I came across an article by R. Pica, ‘What Makes a Game Developmentally Appropriate?’ on the NAEYC website. I have had this discussion with my student teachers several times over the past years as they work to understand how to create games for their students that serve several purposes. The main purpose is to engage the children, encouraging them to interact socially with their peers. Thus it am always looking for different views to challenge my students.
Pica’s main discussion point is that children need to learn in a positive manner where they are not shamed. Games that included exclusion from the group, example musical chairs, make the children feel ashamed, angry, and upset. Within the article there is a link to a website that lists of games that Neil Williams feels should be removed from the educational setting – http://www.auburn.edu/~brocksj/4360hastietext/hallofshame1994.pdf . Instead the focus should be on games that offer problem solving, cooperation, and improved motor skills. The early years are when the greatest amount of brain connections are made in a relatively short period of time. Many of these connections will last a lifetime.
The author provides examples of how simple games like musical chairs and red rover can be modified to help children learn cooperation and positive social skills, instead of rewarding those children who are willing to hurt and push others out of the way. In musical chairs there would be two different groups. The child that did not get a chair would simply move to the other group.
Several of the games that were listed as developmentally inappropriate could be simply reworked using some of the ideas provided in the article. Young children need to learn to be a good sport and that there will be times when they do not win. But as educators we need to find ways to help them still feel successful. Instead of sitting out for 10-15 minutes. Moving on to another group while tracking how many times people change groups will become both socially positive and also build on math/statistic processing.
My remaining question and concern is that some teachers will misunderstand the importance of allowing a child to fail/lose. Life if full of challenges and it is during early childhood that teachers can start to help children to find their own resiliency. The article was very brief and really did not touch on this point which needs to be addressed.
Pica, R. (2009, March). What Makes a Game Developmentally Appropriate? Retrieved February 5, 2016, from https://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200903/BTJLeapsBoundsPica.pdf