The Importance of Games

Written by Maria Malloy, Youth Programs Manager at Thrive.  Article also published in Montana Parent Magazine (November, 2017 Edition.)

“Let’s play a game,” is a phrase that brings smiles to so many faces. Games are a fundamental way that humans interact and learn. They provide so many benefits for people of all interests and abilities.  Children especially love playing games and these activities provide such a great opportunity for them to practice so many skills. In Thrive’s Child Advancement Program (CAP), a mentoring program, the mentor and mentee pairs engage in many worthwhile games and receive so many benefits out of these interactions.

The Thrive offices in the Bozeman Public Schools are filled with various board games, card games, and even art supplies to make your own games. Because games can be such a great icebreaker, CAP Coordinators often suggest that mentors and mentees start off their relationship by playing games as a way to get to know each other. Games “can teach important social skills such as communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying interacting with others.”1 Board games especially can assist with the ability to focus and lengthen attention spans “by encouraging the completion of an exciting enjoyable game.”(1)  

Do you have a child that is competitive and doesn’t like to lose? The CAP Program deals with that a lot.  The way to work on those behaviors is to keep playing games! CAP Coordinators advises mentors to push through and coach the child on how to handle disappointment in games.  Playing by the game rules also helps children by providing boundaries and for the m to know how far they can push their opponent and the directions. And you do not have to let the child win! Always allowing a child to win does not give them the opportunity to work on skills necessary for life. They are not always going to win at everything in life – and that’s okay. Kids can start learning this notion as early as parents and caregivers allow them, and playing games is a simple and effective way to demonstrate this life skill.

Playing games is important for adults too! Games for adults are a fun way for the adult to fuel their “imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being.”(2)  It was also found in the British Medical Journal that playing games, particularly board games, is a “relevant way to preserve cognition and to prevent cognitive decline or dementia.”3 It also added that “other stimulating leisure activities like reading, traveling, gardening, doing odd jobs or playing sports do not offer the same advantages and ease of practice”(3) as games.   The CAP Coordinators find this true as they have talked to many mentors who have enjoyed learning new games with their mentees and relay that they learn new ideas all the time and feel like their time is so good for their overall well being and did not expect that benefit!

Games are a fun way to enhance many aspects of your life. So the next time that you hear, “Let’s play a game!” be ready to jump in and PLAY!

If you want to know some good games to play with children please call Thrive and we can share with you what we know!

Maria is the Youth Programs Manager at Thrive, a community nonprofit that offers mentoring, education and support for local kids and families. If you would like more information on becoming a CAP mentor, having your child in the program, or general information about Thrive please call us at 406-587-3840, or head to allthrive.org


  1. The Benefits of Board Games


2-The Benefits of Play for Adults


3 – https://languageseed.com/2016/06/22/the-many-benefits-of-playing-board-games/

To apply to be a CAP mentor, click here. For more information about the CAP program, please call (406)585-7929.