Games to Help Hyperactive and Problem Children Grow

Anything you’re good at contributes to happiness. Bertrand Russel.

Two children turn over the top card on their deck and slap it down. A Jack and a Four face up. “I skunked you,” one of them yelps. “So what,” the other one groans. “My pile is still way bigger than yours.” What is going on here? On the surface, it’s two kids having fun playing War. It’s also, however, two kids growing emotionally, academically, and socially:

(a) by learning the values of numbers, sticking with an activity, paying attention, and concentrating

(b) through experiencing success, coping with failure, and talking about their feelings

(c) by cooperating and taking turns, following rules, controlling their impulses and aggression, tolerating frustration, and communicating.

Aside from these, having fun is a good way for children and adults to relieve stress, and prevent problems from taking a front seat in their lives. Playing games is a way for children to learn without realizing that they’re learning.

I have included a number of learning games in this section. They fall under four headings: self-confidence, communication, feelings, hyperactive behaviors. As well, I have added three programs at the end which teach children affective and social skills. The first three game sections are more expressive in nature, and are designed to help children grow emotionally. Most of the suggestions for self-confidence and communication games come from Game Play: Therapeutic Use of Childhood Games, edited by C. Schaefer and S. Reid (1984). The feeling exercises are taken from The Second Centering Book, by G. Hendricks and T. Roberts (1977), and are reprinted by permission of the Prentice-Hall Publishing Company.

The other games are targeted at helping hyperactive children change their problem behaviors of paying attention, staying in their seat, controlling their impulses, and coordinating their eye/hand movements. Most of these ideas are taken from Lawrence Shapiro’s book Games to Grow On: Activities to Help Children Learn Self-Control (1981), and are reprinted by permission of the Prentice-Hall Publishing Company. Another book worth looking at is Play With a Purpose: Learning Games for Children Six Weeks to Ten Years, by Dorothy Einon (1985).