How to Effectively Play with your Children

Kids playing tag with the au pair.
Kids playing tag with the au pair.

As a trained professional that works with children all day long, one of my jobs is to “play” with the children for some portion of their time. The other day as I was doing this with one of the children, I realized how much more fun I was having doing this now than I had previously experienced back when it wasn’t my job to do so.

I then started to observe how some parents play board games with their children and also noted how many more computer games children play today rather than going out to jump rope or play ball. 

Some parents will play games with their children and truly seem to enjoy it, but for them the game is no challenge. I sometimes even see the parents dumb down the game for themselves in order to give their child the win.  And of course giving your child a win is very important.  But having them win every single time isn’t much of a game either (for them or you). 

So I thought I would pass along the benefit of my experience and exactly what can be achieved in the playing of games. 

What Does a Game Consist Of?

First I would like to point out that in days of old “Play” was children imitating their parents working or sports.  Little girls played with dolls and caring for a family, boys played they were doctors, farmers etc.  Then there were games like ball and made up board games.  In noticing this, I looked to see what life lessons can be learned in playing cards and board games and even soccer, foosball, etc.

Let’s start with some very, very simple games of supposedly complete chance such as Candyland or Chutes & Ladders.  At first glance, you would see that you pick a card or spin the wheel and make your move.  It is all a game of luck; that is, unless you teach your child about how to control a game through decision and determination. 

L. Ron Hubbard‘s definition of a game is: 

A game consists of freedoms, barriers and purposes. It also contains control and uncontrol.” [Reference:  The Problems of Work]

To understand this, let me first go over each component part of a game.  All games are intrinsically made up of having a goal and a purpose for play (to reach that goal).  One must have barriers to overcome in order to attain that goal, while also having some freedoms.  Freedoms would include knowing the rules, knowing which spaces you can occupy and which ones are in fact barriers and what the spaces surrounding the barriers are that you can use to maneuver around.  When there are no barriers and attaining the goal is too easy, the game has not enough action. It becomes boring because too many freedoms exist.  Where there are too many barriers or when you are so focused on the barriers that you can’t see the spaces to maneuver around them, reaching the goal can become too difficult.  The person starts to take losses and the game no longer is fun.

This in itself is something to teach your child.  If they win all the time, it becomes no game.  Also, it stands to reason that when a child is very young, choosing a game of chance will give the child more of a game without it being overwhelming. Therefore, with children of about 3.5-5 years of age these are the kinds of board or card games you should choose.

If, when the child loses, they become very upset or sad, this is the time to teach them about games and what makes a good game and what makes a no-game.  If they cannot grasp that concept, they might be too young for the game.  You should point out to them that utilizing this lesson in games will carry them through life. Everything they undertake to achieve is in fact a goal which has barriers to overcome and freedoms to observe. 

Once they have this down, you can take up the whole concept of knowing and visualizing themselves attaining their goal.  This is something that professional athletes have used for years.

L.Ron Hubbard goes over this in the subject of Postulates.  A postulate is “…a conclusion, decision or resolution made by the individual himself, to conclude, decide or resolve a problem or to set a pattern for the future or to nullify a pattern of the past.” [ref]

Whether we realize it or not, we make postulates frequently each day.  How many times did you wake up, look out the window, saw rain and thought, “Bad day.” And then you actually had a bad day. That is a postulate – not a very positive one, but a postulate nevertheless. It stands to reason then if we can make negative postulates and they stick, what if we practiced causatively making POSITIVE postulates about our day, our goals and our lives?  How can we hone that skill so that the majority of these positive postulates actually come to fruition?

One way I teach children this is by taking a game of chance; let’s take Chutes & Ladders, a favorite amongst little children (but you can use this in any card or board game or sport really).  For those of you who are not familiar with the game, there are board pieces (that look like children) for each person playing.  Each player has one piece.  Then you spin a dial and it tells you how many spaces to move.  If you land on a ladder you get to go up the ladder and by-pass many spaces to travel through.  If you land on a chute then you slide down the chute sometimes sliding down just a few rows, sometimes sliding down to the bottom.  

With this game, I have the child decide where they want their player to land… for instance if they get a number 1 on the spin they go up a ladder. They can also go up a ladder on number 4, but if they get a number 6 on the spin… then they have the opportunity on the next spin to land on a ladder that reaches even higher on the board. 

I have had people tell me, “…but what if they don’t get the number they decided to get?”  Well, first of all, we never put it there that they won’t get the number they spun for.  In their thoughts and intentions they KNOW they got it.  And many times they do.  This is a win!  So within a game they get to practice this “eliminating doubt” from their decisions and to have many wins within one game, not just one – i.e. you win or lose a game. 

But then what happens when they do KNOW and spin and then they don’t get their number?  Then you help them to find out what was “out” (missing).  Did they have a small doubt?  Was their estimation of effort on how hard to spin the dial off?  Do they understand what intention is and really intend with knowingness instead of with effort for the needle dial to land on the correct number?  Did they stay confident and put their decision there on each spin that they have the number they decide, or did they go sliding down the band of emotions themselves into anger, gloom, hopelessness? Staying confident and interested is the only way to get what one wants.

Also, I always go over with them in a new unit of time that if they do lose, it is a game after all. If one wins every time, the game would become boring to them.  It is OK to lose sometimes and when they do, it challenges them and it gives them the opportunity to practice the above skills.

Lastly, what do you do when they get so good at this that they win all the time and it does get boring? Trust me, it happens!!! The usual thing most people do is they start to make mistakes to make it more of a game.  If I notice this happening, I make sure they know that it is always better to make or find a better, more challenging game than it is to start going down the emotional tones trying to make this “more of a game.” It teaches them that it is all right to give yourself that win and to make new goals rather than create a rut for yourself. 

This  along with teaching them the skills within the game itself have proved to be important in giving the children confidence and the willingness to put themselves out there, to try for the impossible!

It also makes it really fun for me, as I not only get to see them win at this but also I get to practice my skills as well!

I hope you find this useful and have fun with your children every day!

Wishing you joy,

Diane DiGregorio Norgard
Mace-Kingsley Family Center

8 thoughts on “How to Effectively Play with your Children

  1. Note for children who are too young it is best to play games that get them to look out. In Scientology there is an assist called a locational: Using games made up along these lines of getting the child to look out can be not only amazingly fun but extremely therapeutic. Yes, do a locational and take walks daily but when playing also play the Color game (where they find colors). Find the toy (hide a toy and then take turns finding it), I Spy etc.

    And through play I have taught children about all kinds of things from proper nutrition and the importance of sleep to how to the difference between good and bad (therefore no) communication.( to how to use communication to increase the affinity between people. ( I’d love to read your comments about how you use play to teach your children!

  2. I do like this article, but I think you’ve skipped a gradient on me as a parent. I totally get, and agree with, that as a parent my primary role is as a coach, as well as physical security, friendship and others.

    But here you’re advocating teaching the ability to cause a roll of ‘6’ on a dice by postulate! That’s way out of my league – it’s the teaching of how to make a “wishtulate” – and apart from anything else, the primary postulate in the manufacture of a dice is that the numbers are random! Anything else would be a “magic dice” which I suspect most people would regard as cheating.

    As far as I’m concerned, the fulfilling of a postulate requires some level physical universe effort, as well as some KRC on that subject. A postulate is something you make happen, not just wish would happen.

    So when my daughter helps me maintain my motorbike, I’m also trying to teach such things as: “My postulate is to have a smooth running, safe, reliable and fun motorbike.” as well as “When was the last time I checked the oil, battery or chain to *make sure* that it is reliable and safe?”, or “That’s why I study the Haynes manual for that model of bike.” And when/if it breaks down – “Is there some aspect of the bike that I didn’t care/look out/take responsibility for?”

  3. Thank you Stewart. I see your point but I don’t teach them to “wish” it to happen. If they don’t get what they have decided to I also teach them all the component parts of what it takes to make what they have decided to happen, happen: intention, knowing, staying calm and interested rather than going into anxiousness or anger. And yes the child has to be old enough, that depends on the child but I have taught some as early as 7 years old.

    But a Postulate is not the only thing I teach them. I’ve taught things like when playing Barbies and I see one Barbie being rumoring or sneaky (as I am finding some kids imitating teens and being catty) I can teach them on a gradient about emotional tones: Or if Superheros are fighting the bad guys teach the child about bad guys are generally grouchy and mean…. maybe they need to eat a nutritious snack and have a nap etc. There are all kinds of things you can teach through play.

    And that is the other point about playing with your children: it gives you an insight into their world and what their environment outside of your home is like. Watch what they say and do in their play and you can see what ideas they have picked up and adopted from their friends and others around them. Gives you a great opportunity to handle anything you do not think is in their best interest or that you disagree with.

  4. There is also the component of Setting a Good Example, which brings TWTH into play. To the degree you know something, you can teach it to others. If you know and can recognize the ingredients of winning, in yourself, you could verbalize them and, therefor, help the children to learn by your example.

    For instance, I roll dice, don’t get what I want, I get grumpy, I spot that as non-optimum, I raise my tone level, then I decide I’ll do better next time and that this has been a good chance/opportunity to practice.

    While doing these actions, I could verbalize, “Eek! Bad roll. I hate that! Oops. Maybe hating what happened might keep me from doing better. Hmmm . . . I’ll smile and be happier and see if that helps for the next time I roll.”

    While I have worked, as an “adult,” to do more and more in a skilled manner and be more intensely competent (again, TWTH), I can learn how to do even better by breaking down what it is that I do (some skill), then work to strengthen each part.

    Breaking the parts down on a low enough gradient for a child is the same or similar. And it can include coaching on one skill at a time (from LRH tech on Coaching). If the child seems to have trouble going down, emotionally, I could “show” her what I do to resolve that problem in myself (as in the above example). I’d have my own game to bring the child to at least a minor win in the area before going on to something else.

    Likely, this has already been covered on this web site. Just found the site through RAZZline and love it!

  5. I think that it is very important to be able to see and not cross the thin line between general play and dangerous play. Sometimes kids want to drive cars and piton rockets 🙂 And some parents even think that this is a good thing to do at any age.

  6. Every place (even the workplace!) can be a playground if it comes to that. The important thing is to always be open to interact with your children, because that’s what helps to create the bond between a parent and a child.

  7. Wow! very informative and i had cognitions about postulates on what u posted, Diane!:) Thanks very much. This is good stuff and Im deciding to learn and train my child on life’s basics especially the Postulate 🙂 This is really Golden! Nice Realization…I hope Mace Kingsley could be established in every country. Pls target training 1 person for every country…and i believe it will change the world 🙂

    Thanks. ARC! Much love!

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