The Games We Play

Simon Macdonald, author of The Little Book of Team Games, explains the importance of games in the early years. 

This Little Book focuses on encouraging emphasis on ‘togetherness’: a move away from the individual and towards the collective. Children in early years settings are faced with huge challenges regarding socialisation, sharing and growing in responsibility, and this book provides excellent opportunities for them and their carers to address these issues through team play.

I guess that I have always loved games.  For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to play them.  And I’m not picky.  Any kind of game will do.  The joy of game-playing is that once the rules have been learnt and mastered – or, frequently in my case, not – then there will always be another game along in a little while.  Or an old favourite.  Or a completely invented and arbitrary one.  Whatever it is that draws us towards playing games against someone else or in teams, I would argue that the feeling is something collective and shared: we want to challenge ourselves, test our mettle, push ourselves, but, overwhelmingly and perhaps more tellingly, we want to have fun and we want to have fun with each other.

The Little Book of Team Games is my attempt at acknowledging their value while being only too aware of the c-word lurking in the background.  Competitiveness has become a byword for all the evil excesses of team sports – and I share many of these doubts about the suitability of team game playing for young children especially when the role models they are shown can often behave rather badly when put to the test.  But I would argue that the extreme alternative of Sports Day events that dilute the need to compete at all – the following are ‘real games’ that I have witnessed at first hand: Walking Slowly, Hanging the Washing on the Line, and Sleeping Lions – do something far worse.  They dismiss the sense of taking part as a collective and cheering each other on as well as the sense of achievement a team may feel in doing well at something.

Yes, let’s not teach ourselves to win at any cost; to not only beat our opponents but to grind them into the dirt, but let’s encourage those who can run, throw, jump, catch, dribble and so on so that these skills are seen and valued as something to be proud of and, that we, as a team, are right behind each other.

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