My love affair with games

Well I think it is safe to say that we have established that I am horrible at being a consistent blogger.  I have had the idea for writing this blog since August!  August people!!! I have probably written it in my head about 17 times but sitting down and actually putting fingers to keyboard has apparently been extremely difficult for me.  The topic that has taken me 6 months to finally write about you ask? Games and why I play them in 99% of my therapy sessions.  I actually had a parent ask me a couple months ago if the reason I became a speech pathologist was so that I could play games all day.  A valid question since I play games all day, every day and I have no plans of changing my therapy strategy of incorporating them.  So why am I such a fan of games and why does my office and trunk of my car rival the game aisle at Target?  For a multitude of reasons:


1.     It keeps children engaged!

Ask any speech language pathologist and many of them will say that articulation therapy is not their cup of tea (I’m the opposite, I could have a caseload of only articulation and be quite content).  But why is articulation therapy the proverbial thorn in a speech pathologist’s side? Because it requires repetition, repetition, and more repetition.  Research suggests that to see progress you need 150 correct trials in a 30-minute session.  That is a lot of words in a short amount of time.  And now if you take it from the perspective of a child, they are repeating word after word after word and not always getting it correct.  It can be frustrating, boring, and it can get dry, fast.  Enter games.  I chose games where my turn and the child’s turn takes about 30 seconds to complete so that I am not spending more time playing games than actually doing therapy.  But a quick flip of a card to each take a turn at Sorry is rewarding and quick, especially when they get to “sorry” the teacher.  Sometimes I worry about the amount of glee children feel when they send me back to start but that is another post…


Playing games can also help parents when they are doing their speech homework with their child.  I have had many parents report that their child loves speech but refuses to practice with them throughout the week.  Playing a game can help with the motivation factor since they get one on one time with their parent and some fun at the same time. 


2.     It teaches turn taking.

This is obviously a skill that young children need to be taught, but having been a speech pathologist for 10 years, I am, for some reason, still shocked when I get elementary age students who have not developed this skill.  So, young or old, this a great way to teach turning taking and impulse control in an environment that is fun and engaging. 


3.     It helps with higher order thinking skills like strategy, organization, attention and planning.

Depending on the game that you choose, higher order thinking skills like strategy, organization, attention, and planning can all come into play.  And this isn’t just for older students.  There are many preschool games that target these skills in younger children.  For preschool age children, I like Sneaky Snacky Squirrel and Race to the Treasure.  Both games actually benefit from some planning and strategy and these games provide an easy opportunity to demonstrate these skills.  For older students, games such as Skip-Bo and Sorry require strategy, organization, and planning. 


4.     It teaches kids how to lose and win (and be a good sport about it). 

A question that always goes around when speech pathologists get together is “do you let your kids win?”  My answer, no.  Writing that makes me sound heartless but I don’t purposely throw a game because that is not life.  Life is unfair and the sooner you learn that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, life gets a whole lot easier.  Now, am I going to play with the same amount of strategy that I would if I was playing with my own peers?  Of course not, but I am also going to be there to help my students know the correct way to show happiness about winning and sadness about losing.  It is a lot easier for children to learn how to lose a game with me than to lose with their peers who may judge them for their tears or outbursts. 


There you have it, the blog post that took me 6 months to write.  Hopefully it was worth it! Till next time…