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Developing Character through Family Games

March, 2011
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Many families have games nights when TV, computers and cell phones are turned off and family members play games, laugh and enjoy being together. On these nights family members play board games, ping pong, foosball and other competitive games which often end in announcing one member as the winner and others as losers. Parents then spend time managing everyone’s feelings by explanations such as “It’s just a game…”, “Be a good sport.”, and “I bet you will beat me next time.” The competitive nature of these games undermines the very purpose of family night which is to increase family unity.

Games do not have to be competitive to be fun. You can find many books and resources online that offer a variety of fun cooperative games that leave everyone happy. The following are some game suggestions from Virtues in Us Children’s Character Education Program that are not only cooperative but also meaningful. Playing these games helps the whole family focus on character development rather than worrying about competition. 


The games listed below are examples of games for families (or classrooms) with children aged 4-8. They can be be used in kindergartens, early primary classrooms and at birthday parties. They can also be adapted to suite older children. I have even used some as fun and meaningful activities to spice up business meetings in the office. You can use your own creativity to come up with new ones.

Each game below has been listed under the main virtue it aims to develop. Be sure to talk briefly about the virtue while playing the game and acknowledge the children’s efforts to practice it. 

Helpfulness

Name of the game: Crowns and Statues

The parent (or teacher) gives each child a small book or folded page of paper as a crown. Children try to balance the crown on their heads and walk across the room without using their hands. If a child’s crown drops, the child freezes in place. Other children come to help and try to pick up the child’s crown without dropping their own. The game continues until all have made it across the room.

Patience

Name of the game: Pop corn

The children squat, pretending they are kernels of corn waiting until they hear the number 10. The parent (or teacher) starts to count 1, 2, 3, 4…

At 10 they jump up, going from a squat to a full jump and then jump around the room, until a new batch of popcorn is started again. Alternatively, children can be assigned a different number to pop at. For example, some start popping at 4 and some at 6. The children need to listen carefully and wait patiently for their number to pop. If a child moves, the game starts from the beginning.

Service

Name of the game: Guess that Service

Family members (or children in the party/class) act out a service action. Others try to guess what the service is. For example: serving food to guests, helping someone carry a shopping bag, washing dishes, or picking up garbage.

Unity

Name of the game: No Hands

The objective of this game is to experience how, with unity and cooperation, we can accomplish tasks which we could not accomplish alone.

Pairs of children or a child and parent team move around the room to music while moving a ball (or beanbag or cushion) between them without using their hands. They can try to balance the object between different parts of the body, such as elbows, knees, backs, heads, and feet. Parents/teachers can ask the children how they felt about carrying the object together and praise the unity each group shows to carry the object.

 

Kindness

Name of the game: Helping a Blind Person

One child is blindfolded. Another child acts as a kind guide and leads the “blind person” around. The “guide” will need to be reminded that his blindfolded partner trusts him and he must be careful that nothing happens to the blindfolded child and no obstacles fall. The blindfolded child can be guided around obstacles such as tables, chairs, etc. If this game is played with only one child at home, the parent is blindfolded and the child kindly helps “the blind person” around.

Gentleness

Name of the game: Egg Walk

Parent (or teacher) invites each child to take turns walking with care and gentleness around the room or house holding a spoon that is carrying a boiled egg. If the egg drops, the child starts from the beginning again. The parent should acknowledge their gentle walking and encourage them to practice patience and perseverance if the egg drops.

 

All Virtues

Name of the game: Guess that Virtue

Parents or older children write names of virtues such as courtesy, respect and patience on separate pieces of paper or pick several virtues from a Virtues Card deck. The virtue names are placed face down in a bowl. On separate pieces of paper each child writes one common everyday action such as eating a snack, doing homework, playing outside or washing the dishes. These are collected, shuffled and placed faced down in another bowl. Each family member is then invited to take one paper from the virtues name bowl and one from the actions bowl and read them without letting others know what they are. Parents can help younger children who cannot read or write yet. He or she then does two silent skits, showing the action with and without practicing the virtue. For example, if he has drawn patience and eating a snack, he can role play a skit of eating his snack biscuit without patiently opening the package and another skit showing the packet being patiently opened. The audience then guesses the virtue he has drawn. Some combinations of cards will be both challenging and hilarious.

Have fun!

 

By Shiva Yan for Virtues in Us

 

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