I am sure that almost every parent has faced this dilemma when introducing a strategy game to their kids: in those first few critical games, how often should I win and how often should I give in? On one hand you don’t want them to get too used to winning and also one can argue that the better you play the more they learn how to avoid various pitfalls in future games. On the other hand, most kids will get frustrated if they are constantly losing and they quickly lose interest. So how does one find the balance?
The answer to this question probably varies by kid and by game but I would love to hear about other people’s experiences with this. Today I felt that I discouraged Katie from playing a (new to her) game by beating her twice in a row. My only hope is that I somewhat made up for it by having her watch me lose to my husband afterwards :-).
The game is basically an advanced variant of tic-tac-toe, where the goal is to get five in a row. Katie has played tic-tac-toe in the past and so she got the concept right away. The physical game consists of a board with little holes and many pegs of two different colors. The pegs can also be used to ‘draw’ pictures on the board, which is what I initially told Katie the game was all about. I am actually a big fan of using various game pieces for multiple activities. Here is a design that Katie and an older friend made yesterday:
- Katie made the bottom figure
- I also introduced the real rules of the game to the girls yesterday, and they played one round. Katie won, mostly by chance, but was not interested in playing a second round. Today, however, when we had a bit of time in the evening, she demanded that we play this game. As already mentioned, I won twice in a row. Both times, Katie was not very happy, even though I tried to warn her that I was about to get five in a row. Half way through the third game she said that she didn’t want to play any more but wanted to make pictures again.
- And so the question stands, to win or not to win? What is the best strategy to follow if the goal is to maximize fun and learning and minimize frustration?
- Btw, here is the picture from the game that I played with my husband. Can you spot the five in a row?