By: Kyle Mutch  M.S., CCC-SLP

Let’s face it, no one really likes losing. Not me, not you, and especially not children. Some understand that games and playing with others is all about having fun at a young age, while others are fierce competitors from the get-go. Games often end in tears for the children that fit into the latter group. Same goes for the children who are more rigid. 

Here are some suggestions to keep games fun and make it easier when they have to miss a turn, return back to the start, or when things really aren’t going their way and someone else makes it to the end first.  

When they have to move backward or return to the start:

  1. Make it rewarding! Have a special vehicle pick up their piece and transport it backward. Kids think it’s exciting when a rocket ship comes to pick them up and it helps take their mind off the fact they are headed in the wrong direction. 
  2. This always comes up when playing the classic game Trouble. When playing Trouble and someone lands on a piece, we make a rule they get to blast off into space, fly their piece around the room, and land back on a new planet (back where they started). 
  3. Another strategy is to reward them with extra turns for making the difficult cross-country move back home. If 3 extra turns aren’t enough – make it 5! Make them feel in control by choosing how many extra turns a player should get before starting the game. 
  4. Talk about the rules and expectations BEFORE you start the game. Explain everything that may occur (good and bad) and practice situations before playing. 

When they have officially lost the game:

  1. Sometimes children get upset because they think the game is over when someone else wins. Tell them before the game starts that everyone is getting the chance to make it to the end.
  2. Pretend to have a tantrum when YOU lose a game and talk about how it made others feel. Then pretend to lose and remain calm and talk about everyone’s feelings. We want to help them understand/recognize how their actions impact the thoughts and feelings of others around them. 
  3. It’s OKAY to feel upset! Let’s find ways to help them deal with it. They could get a drink or a snack, stand up and push against the wall, have a favorite toy nearby to help them calm down, or practice saying “I don’t want to play anymore” or “Can we play another game?”

Choose games that focus on teamwork and those where there are no winners!

  1. Hoot Owl Hoot, Stack Up, Good Night Construction Site, and Feed The Woozle are examples of games where everyone is on the same team.
  2. Build together! Working together to build cities and racetracks are always fan favorites. 

These are all great ways to manage game expectations and help children learn to be a good loser and have more fun when playing games with their friends. Developing play skills is a part of childhood as well as our therapy sessions. If you are interested in our speech therapy or occupational therapy services, contact us today!