Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kids Need Child-Driven Playtime by The Kid's Doctor Staff

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Remember playing outside with your friends after school and on the weekends?  These days you’re more likely to find a child in the house on the computer, or at a scheduled sports event. Research suggests that the lack of adult-free outdoor playtime may have serious consequences for a child’s development and mental health.

There was a time, not too long ago, that parents encouraged their kids to get out of the house and “go play.” Today, many parents are so involved in their children’s lives that kids are not being allowed the freedom to have unsupervised play.

So what’s keeping kids indoors? Experts say many parents are afraid. They worry that their child might be abducted, hit by a car or bullied.  All this involvement is not easy on parents either. Many feel as if they are running on a treadmill trying to keep with all the activities that are scheduled. There is also a concern that their child may fall behind some arbitrary line that points toward success.  There is considerable pressure on families to participate in this hurried lifestyle. Free child-driven play known to benefit children is decreased, and the downtime that allows parents and children some of the most productive time for interaction is at a premium when schedules become highly packed with adult-supervised or adult-driven activities.

“Into the 1950s, children were free to play a good part of their childhood. If you stayed in your house around your mom, she’d say ‘go out and play.’ The natural place for a kid was outside,” said Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College.

“Today, it’s quite the opposite. Parents are not allowing kids the freedom to play. And even if they do, there are no other kids out there to play with, or the mother may have such restrictions on the child, such as ‘you can’t go out of the yard’ that the kids don’t want to stay out there,” added Gray.

The importance of play:

When children are allowed to play, several things start happening. They make-up games – using their creativity skills, negotiate rules – using their personal interaction skills, and solve problems on their own- using critical thinking skills.

Theses are all attributes that can serve them well as they grow older.

Through free play, “they are acquiring the basic competencies we ultimately need to become adults,” said Gray, author of two studies published recently in the American Journal of Play.

Research has also shown that today’s highly supervised children are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness and narcissism, all of which coincides with a decrease in play and more monitoring and managing of children’s activities by parents.

Peter LaFreniere, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Maine, writes in a separate article, that boys – in particular – need some rough and tumble play to help teach them how to control their emotions. Boys learn that if they want to keep their friend, they can’t let things go too far or truly hurt the other child — a skill that helps boys grow into men who keep aggression and anger in check, LaFreniere said.

“It’s better to make the mistakes when you’re 4,” he said. “Children learn there are consequences to their actions; they learn to regulate the aggression even in the heat of the moment.”

There are certain circumstances in which children should probably not play outside unsupervised. High crime areas are not safe for children to be in without the watchful eyes of a parent.

It would be wrong to assume that the current trends are a problem for all children; some excel with a highly driven schedule. Because we need skilled young people to be well prepared to be tomorrow’s leaders, we must recognize the advantages to the increased exposures and enriched academics some of our children are receiving. In fact, many of our children, particularly those in poverty, should receive more enrichment activities. But even children who are benefiting from this enrichment still need some free unscheduled time for creative growth, self-reflection, and decompression and would profit from the unique developmental benefits of child-driven play.

There has been a significant increase in studies; discussions and articles on the positive affects of child-driven playtime, but a decrease in the amount of time kids are actually playing.

One survey Gray cited asked a nationally representative sample of parents to keep track of their kids’ activities on a randomly selected day in 1981 and another in 1997. The researchers found that 6- to 8-year olds of 1997 played about 25 percent less than that age group in 1981.

Another study from about a decade ago asked 830 U.S. mothers to compare their children’s play with their own play when they were kids. While about 70 percent of the mothers reported playing outdoors daily as children, just 31 percent said their own kids did. Mothers also said when their kids played outside; they stayed outside for less time. If anything, that trend has accelerated in the ensuing decade, Gray said.

Hara Estroff Marano, author of “A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting.” offers a rather harsh assessment of today’s parents. “The home of the brave has given way to the home of the fearful, the entitled, the risk averse, and the narcissistic,” Marano said. “Today’s young, at least in the middle class and upper class, are psychologically fragile,” Marano said in an interview published in the journal.

Marano believes that parent’s dominated by fear, are raising children unable to cope with life’s ups and downs because they have no experience doing so.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also promotes the benefits of child-driven playtime. While academics and social–enrichment programs are important; play is a cherished part of childhood that offers not only fun and relaxation for children, but great developmental benefits as well.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tsuro: The Game of the Path Is the Game for You

Tsuro game contents
Overview: Tsuro is a game that’s been around for a while but I hadn’t gotten to actually play it until a couple weekends ago at PAX. Formerly published by WizKids, it’s now published by Calliope Games (founded by some of the original WizKids folks). It’s a simple, beautiful, elegant game about making paths and trying to stay on the board.
Tsuro box 
Players: 2 to 8 (yes, 8!)
Ages: 8 and up (though younger kids could certainly play)
Playing Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Retail: $29.99
Rating: Superb. Tsuro excels on several fronts: the pieces are gorgeous, the game is easy to learn but allows for deeper strategy, and is a great option for gamers and non-gamers alike.
Who Will Like It? Just about everyone. I don’t say this for most games, because there are a lot of games that some people love and others hate. While I’m sure there are some players who won’t like Tsuro, I can see that this one will have very broad appeal — it’s not the only game I’ll want to play, but it’s one that very few people will turn down.

Tsuro tiles
35 unique path tiles, and 1 Dragon tile.
Theme:The board has an Asian theme, with a phoenix on the board background and little dragons engraved on the pawns. There are Chinese characters throughout that say tong lu (roughly, “access” or “through road”) as well as a “East West South North” in one corner and “Wind Fire Water Earth” in another. All of this, combined with the simple rules and elegant gameplay, give the game a very peaceful zen-like feel, despite what can sometimes be very cutthroat play. There’s even a translucent piece of paper with a bamboo brush painting on it included in the box — entirely unnecessary to the game but adding to the flavor of the whole thing.
Tsuro pawns
Stone-like pawns.
The game includes the board, 8 plastic pawns, 35 path tiles, and 1 dragon tile. Everything is very nice quality: the tiles are sturdy cardboard with rounded corners, and the paths look a bit like rope laid on dirt or stone. The artwork and the stone-shaped pawns give the game an earthy feel even though it’s really just glossy cardboard and plastic. While the board is really just a simple 6 x 6 grid, it’s one of the most gorgeous boards you’ll have in your collection. Tsuro game in progress: Tan, Blue, and Yellow are on a collision course.
Tsuro game in progressGameplay:
The tiles are shuffled face down and each player takes three to form their hand. Each player in turn picks a starting spot along the edge of the board. (Each of the squares has two paths per edge.) Then, everyone takes turn playing tiles. The tile you place must extend your own path — you cannot place a tile somewhere else on the board — and then you move your pawn along the path until it ends. If you get routed back to the edge of the board, you are eliminated from the game.
After playing a tile, you draw a new tile. The dragon tile basically is a stand-in: if you need to draw but there are none left, you take the dragon tile. As players are eliminated and their tiles are put back in the draw pile, the player with the dragon tile draws first. It’s a simple solution but the rules for that particular item can be confusing.
When more than one player borders the same empty space, then whoever plays a tile there not only extends their own path but also changes the course of the other players as well. The goal is to be the last player still on the board.
Tsuro is a cinch to teach, but makes for fascinating play. Younger players will simply try to find a tile that doesn’t bump themselves off the board right away, but more experienced players can look for ways to plan ahead, finding routes that will give them access to more space on the board. Ray Wehrs of Calliope Games explained that it really works out to a territorial game — you need to have space to play tiles, or a way to get to more space.
It can be really interesting trying to stay right near other players, because then you can affect the direction they go … but then they can redirect you as well. I also love the fact that the game works from 2 to 8 players. The more players you have, the sooner everyone starts running into each other. You can be fiercely competitive or try to play nice, depending on the gaming group you’re with, but eventually people are going to get run off the board.
Tsuro has been a real crowd-pleaser. I took a pile of games to try out at a recent game night, and after introducing this one we ended up playing it three times. It’s great because it can accommodate a wide number of players and it’s a quick game that you can set up and teach in just a few minutes. It won’t satisfy players wanting a long, heavy-strategy game, but even in those cases it makes for a great appetizer.
Wired: Gorgeous components, elegant gameplay, goes up to 8 players.
Tired: Makes a great snack but not a full meal for hardcore gamers.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.

Jonathan Liu is a stay-at-home dad, Etch-a-Sketch artist, community agitator, board game geek, and a voracious reader.
Follow @jonathanhliu on Twitter.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Store Owners Increase Awareness of Designer Board Games
12 Games Will Be Given Away to Lucky Participants

Summerville, SC - September 9, 2011                   

Here Be Books & Games in Summerville today announced their intention to educate the community about modern designer board games. They’re called Designer Games for acknowledging the name of the game designer on the cover, like the author of a book.

Thousands of new Designer Games are published every year in the United States and Europe, but few Americans are even aware that they exist. To increase awareness, the store owners, Tina & Tim McDuffie of Goose Creek, will teach visitors to the store a different award-winning Designer Game each week until the end of 2011.

Games to be featured in these weekly events include award-winning: Tsuro, Got 'Em, Dixit Odyssey, Thunderstone, Ticket to Ride, Pirate Fluxx, Carcassonne, The Settlers of Catan, Telestrations, Forbidden Island, Zombies!!!, Quiddler, SET and SET Cubed, and a variety of children's games by HABA.

The Game of the Week will be set up on a table in the front of the store so visitors can watch a demo, learn how to play, or even sit down and actually play the game. Tournaments will be held during the store’s monthly Game Nights on October 1, November 5 and December 3. To encourage participation, the McDuffies will be giving away one game a week to a lucky participant of each week's gaming lessons.

About Designer Games
Designer Games have a definite theme: a lot of attention is paid to the artwork and other components, which are more often made of wood than plastic.  The games tend to emphasize player interaction or cooperation so players are engaged all the time rather than just waiting for their turn. 
In a Designer Game, players are rarely eliminated and any randomness or luck from dice rolls or card draws, are mitigated by having the player decide what to do after a random event happens, rather than before. Players can make more interesting decisions, utilizing strategy and tactics, usually involving competition over resources or points. There are often multiple paths to victory. Designer Games have been created for all age groups, with a variety of playing times, and supporting different numbers of players. The themes run the gamut.

About Here Be Books & Games
Tina & Tim McDuffie are the sole traders of Designer Games in Summerville, SC. Their book and game store, Here Be Books & Games, at 4650 Ladson Road, Suite I is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Founded in 2005, the store has been hosting monthly Game Nights since 2007. 

Contact: Tina McDuffie | (843) 695-1498 | 4650 Ladson Road, Suite I | Summerville, SC 29485-8535