Family Game Night

By: T.W. Winslow

When I was a child I loved to play board games. There was nothing better than gathering the family around the kitchen table for a rousing game of Monopoly. Playing games with my brothers and parents was great fun, but the best thing was it brought us all together as a family. In between rolls of the dice we talked and laughed about all kinds of things, and in doing so it helped us to bond.

It seems in our current age of technology, the board game and family game night is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Children today are more interested in video and computer games with their amazing graphics and fast paced action then they are in such mundane things as board games or are they?

I would venture to guess my two children are pretty typical kids. They both enjoy the new video and computer games and can sit for hours (if allowed), staring at the screen battling warriors from distant planets, taking on the best of the NBA, and racing along side their favorite NASCAR drivers. With the excitement and challenge these games have to offer, it's easy to see why our faithful Monopoly game sits collecting dust in the hall closet until recently that is.

My seven year old daughter recently spent her hard earned allowance on a new game. As five dollars doesn't buy any of the modern electronic titles, she had to settle for something a bit more old fashioned. She selected a wonderful game; Mancala. If you know anything about this game, you wouldn't think it would stand a chance in the wake of the allure of moderns electronic games.

Mancala may well be one of the oldest games in the world. It is a wholly mathematical game and its more complex versions have as much scope as Chess despite rather primitive origins. Stone Mancala boards have been found carved into the roofs of temples in Memphis, Thebes and Luxor the game was definitely being played in Egypt before 1400 B.C. Mancala variations are played all over Africa and in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, as well as the Philippines. Today, Mancala in various forms is played all over the world.

Clearly, this game would be much different than the electronic games my daughter was more familiar with, and I had my suspicions that the game would suffer the same dusty fate as did our Monopoly game. Much to my surprise, however, the game was a huge success. Our children loved playing it every bit as much as my wife and I did. For the first time in a long time we sat around the table as a family no television, no computers or other distractions, and spent the entire evening playing, laughing, and talking.

It's almost comical how it took a centuries old game a simple wooden plank and a handful of "seeds," to bring us together for an evening of fun and togetherness. (Educational fun I might add.)

Watching the smiling faces of my family as we played, laughed, and talked into the night reminded me how important simple family activities such as a family game night are. With so many distractions and commitments pulling family members in any number of different directions, those things which bring a family together are few and far between.

Unknowingly, my daughter and her primitive five dollar game helped bring us together as a family and inspired us to begin a new tradition in our house family game night.

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