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Learn Through Play

Dana Points, Editor-in-Chief of Parents magazine, shares the best simple games to help kids have fun and teach them important lessons.

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-Hi, everybody. I'm Julie O'Claire. Well, some lessons are easy to teach kids but when it comes time for them to learn about values like empathy and patience, it can be a little more difficult. Today, we'll show you some ways you can teach these lessons through play though so joining us now is the new editor-in-chief of Parents Magazine, Dana Points. Welcome and congratulations. -Thank you. It's great to be here. -It's so great to have you with us in the studio. So, first of all, nagging really doesn't work; lectures really don't work; but for some reason, kids respond to learning through games and play. Is it because it's just so much more fun and they don't realize that they're learning? -Right. They internalize these lessons from these games without really even realizing it. And it's fun for the parent too. -So you have some great examples here. We'll start with the "Cheer Up" game. How does that work? -Right. The "Cheer Up" game is pretty easy. You just wanna take some 8-1/2 x 11 sheets of paper and draw on it some sad expressions, things like sick or sad or mad. And then, the children can pick-- Each of them can pick a piece of paper from the basket, hold up the sign and try to act as if they feel this way. You know, they're not showing the other kids. And then the other kids are trying to figure out-- -What it is. -what's going on-- -Uh huh. -and they're gonna try to help the child who's mad or sad or sick. So they're going to be learning empathy. The idea that you can read another person's emotions simply by looking at how, you know, the look on their face, how they're acting. -What a great idea. Okay. "An Oldie but a Goodie", this is what my kids love to play especially while driving in the car, "I Spy." And you say this teaches patience? -Absolutely. "I Spy" is a lot of fun. You pick someone to the spy and they say, "I spy something with my little eye and the color is--" whatever the color is-- -Uh huh. -Green. And then the other children and the driver-- whoever-- take turns trying to guess what it is that the child spies. And this is teaching patience because you have to wait your turn; you have to listen to what other kids are saying; and then, take your turn when you go and hope that you're right; and whoever picks what it is that the spy see gets to be the next spy. -What age is a good age to start these games? -You know, I've played it with my kids from like three, four, on up. -And they just love them. -Yeah. -Sure. Okay. The hot or cold game helps kids with cooperation? -Yes. -How do you play? -Hot or cold, choose an object such as a red ball or a small stuffed toy and you give that to one child who hides it in the room and then the others go out and then the idea is that they come in and you say hot or cold depending on how close they are to the missing object. You can tell the kids like make your voice louder if they're near, hot, colder if they're further away, and they get it pretty quickly. They get really excited. They start saying hotter, hotter, hotter, and then suddenly, the person finds the object and then you take turns. The next person gets-- -[unk] played as a little kid. -Yes. -You too? -It's lots of fun. -And another one we all probably played, "Mother, May I?" -"Mother, May I?" This is interesting. This teaches respect which is really critical and you would never think that when you're playing this old game. But, basically, the idea is you take turns, one child is the mother and the mother takes turns going down the line of kids saying, you know, "Susan, take one step forward." And then Susan has to say, "Mother, may I?" And then the mother can say yes or no. So let's say she says yes to-- Susan takes one step forward but before she steps, she should say thank you. So she has to ask permission and then say thank you to mother before she moves. And if she doesn't do those things, she gets sent back. -So it's sort of like Simon Says but with the polite factor. -Exactly, and whoever gets closest to the mother gets to be the mother next time. -Oh, I like that. Okay. This is when the whole family can get involved in, "To Tell The Truth." -"To Tell The Truth," and obviously, this teaches honesty. The idea here is that you are sort of experimenting with a phrase, a word; you wanted to say something that is true. And so, the kids get a word out of the basket and you might start the phrase with, "I am sad." And the child says, "I am sad when we don't have ice cream at lunch at school." And the idea is that they have to be genuine in whatever it is that they're saying. Or, "I am mad when my brother, Ben, takes my toy." So that you're really encouraging them to be honest even if it's uncomfortable. -Honesty the best policy. Always. -Yeah. -Next one is, I think, my favorite because it gets the kids involved in the chores around the house. This is called "Sock, Sort and Toss." Tell us about it. -Sock-- I'm definitely gonna be trying this at home. -Me too. -Okay. Here, when you get the laundry out of the dryer and you got like those forty pairs of socks that always have-- -Uh huh. -Make sure you have the mates, first of all, 'cause you want the game to be fair. Then you take the socks, separate all the mates, put them altogether in a basket and the goal for the child is to combine the socks like the two blue socks, make a pair, and then you need to place some shoe boxes across the room, label them for the different members of the family and the child tries to toss the sock into the shoebox for the appropriate family member. And the idea is they get the pleasure of, you know, connecting the socks-- it's kind of like a concentration game-- and then, putting them in and they're learning responsibility. They're learning to take part in the family's activities, the day-to-day upkeep. -They learn responsibility, you get the laundry folded. -That's right. -Hey, it's a win-win situation, right? -Yeah. -I would love to be a kid in your house. There has to be a lot of fun. -Well, I'm-- You'd have to ask my son. -That's very true but I'm sure they just love these games. Dana, thank you so much. Great to have you in the studio. Thanks for the advice. For more great parenting information, you can pick up a copy of Parents Magazine. And if you wanna tell us about some of the great ways that you teach your children through play, send us an email at ideas@parents.tv. Thanks for watching, everybody. We'll see you soon.