A Winning Roll For Board Games

With so many physical games, sports activities, computer games and interactive toys, it might be considered something of a surprise that traditional board games have remained so popular, and yet there is a greater variety of board games available today than ever before, and these cater for a much wider age group as well.

The definition of board games is quite difficult, since there are the traditional examples that really are played upon a board, such as Ludo, Chess, Monopoly and Scrabble, and then there are games which build upon a board, such as Mouse Trap, and then have parts of the game built within the board, such as Operation. There are even examples of games where the board becomes so big that the people become the playing pieces, such as Twister.

There are even some traditional board games that have been expanded to become playground games, such as Chess or Draughts, and the board is painted on the ground, sometimes as much as ten feet square, with the laying pieces a foot high, and then players can walk around the board, and play with friends watching, almost in teams. This helps to bring a quiet solo activity out into the fresh air and involving more people.

Involving people as a group is really what board games are all about, and it is a very good thing that today there are many families that are happy to all gather around a board game and use it as a focal point for the family chat and gossip, rather than all facing away from each other and focussing on the television, or disappearing off to their own rooms and places. Board games bring people together, quite apart from any other benefits they may have.

There are certainly challenging board games that rely on brainpower, deduction and good thinking, such as Monopoly and the various detective games available, or those that require careful dexterity, calm nerves and patience. Some games of course rely purely on luck, but actually fairly few.

There are many board games available today which traditionally have been adult games, or at least suitable only for older children, yet have been redesigned and produced as scaled down, or otherwise adjusted in some way to suit younger children. One example is junior versions of scrabble, with a smaller board, more score squares, a better range of letters and the ability to score well using a vocabulary more suited to a child.

Some of the most successful games are those which allow children and adults to play together, and that look colourful and interesting, with simple rules, and a combination of both luck and skill. The adults might be more skilful and play tactically, but are subject to bad luck in just the same way as children are able to benefit from good luck. This kind of game can develop with the child as they grow older, and give them worthwhile opportunities to be with adults in a relaxed but competitive environment. It is often over a board games that incidental chat can take place which reveals more about members of the family than would otherwise be revealed, and encourages easier communication. It also, to some extent, helps to teach the child about tactics, logic, planning and teamwork – all very worthwhile skills in themselves.

Sex Talks: Help! My Kid’s The Town Crier!

Talking to our kids about sex is challenging – for everyone, even me! You feel anxious about all kinds of things like their loss of innocence, or telling everyone and their cousin. You worry they’ll go out and try it or will think that by talking to them you’re giving them permission to do it. You worry about what other parents (and your parents!) will think if you talk to your kid at a young age.

But, you’re feeling great! You whacked up the ginger and read ALL of Robie Harris and Michael Emberley’s “It’s SO Amazing!” book about how babies are made to your 8 year old. She was a little grossed out, had some questions and seemed to understand how sex works. Whew! You are on your way to some great conversations.

You even remembered to tell her “This is a private conversation we have in our family and not with other kids or adults. Other moms and dads want to be the ones to tell their kids about this important part of life. You can always talk to me about it if you have questions or concerns.” Super! You rock!

And then…your lovely child heads straight to her best friend at school and fills her in on all the details! And then you get a call from the friends’ outraged parents and maybe even the school. Not a great moment in sex education history, but not to worry, all is not lost.

Consider this – You’ll probably spend 10 or 15 minutes on the phone with the upset parent explaining your beliefs about sex and kids and that you asked your daughter not to talk to other kids about this. You will apologize, tell them that you’ll remind her of this and then offer the parent a resource for getting more info about talking to kids.

Now consider this – You want to have open and consistent conversations with your child about sexuality, love and relationships throughout her youth, right? This is the most important part of this scenario – your relationship with your child.

When you compare the two, which is more important? The freaked out adult who now is forced into having a conversation they should be having anyway? Or your child who knows you are a trustworthy resource and will look to you for help and support for years to come?

When you start these conversations with your children I strongly recommend you tell the parents of her closest buddies, your parents and any other adult she has regular contact with. They need to know so they can step in if she starts blabbing, asks them questions or the like. It’s easier on everyone if they are prepared in advance for any little surprises.

When my son was about 3 or 4 we had read parts of “It’s SO Amazing.” He loved looking at the pictures of bodies and was very into reading this book. One day he was at my in-law’s house and he looked at my lovely mother-in-law and announced “You have a vagina!” She knew we’d been reading this book and took it in stride. We had prepared her for moments like this.

When it comes to talking to your kids about sex, you cannot worry about what the neighbors might think. The most important relationship is the one with your child. So take a deep breath, exhale, and get ready for the next conversation.

Pronunciation: Get Better In Another Language

Pronunciation can affect how we communicate. Many people, who have had a go at learning a foreign language, have experienced that sinking feeling when they try a well-constructed sentence in another language only to be met with a blank face.

Why is this?

Languages are built on sounds. If I speak English and live in an English-speaking country I expect a speaker to say sounds in a particular way. In French or Spanish I would expect to hear different sounds. When we can’t recognise the sound we try and adjust how we are listening, a bit like tuning a radio, but if we can’t guess the sound, the chances are we won’t understand what is being said.

The Blocks of Pronunciation

Pronunciation has two main aspects to it, physically producing it and the sound that is produced from it, the hearing of the sound. As we get older the ability to do both of these, i.e. physically work out how to make the sound and recognise it, can diminish. This doesn’t mean we can’t continue to learn new languages but we need some extra tricks to help us.

Let’s look at some ideas on what we can do when we learn a new language.

How am I saying it?

Try saying the letters. Notice how your mouth is working. If you don’t know how a sound is physically made you may find it harder to say it.

What sounds are the same?

English has many more sounds than other languages but it also has a lot of sounds in common with other languages. Good dictionaries in a new language will usually offer an English sound or word to compare with. Use it to check what sounds are similar.

Which sounds are hard to say?

Go through the alphabet of the new language and mark out the ones you find hard to say. Give them some attention. Try and physically make the sound and see how your mouth works. Say the alphabet. Look at how children use the alphabet song in English to help them remember the alphabet, doing the same in a new language will also help memorise the letters and sounds.

Read out loud.

Find some reading form your course book or any other book. There are two advantages here. One you get to say the letters and words. Secondly you get to practise sounds that you expect to hear and you become accustomed to the sounds of the language.

How good do I need to be?

There is much discussion on this. For many of us the ability to get by in other languages is good enough. If we can say what we want, simply, slowly and the person we are speaking to, can understand us, then our pronunciation is probably good enough. After that it is a matter of choice. Some people become very good at other languages and get to very good levels of pronunciation. Not many of us are such gifted linguists but there’s no reason why we can’t make the words so that people can understand us.