WHAT: Community by eeBoo
DOES: practice being part of a team, practice being a leader and being supportive, practice problem solving as a group and individually, play a game where there are no “losers”
INVEST: $19.99 MSRP
AGES: 5+ (we’ve played successfully with a four-year old)
TOOLS: Fertilize Responsibility and Courtesy, Flexibility is My Superpower, Lose and Win Gracefully, People are People, Social Scene Helper, Think Like a Scientist/Engineer
EXPERT OPINION: Alison Berkley, Co-owner, Special Education Teacher, Emerge and See Education Center, Blogger, Breaking Barriers at Psychology Today
GIVEAWAY Details Below: (for $40 value) of high-quality Scratch Papers
Sometimes my kids don’t mind losing when playing games but at other times, I see them cheating, bickering, and just flat out choosing not to play. Like a broken record, I try to tell them things like:
1. You always want to play someone better than you. You’ll learn a lot more from them.
2. If you keep cheating, who’s going to want to play with you next time?
3. If you don’t want to play because you are losing, does that mean you can’t play unless you win?
Sometimes I think they understand me but still we run into this often enough so maybe I need some new mottos. I shouldn’t talk either. I was such a sore loser when I was a kid.
Still when I first heard about Community, a “cooperative game” where there really isn’t one winner or loser, my first reaction was: Would it be fun? Well, I’ve tried it and all I can say is that this is if cooperative games like Community is the new kid on the block, then once you get to know him, you will want to make him your best friend forever!!! This game will surely surprise you.
Kids Can Be Surprisingly Cooperative
Do you think that Community will bring out good behavior in a kid? Sure it will! In fact, I was surprised to see it do so well with my own children. All of their games are me-against-you-games and this game was the first that wasn’t and I thought they would think it weird. However, they took to it very naturally. No questions. It was only I who was unsure. I have watched my children play this with their friends and without fail, all the kids grasped the concept quite easily. The older kids did say, “No winner? Won’t that be boring?” But no one says that after they play.
Really! I’m not kidding. Because believe it or not, despite there being no winner, this game is challenging. It can present a bunch of problems and your child has to solve them, either on his own or with the group. He can get help from the group but he is still responsible for his (turn) final decision, “which tile will I use to create a road?” and “which direction will I allow it to go in?” He only has three choices at a time.
What Kind of a Team Player Are You?
It may not sound so difficult to you but think about your co-workers for one moment (ie. ”group” or “department”) Everyone has their own role but at the same time you are all working toward a collective goal. Once in a while, you see a co-worker receive lots of accolade for a job well done and you may have mixed feelings about it. You may want to give that person a high-five or go home and stick a needle in a doll with that person’s name scrawled all over it. We have all had these moments. (maybe not a voodoo doll but….)
What does this all mean to me? A well-planned out cooperative game like Community can allow you to see how your child is a “team player.” While playing, older children may recognize that some pathways are more efficient than others and that is when you see one’s skills displayed. But there are more skills to contemplate here other than visual-spatial reasoning.
The other valuable skill set can be viewed when answering such questions like: Does your kid give his teammate a high-five or does your kid say, “I have the perfect piece for that spot! No one put a piece there, okay?” You can even argue if that request advances the team or if it’s a purely selfish act. Moreover, you can start exploring what it means to be a leader in this context.
Teachable Moments Await!
To me, that is the beauty of this game. There are so many ways to get to know our own and our child’s core tendencies when we play this. And the good part is that our kids are young and still “moldable” and so we are able to use this game to model the kind of attitude we want them to embody. We’re also able to discuss conflicts and possibly present “better” options if it is ideal to do so. I honestly think that this could be successful in just about any home. And the great part is that it is only $19.99. YEAH!!! And that is a great price if you knew what a quality game you are getting.
The play area is is a lovely green flocked board (I think “flocked” means “has soft woolen surface”). This is not only awesome to touch but it also acts as a way to keep the tiles from moving around. (So smart!). That aspect is very satisfying, especially to the younger ones who may worry that their piece will move out of place. Additionally, the design is truly neither girl or boy. I really think it appeals to both sexes equally. I would suggest that you think twice about playing this with a child under five because while I have done so successfully, all of the words and the artwork on the tiles is smaller than what average five-year-olds may be used to so you’ll have to keep it in mind. Still, if the child is heavily into maps like mine is, then you’ve got yourself a hook. This game looks like a giant map when you’re finished.
I did however worry about how to handle this very sticky question: What are you supposed to say when your friend says something like, “Hey I have the best tile to lead up to the library so don’t put anything there okay? My tile won’t make any dead ends!” However, your child may have different ideas. I honestly don’t know what is ideal to say to a child in such a situation.
Today’s Lesson: Know You Can Solve Any Problem
Alison Berkley, the awesome afterschool educator and an expert at using toys as tools also looked at Community and said this to me: “There is always a compromise,” she wisely pointed out. “You can always solve the problem and that is what I teach my kids every single day that no matter if you are upset, or frustrated, or you’re angry, or you’re just tired.. no matter what, there is always something you can do to feel better.”
Those words really stuck on me and right there I realized why many kids can be afraid sometimes. They are afraid that they will walk into a problem they can’t solve! If your kid is kind of a curious one and his favorite question is “What if….” then gosh, he may run into these anxious moments a lot because he can dream up so many “What if?” scenarios faster than he can imagine solving them! I am speaking from experience here…
“You are really talking about something that all humans at all ages, need to know,” Alison also said. ”That you are not helpless and you are not a victim, and that if you are kind of being pushed around, you need to speak up for yourself.” Wow, Alison, that is so true!!!! ”Fundamentally, it’s all about being a problem solver, so if any game, Community or Monopoly or whatever, presents a problem, part of the game is to figure it out.”
“Life is All About the Journey”
These were all huge nuggets of wisdom but what about that nagging question in my head? I am still thinking about ways to solve possible conflicts where someone may usurp another’s moment to contribute in his own way just because he believes he’s got the better-than-best idea. Do you have a former co-worker in mind? I do. This has happened to me at different periods of my professional life. What say you Alison?
“I think they are looking at wanting it perfectly,” she advised me. “They are looking at the end product, and life can not be led that way – where you are constantly looking at what am I going to get at the end of this,” Alison said. “Life is all about the journey, Jenn.”