How Kids' Games Prepare You To Parent

by Jessica Azar
Originally Published: 

Growing up, I never realized that the board games I played would prepare me for life as a parent. I mean, on the surface, Hungry Hungry Hippos doesn’t appear to exude major educational value, but looking back now, it’s obvious that Hasbro had my back even way back then, and still does when I distract my kids with board games. Here’s a list of games that have totally increased my capability as a parent and adult:

1. Twister: This beloved game of body contortion taught me a lot about staying balanced while twisting other parts of my body to accomplish other goals. While this obviously comes in handy in the bedroom (ahem), these skills gave me an edge in parenting. If it weren’t for the practiced flexibility and hard-earned ability to hold down my hands while moving my feet, I might have never successfully gotten four small children ready for bed at the same time. It’s a job that literally requires you to be an octopus, and having mad Twister skills is the next best thing.

2. Operation: Having a steady hand and nerves of steel might be important when removing the “Butterflies in the Stomach” in Operation, but the skills learned there are a warm-up for later years. Anyone who has ever had to hold down a screaming, thrashing kid to remove a splinter from his foot will likely agree with me. Having laser focus and remaining calm in the face of a kid snarling and spewing snotty tears is crucial, and already being able to extract foreign objects with the threat of negative results gives me an edge. Thanks, naked man with a Rudolph nose.

3. Clue: This game taught me all about the process of elimination and not only how to hone in on the guilty party but to figure out how he or she did it. When we took the leap of having more than one child, it put us in the realm of not automatically knowing who to blame when something breaks, and in having four kids we muddied that water beyond belief. Everyone has an excuse and an alibi when my candy stash has been raided, and Clue served as a training ground for my future as a parent playing detective.

4. Memory: The cute overturned little cards with pictures of things like jump ropes and a sun with a face helped me learn to remember where other people put things. In playing Memory, you have to mentally note the locations of cards that others flip over on their turns so that you can match them to the ones you turn over on your turn. As a mom, I’m expected to remember where everyone placed anything and everything they’ve ever owned. My matching skills from Memory also come in handy when matching the ever-growing box of misfit socks.

5. Monopoly: Just as you spend a large portion of this game spending money you don’t really have on things you don’t really need, I’ve found that parenthood, especially when you have to take your flock of seagulls to Target, is very much the same. Everyone is trying to keep up with each other in Monopoly, and they spend most of the game hoping people land on their properties so they can keep feeding the cycle. While I’m doing my best to teach my kids that this isn’t the best way to live, we occasionally still get caught up in it. Thanks for the warning, Hasbro.

6. Trivial Pursuit: No one told me that I would be asked so many rapid-fire, useless questions when I became a parent, but luckily I had been training for my life’s work when I played Trivial Pursuit pre-parenthood. The questions my kids ask me on a moment-to-moment basis range from “who holds the all-time record for highest batting average in Major League Baseball?” (Ty Cobb) to “why is poop brown?” (Go ask Dr. Oz), and for the ones that I don’t know immediately, I thank the Lord that Google has my back. They also ask me things that Trivial Pursuit didn’t train me for, like “when will Daddy be home?” and “can I have more juice?” but at least I can make those answers up.

7. Hungry Hippos: Scooping up my share of the marbles as quickly as possible was the mission of the game in Hungry Hippos, and the skills I acquired there prepared me for the madness of dinner time with children. Although I teach my children not to grab things away from one another, they usually forget that I want some of whatever they’re divvying up between themselves. If I want dessert, I have to stake my claim and take what’s mine or I’ll be stewing that I didn’t get any cake.

Nothing fully prepares you for the role of being a parent, but at least good ole family game night gave me a head’s up on what I needed to know later in life. I guess it’s only good parenting if I start Family Game Night now with my kids; at least I know they’ll learn something useful!

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