It’s never too early to start teaching kids about fair play. Children don’t enjoy feeling that peers are cheaters or that they might be a poor sport, so teaching the concepts of fair play at a young age will help children develop into older children and young adults who respect the rules and play fair with others.
These lessons will be taught at daycare and school, but parents can do some simple activities to help young children along in this regard. We will look at a few of the best ways to instill these important values in young children. Here is how to teach young children about fair play.
Play games that take turns
Kids under five or six probably aren’t ready to play games with strict rules or understand more advanced concepts of fair play. The best thing to do with young kids at this point is to teach them very simple concepts that you can build on when teaching fair play. One of these concepts is taking turns.
This is what games like duck, duck, goose (or duck, duck, gray duck in some places) are made for at this age. At home, you probably don’t have enough people to play these games but there are other games that can accomplish the same things.
Outdoor games like tag or hide and seek are great. Board games are also a great way of teaching how to take turns. Some of the old classics like Chutes and Ladders, Don’t Break the Ice, or Candyland still work well or you can check out a newer game like The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel.
Let them play with kids of different ages
When kids play games, it is good to let them play with a variety of age groups when possible. Playing with each different age group – younger, older, and the same age – each teaches kids something different about fair play.
When your kids play with their peers in the same age group, they will play games and follow rules that are well-suited for where they are in their development. When they play with older kids, the games and rules will likely be a little more complicated. They will have to listen to and process the information they get from the older kids to understand how to play and be part of the game.
Playing with younger kids can be very helpful as well while your child is developing a sense of fair play. In this scenario, your child will have to be a leader. They will have to explain the rules of the game to the younger kids and watch them during play to make sure they are keeping up. Teaching a game and how to play it is a great way to help develop respect for fair play.
Let them make up the rules
To give your kids a healthy respect for the rules, it is helpful to let them make the rules from time to time. This gives them a chance to think about how and why the rules become rules and shows them that rules exist for a reason. Kids are a lot less likely to break the rules of a game where they put those rules in place.
Whether you are playing a game where the rules are completely made up or adding rules to an existing game due to the space you’re playing in or the people you’re playing with, asking about rules is a great way to teach fair play. When you start the game, ask your kids, “what should happen when a player is tagged?” or “what are the rules when the ball goes off the driveway and touches the grass?”
Instill social rules around game playing
Fair play is not just about following the rules and not cheating (although that’s a good place to start). It is also about being a good sport, on the field or off, win or lose. Once kids start playing games and sports in a more organized way, you can stop focusing on the actual rules of the game – coaches will handle that – and start talking about how they act around the field or court or rink or even playground.
This is where the social rules come in. Early on in organized sports, you want to instill respect for the game, the opponent, and anyone else involved. This means doing things like saying, “good game” after a match, win or lose. It means helping people up when they fall down and always being respectful of the officials.
This aspect of fair play is something that, unfortunately, is not always modeled by adults at youth sporting events. The best way you can pass the spirit of fair play onto your child as they start to play organized sports is by keeping your cool during their games. Clap at great plays, regardless of which team makes them. Parents who are poor sports often produce kids who are poor sports.
Take your child golfing
As your kids get older, there is one sport that teaches all of the rule-following and integrity that one needs to learn the ways of fair play. That sport is golf. Golf is a sport that can be frustrating for kids (and adults) at times but it can single handedly teach your child everything they need to know to demonstrate fair play as they get older.
Golf makes you self-report penalties and violations which helps with honesty around sports. It also helps instill responsibility and discipline because the player only relies on themselves. It helps a lot with patience and self-control and it can even give kids much-needed quiet time where they get to just think about the game. This is rare in today’s world, even in the world of sports and games. Golf may be the best sport to help produce children who truly understand fair play.
Kids don’t automatically know how to play fairly and demonstrate good sportsmanship as they grow up. Parents and other adults must help children learn about fair play as they grow. It starts with something as simple as taking turns and can be driven home by a sport as robust as golf. In between, we need to provide and celebrate opportunities for fair play and model the right behavior as well.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.