Strategy Games That Assist Children To Think Clearly

Thinking skills are necessary in today’s society to make good decisions yet most people, myself included, tend to make decisions based on feelings rather than thought. While I know that vegetables are healthier for me than chocolate, I still prefer chocolate. What about you?

Children who learn to develop good thinking skills while they are young have a head start in life. That’s where homeschoolers have an advantage, since we can focus on these skills every day. Four particular thinking skills that are important are:

  • Logic - using your mind rather than your heart
  • Brainstorming - investigating all possible choices, beyond the obvious ones
  • Consequences - looking carefully to see where each choice may lead
  • Linear Planning - breaking down a complex task into a series of manageable steps

Logic is the best way to decide between choices. A logical approach bypasses your emotions and all their associated problems. You can still choose to follow your feelings if you prefer, but at least now you know the reasoned and wisest choice. Children who play Checkers (also known as Draughts) soon discover that someone who plays logically will beat another player who chooses to move pieces at random.

Brainstorming is a thinking skill where children learn to look beyond the first choice. While one short-term goal may seem desirable, it may lead to a bad decision in the long-term, or vice-versa. There may be easier or better ways of achieving goals by thinking through a variety of options. One example is from a Chess game in 1858 between Paul Morphy and two opponents who worked together. By his sixteenth move, he had lost his Queen, which is normally a very poor move and is generally avoided. However, he was looking at the long-term goal of winning rather than the short-term goal of saving his Queen. As a result, he had been planning to lose his Queen so that he could win, which he did on his very next move!

Consequences are one of the most significant thinking skills a child can gain. One option may seem to be attractive but we need to consider the results of following this choice while we can still correct what may ultimately be a bad decision. Boxes is a simple two player game where each player draws lines between dots on a piece of paper, hoping to complete more boxes than their opponent. Children will soon learn that drawing a line in the wrong place can earn the other player a lot of boxes – a lesson I learned one day when playing against one of my sons. During the game, children need to think about the consequences of every line they draw. It is much easier to learn this lesson now than later in life when the effect may be much more damaging.

Linear Planning is the last of our important strategy skills that can be learned playing games. We may have dreams that seem unattainable, such as strong family relationships or financial security. Linear Planning can help by reducing a complex goal into a series of much smaller and more manageable steps. Tower of Hanoi Card Game is a two player game based on the puzzle of the same name, where nine cards are randomly dealt into three piles. The cards must be rearranged into order according to some simple rules. At first view it seems impossible to work out the game, until you use logic to consider the consequences of a move and break it down into smaller pieces. Instead of tackling the entire set of cards, try working with only two cards and get them into the right order. Using this approach my eleven year old son can now solve the game in less than ten minutes, although it has taken a lot of practise.

Logic, Brainstorming, Consequences and Linear Planning are problem solving skills that all children should learn, to prepare them for their future. Many commercial games are available that can assist children to learn these skills, but free strategy games like Checkers, Chess, Boxes and Tower of Hanoi Card Game can make learning these skills enjoyable. Isn’t that worth considering for your child’s future?

Andrew is a homeschooling dad of seven children. He owns Family Games Treasurehouse which has rules for over a hundred family friendly games. Visit Family Games Treasurehouse, sign up for our monthly newsletter and you can download our ebook, “25 Family Dice Games” for free. This article is copyright but may be freely republished provided the text, author credit, site links and this copyright notice remain intact.

avatar Andrew Low (3 Posts)

I am an Australian homeschooling father of seven children and married for 22 years. Our eldest son is currently studying Computer Programming at university. Our kids are very musical, studying piano, trumpet, guitar, violin and saxophone. It gets quite noisy during morning practice before they get into their school work!

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