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Tactile games, that is, card and board games, can be found all across the world with their origins traceable back to ancient Mesopotamia and the classical Greek civilization. Today, most of us find ourselves glued to a screen of some sort, both for work and pleasure. But card and board games, even in our digital landscape, still make for a fun and engaging past time, and are able to pull us out of the binary world which is definitely something we need to do more often.

Tactile games have many benefits, some surprisingly unexpected, and range from improving cognitive function to lowering blood pressure. Here are some of the impressive rewards to be gained from tactile games that will hopefully encourage you to take out the old board game or deck of cards, gather the troops and enjoy an occasion of fun-filled interaction.

1. Improved Cognitive Function 

Even the simplest games that are left to chance can teach children sequencing, patterns, counting, colour and shape identification. Games that include linear trails of numbers are known to improve children’s numerical understanding. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of the brain, responsible for complex thought and memory formation, benefit particularly strongly from board games. Tactile games also improve logic and reasoning skills, critical thinking and spatial reasoning. Communication and attention skills, along with helping children to keep focused for longer periods of time, are further benefits.

Board games can also be used in Occupational Therapy as they need fine motor skills and coordination for the players to pick up and move pieces.

Not only are board games beneficial for young children, they also help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia in the more mature. Keeping your mind engaged means you’re exercising it and making it stronger and a stronger brain is at less risk of cognitive decline.

2. Life Lessons 

Just as tactile games help develop cognitive functions, they also teach valuable life skills. Following directions, taking turns and socialising with others are essential skills for succeeding in life. One study (Zan, 1996) showed that students who played Checkers developed greater problem-solving skills, improved their communication and were better able to resolve conflict.

Another important life lesson that board games teach us is how to lose gracefully. Its paramount that we learn how to bounce back from losing at something we are invested in. Playing games that are based on chance and skill are ways to practice how to deal with defeat maturely. The phrase “you have to make the most out of the cards you are dealt” is one of the best life skills we can learn. Both in life and in games, sometimes things fall in your favour and sometimes they don’t. Games are a great reminder that some things are out of our control and all we can do is strategize with what we’ve been dealt.

3. Socialisation

A life skill that is of utmost importance is our ability to socialise. By nature, we are social beings and this is an area where tactile games outrun digital games – the chance to engage in lively face-to-face interaction. Streams of conversation about the game itself and life in general flow effortlessly during a game. The foundation of board games is cooperation and learning how to work together in teams is paramount to today’s working environment. Sharing a joyful activity can promote empathy, compassion and trust in others.

With our busy schedules, it may seem impossible to sit down with your family with no interruptions, but it’s important to make the effort. Playing games is a great way to get closer to your family and to strengthen bonds as they encourage opening up and being connected in a collective activity. Children develop a stronger sense of creativity and individuality, which leads to greater self-esteem, when they’re included and noticed in a group setting.

4. Stress Reliever

In our stressed out, demanding lives, every adult needs to make more time to play. Games are a great way to relax and to have fun. A by-product of playing games is laughing. Laughter has been shown to increase our feel-good chemicals – endorphins. An increase in endorphins and positive feelings and thoughts helps us to fight stress and to improve both conscious and unconscious mind functions, which leaves us feeling more content.

Some games can produce a calming, grounding experience. Unlike the chaotic nature of real life, games such as chess, have set rules and everything other than the opposing player’s moves are in the control of the player. This kind of experience, where your skill level matches the activity you’re engaged in, , brings about a state of flow that can paradoxically feel both intense and relaxing.

5. Health

When playing a card or a board game, you’re not engulfed by the blue light coming from an electronic device. This blue light has been shown to disrupt your circadian rhythm which makes it difficult to fall asleep at night. This makes board games a great form of evening entertainment, and once you head to bed, you’ll be able to sleep soundly. The benefits of a good night’s sleep are already emphasised in a healthy lifestyle.

Playing games has even been shown to lower blood pressure. The release of endorphins helps muscles to relax and blood to circulate. Endorphins also help to boost your immune system which will keep you less prone to the pesky flu circulating through the office.

All these benefits, and so many more, from tactile games support why we at Game2Change, use games as an integral part of our learning approach. We encourage participants to leave the digital working world for a bit and to immerse themselves in a fun, interactive and highly social experience that enables a deeply embedded learning experience that “sticks”.

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