Just over a year ago (the end of 2018 over the kids’ Winter Break), Scott (AKA: The Hubby) and I busted out one of the moldering skills of our misspent nerdy youth (before it was cool man!) and transformed our family into a costume-wearing, accent-wielding, foam weapon toting band of comedic adventurers of Faerûn.
Today, we parent an adolescent half-elf druid and a pre-teen dragonborn barbarian. …Except when we parent a moon elf bard and a grung pirate. It gives the hubby and I no choice but to make household chores “taking the trash out from the keep to avoid the plague” or “dishwashing at the inn because you ran out of gold.” We watch shows like Critical Role like other families watch football and the kids watch YouTube animators like Puffin Forest and Dingo Doodles like the Saturday morning cartoons of my back-in-the-day.
In our adventures, we have taken out a thieves guild, rescued small children from a troll, saved a village’s hunters from a roving band of evil goblins, and more. But more practically, playing Dungeons and Dragons (we play 5th edition) was a bit of a no-brainer as a family activity:
- Players work together for a common goal with individual motivations and have to resolve conflict collaboratively, or they all potentially pay the price.
- The game is heavily steeped in imagination and creativity as skills that are frequently overlooked in other games in both character development and during the progression of the game itself.
- There’s a huge opportunity for customization and creativity outside of the game that gets them doing stuff they’d normally bypass as “not fun,” from painting tediously tiny minifigures, learning to sew making costumes, writing backstories and reading big fat books (in the immortal words of Sharkbait: “Who knew instruction manuals could be this fun, mom?!?”).
- Playing and planning games teaches them strategic thinking, cause-and-effect, organization and planning (both in-game and out), conflict resolution, “public” speaking, storytelling, improvisation, and more; and
- It’s a fun way to spend time together creating valued memories.
…As a parent, I value anything that gets my kids to read more, draw more, find ways to entertain themselves without having to hear the words “I’m bored,” and to enjoy spending time together. As the parent of a kid with ADHD, I value anything that helps teach him to appreciate the value of the tasks he often finds difficult (and therefore tedious) and encourages him to develop the social skills that he so often finds challenging. As a mom, whose creative outlets often feel stymied by adulting and parenting, I appreciate that I have the opportunity to engage in the former without feeling like I’m shirking the latter…also, I flirt with the hubby’s character, and there’s some good that comes from that as well when the kids aren’t around.
And…don’t just take my word for it…if it’s not something you’ve thought about or considered before… Anecdotal information and some preliminary studies suggest that kids that play RPG games like D&D do better in school, even when they have struggled in school and discuss the mechanisms by which such games may do so. It’s being used as a form of therapy, for teaching social skills to kids like mine, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, there are challenges to playing with kids vs. playing with other adults, especially when it comes to adapting to playing with kids for the first time, running an entire campaign of just kids (The Hubby and I hosted a campaign for our kids and their friends–6 to 8 preteens most sessions–until we moved to Germany over the summer), and in running a campaign with multiple kids with ADHD or other challenges (luckily there’s advice for that). There are simplified character sheets for kids, official books geared towards teaching kids the game (I’ve not gotten these because my kids love the official manuals, but I can see how they might be great for kids with reading challenges), and even choose-your-own-adventure style books.
And the best part about playing Dungeons and Dragons today, compared to 20-30 years ago, is that it’s more accessible and cooler than its ever been!
But (to quote another childhood favorite who has made a comeback), don’t just take my word on it!