Games can help children develop physically, mentally and socially. They provide a way to relax and have fun. Games also provide opportunities to make social contacts that may last throughout children's adult lives, including extending into their professional lives. Having a good repertoire of games for all ages and types of activity is a big help for parents, caregivers and teachers, providing a quick refocus or timeout between other learning or growing activities.
Finger plays, jump rope jingles and songs help with language development, as do telling stories. A good source of traditional fingerplays is National Network for Childcare Website. Actions go with these, which gives opportunity for large and small motor practice along with the words. Jump Rope Rhymes can be found at Games Kids Play, as well as hand-clapping rhymes. Story-telling can be encouraged by telling traditional stories to children and encouraging them to make up their own.
Running, jumping, dancing, skipping rope and climbing are all good for physical development. Games that incorporate these include tag, racing, jumping rope and organized sports. Circle games bring in an element of language development, as well. Ultimate Camp Resource has a long list, including classics such a Fruit Basket, Little Sally Walker, or Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Organized sports require players to remember the rules, to manipulate the game equipment such as bats and balls and to play well with others.
Games that require groups of players help youngsters learn to get along with others. Team sports encourage a sense of camaraderie that can last into adulthood. Playing on a team also helps build responsible habits, such as practicing skills needed for the game and showing up on time for practices and games. When directed by a responsible adult, team sports can instill concepts such as playing fair, good sportsmanship and even being kind to others.
Board games help with reading, math and strategy skills. Games such as Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders require matching and counting. Sorry, Mille Bourne and Monopoly are more easily played if everyone can read. Checkers, Chinese checkers, chess and Go require players to think ahead about their moves and develop a plan of action. Some indoor games, such as Tiddly Winks or Jacks require hand/eye coordination. Like team sports, these competitive games can be used to guide players friendly group behavior.