Puzzles and games for children often reflect a child’s perceptions of the adult world. A game can be a simulation of an adult profession, such as a real estate developer, a commander of an army or navy or a police detective solving a crime. Games can also be tests of mathematical skills, shape recognition, mental concentration and athletic ability. Puzzles can be part of a game or simply exist on its own as an interesting problem to solve – the best example of the latter is a jigsaw puzzle. Puzzles always appeal to a child’s senses, with large pieces to hold and touch and bright colours to catch the eye.
Game and puzzle pieces can be anything, from tiny sculptures to hand-held portraits – what do you think playing cards are? The solution of a puzzle can involve a pattern recognised, physical pieces moved to fit, letters combined into words or numbers manipulated to reach a goal. Game and puzzles are the educational games of the past that have graduated into an enjoyable pastime on their own merits.
There’s more overlap now between game categories than ever before. A game or puzzle can be electronic, interactive and musical, all at the same time. Games of centuries past, like dice and dominos, are finding a new life as old forms mutate into modern forms. Card games may no longer have physical sheets of cardboard, but instead only a virtual simulacrum of the cards. Of course, you can still find the old-fashioned versions of these games and puzzles and, to a child who has never seen them before, they’ll be brand new. But electronic interactive versions of these games and puzzles open up new aspects of play most adults have never imagined.
“Board” games are often no longer played on a board. The basics of gameplay are still there, though. Players take turns, which teaches a child about fairness. Players work together and for themselves during the course of a game, teaching a child the importance both of teamwork and of competition. A child begins to learn about social networking from games. As mentioned above, games are often based on themes of adult life and teach the child about those possibilities for the future when they’ve grown into adults. Games can teach a child logic, strategy and concentration.
And a game does not have to be something children sit down around a table to play. Outdoor games for the yard or the park involve physical exertion as well as keeping in mind the goal of the game. There are the simple games that children can play with a ball or a throwing disk, which, by the way, are games that can involve the family dog too. Outdoor games can mimic adult sports, a whole other level of gameplay that no one ever really outgrows. Coordination, balance, strength and agility are all built up and improved in these types of physical games.