Board games can offer many benefits for families

Published: Tuesday, April 16 2013 3:20 p.m. MDT

Michael Mindes, left, is the founder of Tasty Minstrel Games. Over the last 25 years, he has spent the majority of his free time playing and creating games.

Michael Mindes

From learning new skills to spending quality time with family, board games come with many benefits.

CBS News recently reported on a study performed by the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers observed senior citizens over a 20-year period to see if they developed dementia. Throughout the study, they had their participants engage in mental activities such as board games and crossword puzzles.

The study discovered that not only was dementia reduced among those who took part in the mental activities, but also those who engage in mental activities are less likely to develop dementia. One activity once a week reduced the risk of dementia by 7 percent. Risk reduction increased to 63 percent for those who participated more frequently.

Tom Vasel is the president of The Dice Tower, a site containing reviews and podcasts for board and card games. Vasel believes there are very few mental skills that can't be taught through board games.

"It's not a coincidence that the majority of board gamers are teachers, scientists and engineers," Vasel said. "Board games make you think, and thinking is something that increases your level of intelligence."

Vasel listed many benefits of board games for kids, including the importance of learning how to lose.

"Many kids these days expect to be given anything they ask for," Vasel said. "When a kid loses in a board game against multiple players where there can only be one winner, they are able to experience the feeling of losing and how to deal with it."

The opposite of losing is winning, where many other skills come into play.

"Board games have you think logistically and cognitively as well as strategizing," Vasel said. "If you want to win a game, you have to think and plan ahead in order to be the winner in the end. There are also games where players work together as a team, which allows everyone to win through some negotiation and decision-making."

Michael Mindes, founder of Tasty Minstrel Games, shared additional benefits kids can receive when playing board games.

"Board games are great for learning about ideas, interactions and the connectivity of life," Mindes said. "What I mean by connectivity is that one action or choice can affect many other things. For example, the kids that choose to have fun while playing board games will have a greater chance at winning the game."

Kids also develop important learning skills from board games, skills many teachers are taking advantage of. A 2010 article in the Washington Post talks about teachers finding ways to include board games in their lesson plans.

"As a former teacher, I taught many seminars on how to use board games in classrooms because there are so many possibilities for kids to develop necessary skills from board games," Vasel said. "There are board games specifically created to teach skills in math, science and even to learn a new language."

Board games allow families to spend quality time together, which is proving to be more difficult in today's landscape of ubiquitous technology.

"Many families are into technological games played on the Wii or Xbox, but those games really don't bring the family closer together the same way board games are able to," Vasel said. "Their focus is on the screen, whereas in board games, their focus is usually on each other. More communication goes on in board games as well in order to accomplish whatever the objective is."

Added Mindes: "We live in a world with lots of distractions for both parents and children. If there is something family members can do together while being its own distraction in some sense, that can be good. Think about how much more interaction and fun there is while playing a board game as opposed to watching yet another movie."

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