Letting Kids Win at Games Builds Creative Thinking Muscles

View of a game of Strange Synergy, a card and ...

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My 5-year old loves playing board games. He also loves creating his own rules and ways of playing which drives my 7-year old crazy because he views this as “cheating.” Recently, rather than playing board games or card games with both kids at the same time, I’ve been playing with each child individually. This gives my 5-year old time to stretch his creative thinking muscles and my 7-year old a chance to enjoy an age appropriate playing environment.

In separating play time between the two boys, I’ve gained some insights. My oldest son tends to be more literal, by-the-book, and logical. To him, it doesn’t make sense to create your own rules. He sees right and wrong…and there are never any gray lines. My older son loves building things, math, science, IT class and sports. On the other hand, my younger son tends to be more imaginative. He enjoys divergent thinking. With him, there’s always lots of gray. My younger son seems to be drawn to coming up with ideas, inventing things, creative story telling and art.

While I debate with myself about whether allowing my younger son to make up rules is helpful or hurtful, I’ve decided to add some boundaries to ensure making up rules isn’t all about him winning. What this means is that when we play games, I allow my son to create his own rules as long as those rules apply to me as well. That way, it levels the playing field while encouraging critical thinking and divergent ability.

Some of my favorite rules for playing Minosaurus (a Lego “board” game) include taking the die apart and using them as stepping stones, such that,  stepping on the stone allows you to move extra spaces based on the number shown on the die. We’re also allowed to play with two teams at the same time. One roll the die allows you to duplicate the number of moves shown for each of your teams.

Ah, the fun of game play! I admire the creativity in the rules my son creates. Some of his rules are so elaborate, they push the boundaries of my adult-sized thinking. Though I write about creativity nearly daily, seeing a creative mind in action never ceases to amaze and delight me.

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2 Responses to Letting Kids Win at Games Builds Creative Thinking Muscles

  1. Jill says:

    I agree – it’s amazing to see the creativity of kids. I get stumped when my daughter stretches her creative muscles to the extreme, then says, “now it’s your turn Mummy!” , I wonder if I was ever that creative? and if i was, what happened to it??


    • aliciaarnold says:

      Hi Jill –

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing stories of your daughter! The older we get, the less flexible we become. This is true for physical flexibility, as well as, mental flexibility. Rest assured, you are still creative. It’s just dormant. A little practice can work creativity muscles. Try thinking up ideas from the perspective of a child, a movie star, or even a super hero. Walking in another person’s shoes for a bit, can help with creativity!

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