimes lead to all-out mutiny, but it’s in the struggle, the compromise, the fits, and the resolution where kids can learn how to work alongside another and build mutual purpose. They also develop a stronger sense of self as they join in on the push and pull of interpersonal relationships.

As you forge new pathways with your students, remember to include games because they improve learning in ways that matter a lot today and that matter even more in the future. It’s time to get your game on!

In the next part of my series, I will talk about drama in the classroom…the kind that doesn’t make you crazy. Stay tuned!