Years ago I worked in a high school. I ran a restorative justice program with the students. Or that was what I was hired to do. The year that I worked there I did a number of peer mediations, ran a few youth courts, and established some life long relationships. Something else that I did, much to the administration’s frustration was play board games and card games with students in my office.
Many staff members at the school didn’t like my program, or at least the way that I ran it. They thought that I simply let the students goof off in my office, and occassionally I did. The thing is though that my job was to help the students find ways to solve their conflicts, reduce violence and improve grades. The way that I did those things was by getting the students to trust me and by creating a safe space.
My office had a few rules. You couldn’t be in it if you had class, unless you had a pass. You had to respect everyone in my office. It was a neutral space and everyone was welcomed. And you couldn’t use profanity. Other than that I let a lot slide, which is why I got huffed at a lot.
The way that I saw it was that I set early expectations for the students. They knew what was expected of them when they entered my office and they knew who I would be. When they crossed boundaries there were consequences. When anyone (myself included) would use profanity in the office then we had to place a quarter in a jar. I let the students have jar credit up to $5. Every week I would use the money in the jar and get treats or a new game. Once students hit $5 either they had to pay their debt or they couldn’t return to the office until they showed good faith and paid something. I only had to ban one student. And she paid up after a few days of being stubborn and challenging my boundaries.
Children are supposed to challenge boundaries. That’s why safe spaces are so very important. We would play board games and card games during lunch periods and after a few minutes I would know everything happening in the school even with students that never set foot inside my office. That’s the amazing thing about games. They level the playing field so to speak. They give you something to concentrate on while still allowing you to share and communicate.
As we get ready to start this unprecedented school year, I find myself reflecting on the importance of playing. You know I love toys and games. You know that they are a really important part of my life with JustaBXgirl. The thing is sometimes I look for the teachable moment in the game when the reality is the teachable moment is simply in us playing.
I wanted to share a few games this month that you can simply play with your family and enjoy the time without thinking too hard. Don’t get me wrong! I definitely think they each have their own teachable moments, some of which I will share below. I just don’t want you to forget that while reading and math and science are all very important to our littles educations so is their mental health.
Whether you are deciding to keep your little home doing remote learning or homeschooling or if you’re sending them back into a school building part-time or full time, this year will be different. You have made the best decision for your family but your job isn’t done. Keeping an eye and really checking in will be more critical than usual and game time sometimes makes it easier for littles and not so littles to share.
Burping Bobby – We got to play this during #SweetSuiteAtHome and it was so much fun. As we were playing I shared that while everyone is giggling and yucking over Bobby’s burps it is a great game to play after a unit on digestion. It can also be a fun way to get littles excited to start the unit.
Dino Crunch – Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? Dino Crunch requires you to be brave and fast. Again it would be a great way to start or end a unit on dinosaurs. It is also fun for telling an adventure story. Maybe before or after playing your little can write a story about how the Dino got all of the eggs and about the brave heroes that went off to rescue them.
Break The Board – This game is a great one to help littles focus. I won’t lie, I think that JustaBXgirl is better at it than I am. With our students getting a lot less time to run around and be active they can feel like they’re moving as they try to become masters at Break The Board.
Camera Roll – I absolutely love this game. I’ve played it a few times virtually with friends. if you want to get your littles talking and sharing their world, bring this out! It is much better for older littles as they need their own phone or device that has photos to play. Who will be the first to find a photo that matches the category Happiness? My friends and I are now playing it through a What’s App group chat where I share a card and everyone has to find a photo that matches.
Johnny The Skull – This game makes me feel like I’m at an arcade. It requires you to be alert and quick. There are four levels to increase the challenge. Will your littles be able to get the treasure? I love that this game can be played alone because sometimes I need JustaBXgirl to be able to play independently. As for connecting this to education, you will get them moving as they try to capture ghosts and make it to the treasure. You can have them research pirates and do reports. You can have them figure out the technology that allows such interactive gameplay to happen.