February 1, 2024

The Benefits of Family Game Night

Whether it's rainy, snowing, cold or hot, a family game night is a great way to enjoy time together while secretly working on fine motor skill development.

Whether it’s rainy, snowing, cold or hot, a family game night can be a great way to enjoy time together while secretly working on fine motor skill development. Your children will have so much fun playing games and spending time with you, they won’t notice that they’re developing skills at the same time!

Below are 5 classic board games that can be used to facilitate fine motor skill development at your next family game night:

1. Hungry Hungry Hippos: This classic game was created by Milton Bradley and is great for family game night. To play, kids are required to rapidly depress a lever that in turn extends their hippopotamus’ neck and gobbles marbles that are bouncing around the game board. The player whose hippo eats the most marbles wins! This game is an excellent way to strengthen a child’s finger isolation (ability to use one finger at a time, without correlating movement of the others). Encourage your child to use only one finger in each game to push the lever. For the next round, switch fingers. Try to play enough rounds so that your child has the chance to exercise each finger on her left and right hand!

2. Operation: This game was also created by Milton Bradley. It requires a lot of fine motor precision to remove small plastic “organs” from a pretend surgery patient using small tweezers. To play, kids are required to move their hands and fingers very slowly and steadily without allowing the tweezers to touch the patient’s body. Encourage your child to hold the tweezers using the same grasp pattern she would on her pencil. This activity will strengthen the same intrinsic muscles of the hand that your child will use for writing, drawing, and coloring.

3. Perfection: This game is by Hasbro and is a great addition to family game night. To play, kids are required to use their pincer grasp pattern (the tips of their index finger and thumb) to pick up game pieces varying in complexity of shape. The goal of the game is to match all game pieces to a correlating slot on the game board before the timer expires. To make this game even harder, encourage your child to pick up the game pieces using tweezers, resistive clothes pins, or chopsticks to exercise a different set of intrinsic hand muscles.

4. Don’t Spill the Beans: This game is the third by Milton Bradley on the list. To play, kids are again required to pick up small beans using their pincer grasp pattern. One-by-one, they are to place them on top of an unsteady pot. Your child will have to be very careful to place the beans just so, in order to avoid the entire pot of beans toppling over and spilling. To make the game even harder, your child can use the same tweezers, resistive clothes pins, or chopsticks to pick-up the beans.

5. Connect Four: This game is also by Hasboro. To play, kids pick up 2 inch plastic coins and drop them into a vertically stabilized playing board. The object of the game is to place four game pieces, of the same color, in a row. The pieces can be strung together in a line side to side, up and down, or diagonally. This is a great game for practicing the grasp and release of objects as well as hand-eye coordination. To make the game more challenging, encourage your child to pick up the game pieces using different combinations of fingers (ex. “This time use only your thumb and middle finger to pick up the pieces). This practice will promote improved fine motor planning, finger isolation, and body awareness.

6. Lite-Brite: This game (or art project) is by Hasboro. To play, kids can work on their own or with friends to create pictures by pushing colored pegs through an illuminated game board. Kids have the opportunity to follow a pre-designed pattern or create their own bright and colorful masterpiece all while using their pincer grasp pattern to pick up the pegs.

Board games provide an excellent chance for kids to improve their fine motor skills but can also be used to promote cognitive development and social skills. Try to find time in your busy schedule to have a family game night as often as possible for a fun evening of family bonding and the enhancement of a variety of skills.

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