We don’t play enough with our children nowadays. What we really do is provide them with tools for them to play, believing that we are not an important part of the process, and therein lies the error, according to a complaint in an interview with Infosalus María Couso, pedagogue, teacher with a master’s degree in Clinical Psychopedagogy and Neuroeducation (‘PlayFunLearning ‘).

This expert considers it true that the rhythm of society always leads us to run everywhere and sometimes we do not focus on what is important, giving attention to our little ones, when that is what they seek and need: “Many times we want to cover that necessity with objects, toys, video consoles, when more is not better, and we forget that we play a fundamental role in the development process of our little ones”.

Thus, María Couso insists that we do not play enough with them and in many families their gaming preferences change and they opt for autonomous games, or for a lot of consumption of video games, over the time of board games, and we forget that at better we can facilitate this playful process necessary for the development of children from the development of any board game, such as a goose or ludo.

“All their cognitive development is based on the attachment that we establish with our children,” he adds during an interview with Infosalus on the occasion of the recent publication of ‘Brain, childhood and play. How board games change the brain’ (Destiny).

With this, we questioned one of the largest popularizers in the country about the importance of board games for the development of minors and how they are capable of changing the brain of children.

He maintains that the board game is a tool that allows us to change the ways of processing things, taking into account that the brain is constantly changing and its neuroplasticity. “The game is a holistic learning mechanism that is born from the most primary curiosity, and for this reason it is a tool that must be available at home or in schools, in places where there are children,” Couso remarks. Precisely, in this manual that he has just published, he emphasizes the importance of board games for the development of our children and we ask him to list the main benefits of these:

1.- It allows the global development of the individual because, on the one hand, we are sharing the same personal space, we interact, at the level of sensory perception we are making an ‘input’ for that development to emerge; in fact, when you have to take a piece of a game or establish a dynamic in turns, you interact with others, and with the elements of the environment; therefore, at the level of sensory perception, one enters fully into its development.

2.- In emotional skills we share a playful time, where emotions have to be pleasant, we are conveying a pleasant emotion through this playful dynamic, we release serotonin that makes us feel good, and allows us to bond with those who we play regularly .

3.- We work on linguistic skills because we read instructions, or in those who cannot read yet understand the message that another adult transmits to me regarding the dynamics of that board game; We also have to communicate with each other, and we must take turns to speak.

4.- At the level of mathematical competition, all the games imply a count, either the pieces that I have in my hand, or the points that are somehow gained through the game, even at the level of rounds (in which round we are, how many rounds does the game have), so we already work on that mathematical competition.

5.- At the level of executive functioning, in the brain we have the prefrontal area, in charge of executive functions, that is, those established to work throughout the day and managing all our actions, and even accumulating data that we need to do certain things. activities; So, those executive functions are worked on in board games because I have to constantly keep in mind “what I have to do during my turn”, “what is the objective of the game”, or know what state of play the game is in. rest of players.

6.- It implies cognitive flexibility, an executive function that must be worked on with children because by nature they are more rigid than adults and it leads to learning frustration, because I am not always going to win, so that is also worked on mechanics at the level of social ability, about how I manage my emotions towards others.

7.- Also impulse control and children do not have good inhibitory control, and there are many games that, due to strategy or speed, you have to think hard about whether the response you give to a given stimulus is adequate because, if it is not, the The game itself will penalize you and invites you to reflect.

With all this, and coinciding with World Brain Week, Couso highlights that board games allow you to exercise that prefrontal area, where those executive functions are developed that, according to all scientific research, have a term development of over 25 years: “This doesn’t mean that young children don’t have executive functions, but they do like the trainee function, where they make photocopies and nobody pays attention to them, and that’s why it’s important to start training this executive functioning in an original way.”

Asked about the appropriate age at which to start playing board games with them, Couso indicates that it will depend on the child and recognizes that commercial board games offer us their proposals from the age of two, where we could begin to create mental schemes. and establishing certain healthy routines or what steps we are going to take in the game process.

On the other hand, he warns that there are many children who reject board games outright, so he advises parents that it is not about forcing, but about inviting, and there are children who feel calls for attention from board games to starting at 3-4, while others don’t have that desire until 6-7. “You have to respect him, and just accompany him,” she adds.

Do you always have to trust the age on the box? This pedagogue emphasizes that no: “Many publishers use certain neurodevelopmental scales to know at what stage I can introduce a memory game. From 4-5 years old is when ‘memory’ type games are introduced, and for games For those who need a higher level of abstraction, the age is recommended from 8. But this does not mean that we, as a family, are the ones who know our children best and that is why it is so important to give our children options. you are going to make it easier for the child to also know himself about his weaknesses or strengths, and show interest in certain games”.

Therefore, he insists that the age they put on the board game boxes is a recommendation that should not be followed strictly, because you can also always adapt the games to the needs of children.

Regarding the best board games in this sense, María Couso finds it difficult to make a recommendation because, as she emphasizes, there are multiple variables into account, such as the age range of the minor, their interests or abilities, for example. “If you offer a game in which he gets bored, he will reject it, but if a challenge is established for the minor, it will generate a lot of anxiety because they cannot reach the goal. Many like cards, while others like dice, or write something on the role. More than suitable games exist is to know the minor to advise him the one that suits him best “.

The problem in many cases is that children quickly get tired of playing a board game, as this pedagogue acknowledges, so she asks to be clear that their attention times must be respected, which are very low (around to 3-5 minutes of sustained attention) and not force them before this high cognitive effort. “They mark the times, but we can also adapt the games, and keep in mind that children under five and a half years of age do not like uncertainty at all, and adults work a lot based on uncertainty, we like not knowing what is going That’s why when they play a board game for a while, and make a significant cognitive effort and see themselves as losers, they reject the game,” he adds.

In these cases, he recommends offering cooperative games from the beginning to understand that sometimes we all win and lose, and progressively introduce competitive games.

Is it better to play as a family or to do it alone? Couso believes that all types are good, alone or with the family, “there are moments for everything”, and it will be healthy for them to play alone, but in the case of requesting help, they are the ones who come looking for us. “There will be other moments where that game and family dynamics will be healthy and will allow family ties to be united with their ways of playing and differences. Therefore, both solo and family play should be complementary and not exclusive,” he says.

Help them or let them win? It is the families that must measure it, according to this expert: “It is also appropriate sometimes to let them win, because they are unaware of our abilities, they do not know that we can do more than them, and for them it is a kind of reward to be winners, and they see it deserved. their cognitive effort. Of course, the important thing in all this is to maintain a balance, moments in which I let you win, and others in which you win, because what we want to look for is that the game is a learning tool, but they play because they have a good time and they don’t see that they are learning. It depends on the objective we pursue, we will use one strategy or another”.