Playing board games, sports, and video games can be very helpful activities for learning. In addition to the social-emotional skills that kids learn from their play, they often have an opportunity to practice academic skills. One game I strongly recommend as a tool for practicing academic skills is fantasy football. If you are new to fantasy football, it is a game that all family members who can read can play. Fantasy football is a game of thinking rather than actual football, which requires throwing and running with a football. Fantasy football players select a team of actual professional players who accumulate points for their teams in many categories, including scoring touchdowns, catching and throwing passes, or kicking field goals. Learn more about fantasy football on websites such as NFL.com, CBS.com, ESPN.com, or Yahoo.com. Because it is a thinking game that can fully engage kids and adults, playing fantasy football can help your child at school.
Psychologists have misgivings about children playing football due to concerns regarding concussions and other injuries. But children don’t get concussions while playing fantasy football. I have to admit that, as a psychologist who is concerned about the impact of concussions on children, I often feel hypocritical when I watch professional football on Sundays. I observe these elite athletes playing a sport in which injuries and concussions frequently occur, and it is often the interest of adults such as myself that prompts children to want to play football. Fortunately, our increasing awareness of concussions has brought about far more safety rules than there were in the past, and most young children are being directed towards flag and touch football rather than tackle football. Much of the data suggest that keeping kids away from tackle football until they are into their teen years is an appropriate and worthwhile goal.
If you have young children who love football, encourage them to watch football and to learn more about it from playing fantasy football or even playing a football video game. They can learn a great deal about the players and football strategies and, at the same time, practice a number of other thinking skills that may be useful for them in the future. They will need to use their math and reading skills to keep up with other players in their league and might become interested in the statistics and analytics that are taking over football. At the very least, what could be better than having your children sit next to you on the couch, sharing your interests and rooting for your home team together.