Old-time activities have cutting-edge benefits
Old-fashioned board games are getting a new look in 2021: With people staying at home during the pandemic, toy giant Hasbro reports a more than 20% increase in board-game sales this year, and Netflix’s top-rated series “The Queen’s Gambit” is causing once-dusty chess sets to fly off shelves. Board games not only are bringing people together during these challenging times, but also are offering major benefits for players.
A recent exhaustive review of current board-game research published in BioPsychoSocial Medicine noted that, while research on board games’ effects on mental health remains limited, “interesting findings have been obtained in terms of brain function, cognitive effects, and health-related lifestyle modification.” Key board-game study findings include:
- Measurably lowered dementia development in frequent board-game players compared to non-players.
- Improved symptoms in individuals who experience panic attacks as well as those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Significantly reduced depression and anxiety levels in players involved in a six-week stress-management intervention utilizing Shogi games.
While these cited studies centered on adults, Scholastic offers nine reasons why board games make a difference for young people (and the young at heart):
- Early learning opportunities—Even simple games help young players identify colors, count spaces, and develop hand-eye coordination and dexterity in moving cards and pieces around the board.
- Ongoing brain development—Games are an easy way to encourage ongoing healthy brain development in all ages.
- Language skills—Fun board games that include reading, memory, or comprehension tasks are a sneaky way of helping kids work on skills they may be struggling with, and are a great way to spark conversations.
- Sharpened focus—Seeing a game through to the end without interruptions can lengthen attention spans.
- Teamwork—Board games often allow for teaming up and working together to solve problems.
- Time out—Games can be used as an alternative to a child’s time out, allowing a different way to tackle frustrations and practice respectful responses.
- Anxiety reduction—Board games’ structure help kids navigate expectations and build interpersonal relationships.
- Fair play—Playing by the rules and learning to wait for turns are important lessons that serve players far beyond the kitchen table.
- Unplugging—There’s nothing more low-tech than Candy Land or with less blue light than backgammon.
Consider making board games a regular, tech-free, and beneficial activity in your household during 2021—and anytime! For questions on cognitive development or behavioral concerns, contact a licensed California mental-health professional; check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.