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Family games: A home-grown fitness and bonding mantra
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Family games: A home-grown fitness and bonding mantra

Playing games as a family helps everyone stay fit and builds strong and healthy relationships among members

Family games ensure a strong bond and healthy relationship between the family members

It is rare to see members of a family get together to play games, be it indoors or outdoors. Till a couple of decades or so ago, it was common for family members — parents and children bridging the generation divide — to huddle in the evenings for a game of badminton or basketball outdoors and carrom or the like indoors.

“During my childhood, my dad, brother and I, along with some cousins, used to play badminton every evening,” says Priya Deleep, an IT professional from Bangalore. “Sometimes, we also played chess. Besides being fun, it also helped with family bonding and fitness. But now, giving the same amount of time to play with my children is difficult.”

Reasons for decline in family games

Time crunch is cited as the biggest reason for it. However, the idea of games or play itself has transformed significantly in the past few years. Children, or the younger lot, prefer digital recreational activities, while the older members of the family opt for physical sports. This divergence might be the reason for family games becoming rare, despite their apparent and widely accepted benefits.

Play is very important in a child’s life. From playing with soft toys alongside parents and getting soiled in the sand pit to basketball, football, etc., with friends — the type of game and the preferred company change with time. “My child, who is 14 now, is more comfortable playing with her teenage friends,” says Reethu Chandy from Bangalore. “The company she wants is different now. But earlier, she wanted me to be with her.”

The advancement and gradual infusion of technology into the lives of children and adolescents has led to mobile phones and video games taking precedence over interaction with family members. Also, most children today prefer to play outdoor games with friends who fall into the same age group. This is, no doubt, important to build social skills and friendships. However, playing games with kin is also important, for they help build family ties.

Types of family games to play

Indoor family games such as board games or card games help develop problem-solving and cognitive skills. Outdoor activities such as singles or doubles badminton or even a walk in the neighborhood parks increase physical fitness along with family bonding.

If elder members of the family pay attention to fitness and actively participate in physical activities, it can have a positive impact on the child as well.

Benefits of playing family games

Home is where you find people of different ages, probably even two or three generations, living together. And playing engages the members on multiple levels.

“We have a self-driven motivation to play together,” says 24-year-old Ananya Rajaram, a quality assurance executive from Bangalore. “Everyone in the family sits together at the table to play business, chess or carrom on holidays and weekends. Many a times, discussions would start during a game, and we get so immersed that we forget the game itself. It acts as a conversation starter, helps us understand each other better and the quality time spent together always brings joy.”

Spending time with each other by playing games can change the family dynamics in the following ways:

♦ Strengthens family unity

Playing family games imbibes teamwork and unity among the family members. “Playing as a family strengthens the bond by creating shared experiences and memories,” says Anya Reddy, a play therapist from Bangalore. “It promotes a sense of unity, fosters communication and builds a foundation of trust and understanding. It provides an opportunity for relaxation and stress relief, enhancing overall family well-being.”

♦ Causes the secretion of feel-good hormones

Many of the feel-good hormones are secreted while playing. “Shared play through collaborative [family] games stimulates oxytocin release, which promotes feelings of attachment, trust and intimacy, fostering a stronger emotional bond between family members,” says Reddy.

“The playful and enjoyable experiences activate the release of dopamine, which reinforces positive behavior and creates a sense of enjoyment, making family interactions more rewarding,” she adds. “The endorphins secreted contribute to a sense of well-being, and engaging in collaborative, enjoyable activities as a family can increase serotonin levels, which contributes to improved mood and emotional balance, creating a positive atmosphere for communication and connection.”

Playing family games also helps regulate stress hormone (cortisol) levels, reducing stress. If left unchecked, it can result in weight gain and several other health issues. “These neurochemical responses to shared play enhance joy and satisfaction associated with family interactions and create a neurobiological foundation for strengthened emotional bonds,” explains Reddy.

♦ Bridges generation gaps

It is not always the case that one will have fun only while playing in the same age group.

“While age-appropriate activities are essential, intergenerational play has its benefits,” shares Reddy. “It allows for the exchange of skills, knowledge and perspectives between different age groups. Playing together can bridge generation gaps, fostering a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect within the family.”

“Games provide a purpose and a feeling of belonging, which brings us closer,” adds Rajaram.

♦ Creates better understanding between family members 

With age differences and living in a fast-evolving world, understanding each other’s point of view is getting increasingly tough. “Engaging in play allows parents and children to see each other in different roles and contexts,” says Reddy. “It provides insight into individual personalities, preferences and strengths. Through play, parents can better understand their children’s thought processes, while children gain a deeper appreciation for their parents’ perspectives. This mutual understanding contributes to a more harmonious family dynamic.”

♦ Positively impacts child development

Family play has a positive impact on child development as it enhances their cognitive, social and emotional skills. “It also teaches important values like teamwork, communication and sportsmanship. Additionally, the emotional support gained through family play contributes to a child’s overall well-being and self-esteem, laying the foundation for healthy growth and development,” explains Reddy.

Regularizing family play is vital

Most children get enrolled to play sports in schools or colleges, while the elders in the family take up physical activities (like walking and running) or hit the gym to keep fit. One should not let that get in the way of family time and play. “The frequency of family playtime can vary based on individual schedules and preferences. However, regular engagement is key to building and maintaining a healthy family relationship. Aim for a balance that fits your family’s routine, ensuring that playtime becomes a consistent and anticipated part of your collective experience,” advises Reddy.

Takeaways

  • Playing family games ensures a strong bond and healthy relationship with family members.
  • Family games to play include indoor games such as card games or board games and outdoor activities such as badminton, evening walks in the park or even running or cycling.
  • Playing together with family members bridges generation gaps, ensures unity within the family and promotes better development of the child and the overall fitness of all the members.

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