Play These Two Classic Games to Make Your Kids Healthy, Happy, and Smart

Family Matters on 11.03.11
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Photo: Fernando de Sousa / Creative Commons

We all know it's important to play with our kids. But do you know why Freeze Tag and Simon Says could be particularly important games?

The Experiment You Need to Know About

There's a famous experiment cited in many of today's childhood development books. Researcher Walter Mischel documented preschool-aged kids' self control around marshmallows. If a child resisted eating a single marshmallow over a period of time, he was rewarded with two marshmallows. Children who couldn't resist and ate the first marshmallow wouldn't be rewarded.

This sounds hard. I'm not convinced I would pass this test right now.

The experiment turned out to be prophetic for the development of those kids. The ones who resisted eating the single marshmallow went on to get higher SAT scores as teens. The children who couldn't resist had a higher likelihood of becoming elementary school bullies and having substance abuse problems by the age of 32.

You Can Influence Your Child's Level of Self Control

In Raising Happiness, Dr. Christine Carter writes:

These research findings are no small deal: the ability to self-regulate is an important key to success and happiness. Remember, preschoolers' ability to delay gratification - to wait for that second marshmallow - predicts intelligence, school success, and social skills in adolescence...On the other hand, kids with poor ability to regulate themselves have more problems with things such as substance abuse, aggression, and violence and are more likely to engage in risky sex.

The good news is that we can help our kids develop the self-control they need in life. I highly recommend Carter's book or her Raising Happiness blog for more instruction in that vein. But there is something fun you can do in the short term to give your kids a boost.

What Do Marshmallows Have to Do With Freeze Tag and Simon Says?

Carter writes that Simon Says and Freeze Tag teach self-regulation. These two diversions make kids practice controlling their own behavior in order to perform well at the game.

Kids have to think about how to not do something, which can go a long way towards teaching children impulse control and how to be in command of their own behavior.

So the next time you're wondering what you're going to do with the kids, get in the habit of playing these two classics. You'll be giving your kids a head start in life.

Katie Morton is the founder of The Monarch Company. Get a FREE copy of her eBook, 10 Steps to a Blissful You, to get started on developing extraordinary willpower for life.

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