Staying up and playing games with the whole family is the night before a day off is loads of fun. But did you know game nights offer more benefits than just a good time?
Game nights can help children develop their social and communication skills, especially those with autism.
That’s not to say that every game night activity will help your child. But with a bit of modification, any game can be turned into an autism-friendly growth activity.
We’ll give you our top 3 picks for game night activities soon. But first, let’s talk about the benefits of the entire family playing together!
Benefits of Family Game Night
First off, play is often described as the “work” of childhood.
It helps kids make friends, get a grasp of group behaviors, learn social skills, practice turn-taking, cooperation, and perhaps most importantly, have some fun!
Apart from the ones already mentioned above, family game nights have three major benefits:
1. A Way for Siblings to Connect
One of the biggest benefits of family game nights is the impact on sibling relationships.
Many kids have no problem going their own way throughout the day. Between electronics, homework, and friends in the neighborhood, it is easy for siblings to grow apart.
Getting together once a week over games everyone loves is a great way to refocus on family relationships. For this purpose, games that involve teamwork work best because they’re not competitive.
2. A Way to Develop Problem Solving and Motor Skills
On top of giving you an opportunity to spend quality time with your kids, game night allows you to help your kids develop their problem-solving skills.
Whether you teach them how to solve puzzles or play a new game, you help them develop invaluable problem-solving skills that will serve them well throughout the rest of their lives.
But that’s not all.
A game night not only improves your children’s problem-solving skills, but it also boosts their fine motor skills. That’s because no matter what game they play, there is always some form of motor practice involved.
Between rolling the dice, shuffling cards, and moving pieces on a game board, there’s an abundance of opportunities to put motor skills to the test.
Even in Lucky Ducks, your children have to pick up the moving duck and then match it with their chosen shape — both of which involve motor skills.
In short, every game involves fine motor skills practice. But that doesn’t mean all games are created equal. For the best results, we recommend painting as it’s the most effective way to improve your child’s fine motor skills.
3. A Way to Create Family Traditions
Family game night creates bonds and memories for everyone involved. So when your kids grow up, they may recall the times when everyone in their home would gather to play games together.
They will remember how happy they were, and those memories can be so strong that they may make your children want to carry on the family tradition with their own families.
Plus, you can always get a good laugh out of the fun memories you’ll create together.
Top 3 Game Night Activities for Children With Autism
As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of activities for game night. However, most of them are not created specifically for children with autism.
So we have modified the best of them into versions better suited for your child.
If you want to try a complex game that improves balance, physical coordination, and cognitive development, then Hopscotch is a must-try!
Here’s what it can improve:
- Body control (not stepping on the lines)
- Muscle strength (leaping over the marker)
- Fine motor control (picking up the marker)
- Midline development (hopping on one foot)
- Hand-eye coordination (tossing the marker)
While hopscotch may be simple on the surface, it’s actually quite complex and can do wonders for your child’s growth. The flip side is that this game is quite challenging and can be frustrating for children with autism.
What’s the solution? Let’s tone it down to a more acceptable level.
How to Adapt Hopscotch for Children With Autism
Rather than just numbering the spaces on the board, use colors to differentiate them even more. This can serve as another visual cue for your child.
Furthermore, focus on one skill at a time. For instance, have your child practice tossing the marker in a square, and then instead of hopping towards it, tell your child to just walk up to it.
This way, your child will only have to focus on throwing the marker on target.
2. Simon Says
Most children with autism find it difficult to deal with a situation in which they don’t know what to expect.
So Simon Says — which is a game that designates one player as “Simon” to direct the other players to perform various actions — may be too challenging for your kid.
How to Adapt Simon Says for Children With Autism
For starters, create a list of limited actions that Simon can select.
So you can let your child know what’s included in the list. You can even create the list of actions in strict order so that your child knows exactly which movement is coming next.
However, if you don’t want to make the game too predictable, then take out the culprit.
Remove the pressure of getting “out” by removing the rule of being eliminated when someone fails to perform an action that Simon asked for.
3. Hi-Ho Cherry-O
Hi-Ho Cherry-O is as fun as it sounds!
It’s a board game that encourages players to work on their counting skills, including basic addition and subtraction, because it involves filling buckets with an assigned number of cherries.
The part your child may not like about this game is that an unpredictable spinner tells the players what they have to do next in order to win.
How to Adapt Hi-Ho Cherry-O for Children With Autism
The simplest way to adapt this game for your child is to create a script that can provide him with language to use during the game. Plus, it also serves as an easy reminder of the rules.
For instance, “I got _____ (3, 5, 7) so I can pick _____ (3, 5, 7) cherries”.
The next time you’re ready to stay up and have a family game night, be sure to try the three modified activities we’ve shared above. Not only will your child laugh with enjoyment, but they’ll also get a chance to improve their social and communication skills.