Each window on my 2021 advent calendar showed progress being made on one of several board games, so that you could move by clicking one counter at a time every day towards Christmas. I produced it to share the idea of a games collage building up, and to test myself with the challenge again of the annual countdown calendar. It did me the world of good and I am posting this article to look at how taking time to escape into the world of playing with board games is not time wasted.
I pulled out 13 games from our family collection and had to remember how to play each one so that I could work the animated gif moves out. The game moves that I settled on came from the Monopoly, Twister, Frustration, RailRace, Cluedo, Scrabble and Scoop that we played as children, followed by PassThePigs, Yahtzee (many happy hours spent) and Connect4 in the 70s, then Guess Who and GhostCastle in the 80s.
If Frustration played a big part in your childhood as well, here’s the familiar sound of the Popomatic dice shaker.
You can see what this article is talking about and you can still open the window for the Christmas Day greeting here. As usual it revolved through December in number order so that the right day always came up at the top on a mobile. Now that we’ve got well past Christmas week, day 1 is sitting at the bottom of the page.
My calendar includes a link to an article on the Counsellors Café Magazine website giving five ways that playing board games can be good for mental health (see link below). Having worked my way through completing the calendar I have to agree.
Firstly the brain exercise of working out the rules and playing the games keeps you younger for longer. I was amazed how much I had forgotten, and the calendar gifs do all follow rules (apart from there being three hotels on one of the Monopoly spaces for accidental aesthetic reasons). Connect 4 was particularly enjoyable as the layered Photoshop file turned out to be a digital way for me to play the game with an imaginary opponent…and there really are questions being asked in the Guess Who animation on Christmas Eve. These are: Are you female? Do you have dark hair? Do you have red hair? Do you wear glasses? Have you lost your hair? Do you look unhappy? Have you got blonde hair? The counters do not just lead to random collages of game elements.
Secondly, playing board games can help children with their social development - learning how to follow rules, take turns and share. I know I am not the only one who was reduced to tears at least once as a child in a game of Monopoly. I remember running out of an older friend’s house in floods after happily throwing three doubles and getting sent to jail as a result. Being persuaded back and returning sheepishly to the group playing the game afterwards was a lesson for life.
Thirdly, the article suggests that playing games with others reduces isolation. Obviously the pandemic hasn’t made this easy and online connections are not an ideal substitute although they do help to an extent. There is a link on the calendar suggesting a donation to the charity, Mind. This acknowledges the increased number of lonely individuals struggling with their mental health as a result of difficulty coping with lockdown and further Covid restrictions.
Fourthly they help to bond families. This has certainly been the case in mine. Ghost Castle has been a favourite on the calendar and has conjured up a surprising number of stories, laughs and shared memories.
Finally playing the games helps to reduce stress and anxiety as you’re doing something completely different. I have always found this the case in the past when I have taken time out to take part in one. In producing the calendar I made remembering how to play these games into a job for the Christmas deadline, which forced me to escape from routine and have some fun taking pictures and constructing the gifs.
And if you would like to make a donation to Mind, follow this link …