Evaluation of game: Pole-to-Pole
by Erika Steenberg
(Clinical Psychologist with a special interest in children and neuropsychology)
THE PURPOSE OF THE GAME
The game seems to fulfil the following purposes:
- It is a game that the whole family can play as it is easy enough to understand and to enjoy across different age groups. Parents could enjoy the garden in between asking questions and doing actions.
- It is a game that can be played in most outside areas, providing there is some soft ground or grass. It was easy to "plant" the markers into the ground and easy to remove and put back. The only problem was that it started raining so that the poles quickly had to be removed and packed away. The game was successful in encouraging children to play outside with their friends rather than watching TV or other inside activities. One day coming home from school with a friend, the younger child of six explained the rules of the game to his friend and the two six year olds played the game making up their own questions and actions as they went along (they cannot read the questions yet). Interesting to note that this child remembered several of the questions asked when the game was played on the weekend!
- It does not include complicated or dangerous components so that children can even set it up by themselves, and play it on their own.
- Due to the simplicity of game elements it did indeed give opportunity for creativity and flexibility. During the evaluation game both children came up with two related games that they enjoyed playing almost more than the suggested game. They involved elements of throwing the markers onto rows of poles that they set out in a square. As the games progressed they altered rules until the final game was practical to play.
- Children found the questions and answers very interesting and were very keen to play the game again to get to some more questions. It creates a learning opportunity for them in a fun way and also gives parents the opportunity to observe their children's general knowledge, preferences and approaches to questions. It would be very easy to add different kind of questions or extend the questions and actions. This educational opportunity can even be used to incorporate suggestions from occupational therapists, speech therapists or remedial therapists if the child needs to do home exercises. Homework questions can be incorporated into the game, creating a fun learning experience outdoors.
- The board game concept works very well as it is a very familiar concept to children, and especially between the ages of 5-12, where children like to play games with rules about turn taking and so forth. There is very little explanation needed in terms of the use of a dice and the concept of moving along a game layout.
- The idea of creating your own layout gives opportunity for creativity and variety, as the game is different every time.
- Although this is a type of board game, it is different and unique, which attracts children's interest.
- The idea of questions and actions provides variation, physical outlet and learning opportunity.
- On the negative side, the competitive nature of the game can create conflict and competition between siblings and can create a feeling of failure among the younger members of the family who cannot answer questions as well as their older siblings or parents. The game is flexible enough though to create parent-child teams and to make questions more easy and appropriate for younger players. A cooperative version of the game might also be suggested, where the whole family can play as a team who must help each other to the last pole in some way, rather competing with the clock or collecting rewards and treasures along the way.
In general this game covers a wide range of different skills and developmental opportunities, as it combines the benefits of a board game and an outdoor activity.
More specifically this game will be beneficial with regards to the following areas of development:
- Social skills. It has the same benefits as any board game as it helps to teach and facilitate turn taking, cooperation, self-control and self-esteem. When children create their own games they also have to learn to negotiate rules, explain rules and be flexible enough to play another person's game, that they did not create or had a part in.
- Coordination, planning and visual-spatial reasoning. At the set-up stage of this game the child has to plan and set out a design, which also has to fit in with the design of other players. The child will learn to plan ahead and correct elements that do not seem to work well. Although markers are merely moved from one pole to another by hand, different versions of the game, for instance throwing markers onto poles will facilitate better coordination.
- Number skills. Once again as with any board game, the game will benefit number and counting skills as the child works with a dice and has to move ahead while counting correctly. The game has the potential for creating very interesting number games. During the evaluation game, one of the versions that were created expected the players to set out the poles into 5 rows with 5 poles each. The dice were rolled twice. The first number indicated the row and the second the position of the pole in the row, which indicates numerous possibilities in learning about positions, almost like a game of battleships. Counting and number questions can be included as there are many poles which lends itself to counting actions, for instance count all the poles before your marked pole and so on.
- General knowledge, short term and long term memory. By remembering and learning the answers to questions the child's general knowledge improves as well as the long-term memory for these facts.
- Language and listening skills. When listening to and answering questions or doing actions the child learns to express himself and to listen properly to instructions.
- Communication and sharing. The game gives opportunity for communication and sharing between family members or teams. Being part of a team is an important experience and having fun outside with the family creates feelings of security and love.
- Cognitive skills (Abstract reasoning and classification). Some of the questions require this type of thinking, for instance "name five fruits."