10 reasons mentors should play cards with their mentees

Young boy playing cards with his older cousin seated on bench is

by Jean Rhodes

Who knew? The simple act of playing cards or board games can help promote learning and stronger mentoring relationships. Playing age appropriate card and board games is great way to strengthen ties, improve soft skills, and advance cognitive skills. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, writer Susan Shellenbarger cites research to lay out the many benefits of this fading past-time. First, there are the the relationship benefits including:

  • Sharing a laugh (see previous post)
  • Engaging in reverse mentoring (mentees teaching mentors new rules/games)
  • Improving confidence
  • Providing opportunities for face-to-face play and conversation
  • Providing nuanced social skills, such as bluffing one’s opponents into unwise bets.

There are also emotional and cognitive benefits

  • Learning math, improving memory skills, practicing counting and matching
  • Practicing “soft skills” such as taking turns, following rules, and managing competition/loss
  • Advancing strategic thinking

Playing cards and games is also a nice release from mentees’ packed schedules and technology infused lives. Moreover, it is a vehicle for young people to link with older generations, for whom picking up a pack of cards was far much more common. As quoted in the Shellenbarger article, “A whole generation of consumers didn’t learn to play cards the way an entire prior generation did,” says P.J. Katien, vice president, sales and marketing, for the U.S. Playing Card Co., Erlanger, Ky., owner of the venerable Bicycle, Bee, Kem and Hoyle brands. Still, he says he sees interest among young parents in teaching their children card games as an alternative to videomgames. Sales of traditional playing cards have risen between 1% and 2% industrywide in the past two years, he says.

Although the article focuses on parent-child relationships, it’s easy to see how its wisdom applies to mentor-mentee relationships.“To be able to compete against parents [or mentors] and sometimes win is symbolically important to kids. …,” says William Doherty, professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. Children also can learn to win and lose gracefully, he says—“to be happy but not gloat, and to lose and not pout.”

Not convinced? –see this article about additional benefits

Convinced? Ok–here are three easy card games to play with your mentee and here are recommended games for children and adolescents of various ages.