Parents of a preschooler
know that games are not always fun. A young child often insists on
playing by her own rules and gets upset if she loses. However, by
the time children turn six, most begin to genuinely enjoy games.
Young school-aged children have better control over their feelings
and may no longer focus entirely on the need to win. They’re
starting to understand other people’s points of view.
Six- to nine-year-olds enjoy all kinds of games. They like organized
sports and spontaneous games of tennis, badminton, volleyball, and
basketball. They’re interested in board games, card games, and
strategy games like chess, checkers, and Chinese checkers. Table
games and videogames are popular, and so are traditional outdoor
games of hop scotch, red light-green light, and four squares.
Kids enjoy the planning and maneuvering involved in games of skill
and strategy. Once past the pre-school years, a child can think
carefully about her moves. She can anticipate other players’ actions
and prepare for a possible loss or a quick recovery. She may also
like keeping score and evaluating her progress: “I can jump rope
fifty times without missing.”
Game-playing is essentially a social activity. Children who’ve
learned to cooperate with each other have fun with games. Others
have trouble playing by the group’s accepted rules. Six- to
nine-year-olds keep a close eye on each other, watching for
cheaters: “Hey, you already had your turn!” Children often
spontaneously change the rules of their games:
“From now on let’s say you can bounce the ball twice.” But if all
participants don’t agree to the changes, there will be arguments.
Some kids are intent on winning. For them, game-playing can be a
source of conflict: “That’s not fair. You can’t take my man!” Games,
of course, are competitive. While many children easily accept the
fact that there are winners and losers, others become “sore losers”
who end each unsuccessful game feeling angry.
Children who need to win may feel general pressure from a number of
sources—school, siblings, and parents who may themselves hate
losing: “Dad will be in a bad mood all day if he loses his golf
As your child gets older, she’ll be better able to handle the
competition in games, although she may retain her strong desire to
win. Be patient, encourage her to have fun playing, and continue to
stress good sportsmanship. And consider the positive side of “not
wanting to lose.” Your child may be a determined, disciplined,
well-behaved hard worker who strives to do well in many areas,