I grew up in the 80s. We got the color TV when I was 2 years of age and we had one landline in the middle of the drawing-room for all my teen years. Obviously, there was no cable network and we looked forward to twice a weekly song show (known as Chitrahaar), cartoons, and movies on Sunday for a few hours. A phone call, even to Gurgaon or Noida required a call to be placed through an operator.

Children and adolescents of the millennia might gawk at the concept – How the hell did we pass our time? What was the source of entertainment? How did we stay connected?

Well, we read books and PLAYED GAMES.

Technology has completely changed how we engage ourselves and gaming has also become synonymous with mobiles, tablets, PUBG, gaming tournaments, etc. As somebody I know would argue, these kinds of games are the future and they are here to stay, but my issue is that we have lost the culture of the physical and board games that had way more benefits that these current games can offer.

As a clinician, I come across a number of parents who are clueless on how to keep their children busy and I was surprised to know that many of them either didn’t know names of many of the board games or had completely forgotten about their existence. And this is what prompted me to write this article. Children need to do something to keep themselves occupied and if we don’t play with them or introduce them to games, they would definitely find their entertainment elsewhere.

Games have always had an important role in human civilization and probably are the oldest form of friendly, human interactions. Games imbibe cultural aspects and are passed from generation to generation. In Hindu mythology, lord Krishna is often depicted playing games with his peers.

Neuroscience research in both animals and human have shown that playing games enhance the development of prefrontal cortex, that is, area of the brain involved in development of social and emotional intelligence, impulse control and decision-making and reduces levels of cortisol in the body(1). Games aide in the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of a child, which is far more significant than playing solo video games, mobile games, or mindless binging of youtube videos.

Games can be “competitive” by nature wherein one individual competes with another to win (e.g., races); “cooperative”, which requires individuals to cooperate with each other to have a “win-win condition”, e.g., games that require negotiation with other players or “collaborative” that require team-effort and the purpose is to maximize team effectiveness (e.g., dog and the bone, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragon etc.).

Categories of Games and Their Advantages

Games can be broadly categorized as : Object Play, Outdoor games and Board games.

  • “Object Play”:- seen in infants and toddlers wherein they play “peek-a-boo”, explore objects, learn that pressing a button can play music or a telephone has numbers. It also involves learning pull or push a toy and learning how to ride a tricycle.
  • Outdoor or rough and tumble play – games that usually begin from 3 years of age.  requiring physical activity e.g., racing in different forms, hopscotch, football, cricket, “kabaddi”, “seven stones” or “pithu”, tug of war, tag or “chor-sipahi”, throw-ball, one-leg or “langdi taang”, tupcat or “gilli-danda, statue, four corners, table tennis, pingpong, basketball, I-spy etc.

These rough-and-tumble plays are often seen in baby animals and lay the foundation for social bonding. They not only develop the physical stamina of the child, but also improve their gross motor movement, fine motor movement, eye-muscle coordination, ability to balance, speed, dexterity, right-left coordination, and spatial skills. Apart from these, outdoor plays also require negotiation and cooperation which are necessary for the development of emotional intelligence.

  • Board games and Other Indoor Games – starting from ludo, snakes and ladder, card games, carrom, Chinese checker, Othello, checkers, monopoly/business, scrabble, Scotland Yard, Mastermind, knots and crosses, backgammon, battleships, Chess, Connect, puzzles, Memory Games, Pin the donkey, dark room, racing while holding a spoon with a lemon, racing or rather jumping as you are tied in a sack, dog and the bone, musical chairs, Chinese whisper, Dungeons and Dragons, Lord of the Rings  and the list goes on.

Board games may appear a waste of time to many parents of today, but again majority of them actually serve to enhance social, cognitive, emotional and linguistic aspects of the child. Apart from a few games, which are purely based on luck or role of the dice, most games require strategy, planning or learning of a new skill. It may require the child to think out-of-the-box or make planned choices, solve problems or take calculated risks.

These games serve the purpose of improving many brain functions such as concentration, memory, judgment, problem-solving, impulse control, and executive functioning. At a linguistic level, they improve vocabulary and non-verbal language and encourages a child to think creatively. Games that require partners to be paired together are useful in teaching cooperation as a way of defeating competition, improving negotiation skills and conflict resolution. Following rules teaches children to understand the concept of social conventions and norms and again enhances their memory power as they need to remember those rules.  

And last, but not the least, Games teach social skills and provide opportunities for families to interact and bond with each other rather than doing a solitary play in one’s own room or in the mobile.

So, Can we play a game now?


1. Yogman, M et al. (2018). “The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children” The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children. Pediatrics, 142 (3); American Academy of Pediatrics

2. Fawkner et al. (2020). Physical activity for children and young people aged 5-18 years during COVID-19. Stay safe; be active. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://blogs.bmj.com/bjsm/2020/04/13/physical-activity-for-children-and-young-people-aged-5-18-years-during-covid-19-stay-safe-be-active/