Board games provide a great way to spend time together as a family, and playing games as a family is one way to practice social skills—particularly around developing a healthy attitude toward winning and losing. In order to teach how to win and lose gracefully, a few things need to be considered before you start to play.

When possible, the game will need to be appropriate to the developmental stage of the child, so he or she can naturally win some of the time. If your child doesn’t win some of the time, it won’t be fun. Without the fun, the opportunity will be missed to teach your child through play.

If your family has many different skill sets in the game-playing department, younger children may need some accommodation. For example, a younger child could get a head start with an explanation such as, “I have played this game many times, so you get two turns now.”

Also, keep in mind that winning and losing gracefully take some practice. You can be a good role model with how you play and win or lose. You might comment, “Good game!” or “This has been fun!”

You can also give your child feedback on how to be a good sport. For example, “A good winner can be proud and still help her playmate feel good about the game,” or more specifically, “I thought of some good strategies that time, and you did too. You almost caught me!” When it comes to losing, your child can hear you empathize while also teaching. For example, “I know it’s hard to lose, but everyone wants to win sometimes—even the other guy. A good loser finds a way to give a compliment to the winner and then look forward to the next game.”

Emphasize that spending time with family or friends is “winning” in and of itself, while teaching and practicing social skills as you play.