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March 1, 2018

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Let's Play Something Else. Please.

February 6, 2018

For several weeks now, my five-years old daughter enters the car with one request – to hear track number five from her favorite CD. It has come to the point where I can’t hear this specific track ever again (and soon, the entire album.) You’d think this would be some silly kids’ album, or the latest youtube/music.ly sensation, but this is actually something else - it’s From the Fires album by Greta Van Fleet.


Me & track #5 playing in the background.


I’ll be honest and say I didn’t put much thought into this. I know that some parents put in a lot of effort in educating their kids about what they think is “quality” music. But most of the time I just let whatever is on the radio play in the background. Still, after hearing this (awesome) album several times, track number five stuck with her. It now seems like it’ll be like this forever.


As most parents know, kids can get stuck on something for a very, very, long period. So stuck, that at some point it becomes next to impossible to satisfy their obsession.


Scientists have even named this as Extremely Intense Interest (EII) in toddlers and up to 3 years of age. EII has been observed in common themes like dinosaurs, but also in more esoteric fields like bridge engineering or vehicle tires. Scientists aren’t sure why this is happening, but at some point, your young child will go through a phase of strong attraction to a particular subject. And once they are there, they can’t get enough.



Nowhere is this more apparent than during playtime. Up there with track #5, my daughter’s second obsession is Monopoly Junior. She could play this every day. For two hours. And then start over. Time goes by, empires collapse and decay, mountains turn into dust, but she keeps rolling the dice.


When I try to lose, she lends me money, so we can keep playing. When she is losing, she’s so happy because she can set the board once again.


I’ve written before how kids experience ‘life’ and ‘play’ in a totally different way than adults. Until the age of 11-12 kids don’t really make a distinction between what is ‘a game’ and what is ‘life’ because life is experienced through games.


As Child Development experts, Carol Copple and Sue Bredekamp, wrote,  


“A wonderful cycle of learning is driven by the pleasure of play. A child is curious; she explores and discovers. The discovery brings pleasure; the pleasure leads to repetition and practice. Practice brings mastery; mastery brings the pleasure and confidence to once again act on curiosity. All learning – emotional, social, motor, and cognitive – is accelerated and facilitated by repetition fueled by the pleasure of play.”   


Right now, my daughter is simply going through the phase of mastering the skills needed for Monopoly Junior (what skills?? If you buy more stuff in the beginning, you win!)


This is totally different for adults. We value change. We cherish nuances. We like to accumulate experiences like traveling to exotic places or tasting gorgeous dishes. And most of us think that we have all the necessary skills we need in life.


 He'd like her to play something else, please.


So, it is hard to let go. Once we figure out the basic strategy (what game designers call the “games mechanics,”) a game which is too simplistic becomes dull. Which leads to us being bored. And when we’re bored our minds drift. To social media. To unchecked emails. To the laundry bin.


It is easy for us to get distracted and forget what is happening. Games aren’t just about playing nor are they about winning. At their core, games are also about interaction. Our kids like to play because they enjoy the sense of learning new skills, but they also like that they are interacting with another person, namely us. The game, any game, is just a platform for them to create this interaction.


So we need to let go of our ego, and immerse ourselves in the game. We need to go pass the repetitive nature of over-simplistic games and enjoy the interaction. And after a while, we need to invest in new games. At OneByTwo, we deliberately designed our games so that they won’t only adhere to the child’s needs, but also to the adult playing with them.


We know that unless you’re having a good time, your kids do not enjoy themselves when you play together.


If buying new games seem silly or insignificant, you can persuade yourself that you are investing in your child’s education and mental skills.


Or in not losing your mind by playing track #5 or Monopoly Junior for the bazillionth time.    



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