Literacy can be fun and games?

Thanks to Beth at PATCH games for allowing me to interview her for National Game & Puzzle Week.  I've been promoting Literacy for the month of November so I asked her questions related to that! 

TWO games were given away in the Tweet For Literacy giveaway! Thanks Patch!

Beth Muehlenkamp Nateghi
Senior Promotions Coordinator


1)  What games do you recommend for 8 years and under to help reinforce reading skills? 
Overall, board games are great for reinforcing reading skills because usually some type of reading takes place in the clues, on the game board, or even in just reading the rules.  A rule I always implemented with my nieces and nephews growing up was to require every player to take a turn reading clues and to read them out loud.  This is a great way to practice, but kids don't even realize the learning going on because it only last a minute or so.

Specific board games I would recommend are listed below.  These are games where education/learning is not the primary focus, but the skills are cleverly built right in:
  • I See Three™ for ages 4 & Up, is matching animals using 3D glasses.  The nice thing is the cards give a brief lesson about the animals that the kids can read out loud. 
  • Can-Do Roo™ is great for ages 4 & Up or even a little younger because it helps kids in recognizing letters in written form and learn the sounds.  Plus, you get to hop around like a kangaroo... how can you pass that up! 
  • Buzzword® Junior is a good trivia game for ages 7 & Up and is based on the award-winning original Buzzword® game which has just sold over a million copies.  Buzzword Junior is nice because the clues are a little more kid friendly, so children get to be the smarty pants and as they read the clues out loud are reinforcing their reading skills. 
  • 100 Really Dumb Things™ is a game of pure silliness for ages 7 & Up, but the great thing is that in order to perform the silly acts, kids have to read the cards!  Another great way to get in some reading without the kids even knowing it.  We just continue to get rave reviews on this game from kids and parents. 
  • Finally, Now What?™ for ages 8 & Up is a great game in creative thinking and story telling.  One player reads a dilemma story  (great to practice those reading skills) and then all players have to come up with solutions based on the three props they choose.  The key is to be creative and come up with a solution using props that no one else is using.  I love the anticipation as each player reveals their story.
If you are looking for more obvious educational based games then try Patch' Lauri brand Educational Center Kits for ages 4 & Up that combine quality materials with an organized and convenient storage box.  Check out the variety at:  Educational Center Kits

You can also try Patch's Smethport brand of Get Ready for School games and Language cards.  Check out the variety at:  Educational Games

2)  Besides being fun, what are the benefits of playing board games? 
Board games have so many hidden benefits besides just being fun.  First and foremost they encourage interaction and a chance to learn about each other.   Plato said, “You can discover more about a  person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

I come from a large family and grew up on a farm, so my mother was always busy, but I remember as a child that the thing I loved about storms and losing the power in our house was that then my mother had to slow down and would often sit and play a board game with me.  I love that attention and time to play with my mom.  Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that playing active games with children is essential to their development. Play allows individuals to learn about themselves and the world; stimulates  mind and body; builds bonds; fosters greater imagination; and supports all states of development.

Other benefits include: turn taking, lessons of fairness, increase vocabulary, open communication lines, learn interesting facts, basic math skills, reveal your personality and kids often learn more about their parents too.  

When families participate in the Million Minute Family Challenge™, the comment I hear most is that it gave their family time to spend together or it was one of the rare moments when their teenagers were actually sitting at a table laughing with parents and younger siblings.  Buzzword was featured in the Play is Forever: Benefits of Intergenerational Play brochure as one of the Recommended Toys and Games as being intergenerational.  They said the game encourages discussion and teamwork.  Another of our hottest selling game this season, What’s Yours Like? encourages creative thinking, improves memory, and hones the skill of organizing thoughts and information.

Also board games have been widely recognized as good tools to keep the mind active in older people and to slow down or prevent dementia and Alzheimer's.
3)  Who invents your games?  Any interesting stories? 
We get hundreds of game inventor submissions every year from people all over  the world. The inventor of Roll-It Tic-Tac-Toe™ is an elementary math school teacher and a tutor for students in math and science.  His interaction with kids has been very useful for the development of games.  One day David Feldman noticed a distinguished looking man trying to open a two-pack of saltine crackers.  After struggling with his fingers, the man bit open the package with his teeth.  At this time he thought “If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t they make a cracker package you can open with your hands?”  On his way home, the word “Imponderables” popped into his head to describe these conundrums for which we can never find answers.  He started by writing the first of nine books in the Imponderables book series.  A fan suggested that he create a game based on the books and that’s how Malarky® was born.

Others ideas come from our own employees.  For example:  What’s Yours Like? was an idea of one of our employees as it was a something they played  at family gatherings and when we first played it in the office, we couldn’t stop laughing.  

Still other game ideas come from professional inventor groups whose job is to invent games.  For example, Random Games came up with the idea of Toss Up® and Buzzword.  The inventors for these games grew up in rural and suburban Michigan.  One graduated  with a Math degree and was an 8th grade teacher and then a computer programmer when he started coming up with game ideas.  He started Random Games in 1974, but didn’t become a full-time game inventor in 1985.  His educational background has been useful in solving many problems common in game design.  Another of the inventors had a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering.  He is a big fan of “house rules”.

Thanks Beth for answering my questions!  So Literacy can be about having fun and playing games!

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