Passionate about the brain to the point that she has it tattooed on her skin, Maria Couso is one of the greatest promoters of the importance of play in childhood development. Through its PlayFunLearning teaches teachers and families that board games are a powerful tool, as he enthusiastically recounts in his book “Brain, childhood and play” (Destination Editions, Editorial Planeta).
How does the game influence the brain?
When we play we activate our brain reward circuit that makes us enjoy that activity and want to repeat it. In addition, the game invites endless high-level cognitive skills to the table in order to perform the task properly in order to win. We must make decisions about which pieces of the board to move or which cards from our hand to throw; remember each of the steps that we will take during our turn according to the instructions of the game and, at the same time, be flexible to the change of strategy after each round, which will force us to redesign the course over and over again with the aim of winning the victory. Simultaneously, we will count steps or points, we will add chips and we may have to subtract if we lose (or take away) some during the game. All this is recommended to implement mental calculation. To understand it, we will read the instructions and even the cards we are dealt; we will communicate with the other players and we will choose the right words to convey only what we want without revealing more information. Isn’t this a masterful way to activate language? The game is the natural learning mechanism born from the most primary curiosity, so let’s exploit its possibilities.
If we put skills and competencies aside and go to the socio-emotional level, what happens to the game?
There is no doubt that through the dynamics of a game we learn to know ourselves better, to manage our emotions when things do not go well for us and to interpret the emotions of the rest to act accordingly. It is through that activity that we bond with others; We share the moment and laugh in a relaxed atmosphere, promoting the well-being that we need so much on a daily basis and that our brain values so much. The game is a global benefit under the magnifying glass of the cognitive field, wherever you look at it.
Do you think you are undervalued and that may be a mistake in the long run?
Completely. It seems that we constantly oppose the terms play and study or play and learn. If you watch a small child play, you don’t consider telling him to stop, and why a 10-year-old? If we know what the game is for learning, we will understand that it is necessary in any area of our life.
For example, board games are not included in the cultural bonus for young people… Is this further proof of this underestimation?
That’s how it is. There is little board game culture in our country due to the lack of knowledge on the part of the population about its benefits. It is curious how videogames do not enter into this cultural bond, but they do…
Every time we see younger children who play with screens and video games. What consequences does that have on your health?
All the research points to the danger of early exposure to screens and the consequences that digital devices have for cognitive abilities such as attention or impulse control. Brains under construction are sensitive to possible damage to their development and it is sad that either the information is not reaching families properly, or we ignore the warnings that health organizations such as the WHO are sending us.
As demonstrated in his book with scientific evidence, games are a key tool for treating some neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia… How can board games help improve health problems? ?
By having located the difficulty that each person presents, the appropriate choice of the game based on their needs will allow them to improve the skills that are less developed and will do so without the children noticing, while simultaneously improving others.
He says that we shouldn’t stop playing, not because we are adults, why?
The game must exist throughout life and not only in childhood. Sometimes, the rush and speed of everyday life leads us to tolerate levels of toxic stress that could be considerably reduced with a bit of daily play in which to forget about our problems for a while to smile, enjoy and connect with others. It is curious how after childhood we stop playing and it only seems that we recover this activity when we reach the third age in which we need to find a vehicle for cognitive activation to keep our brain “alive”.