How to decide what to play

My eight-year-old daughter had a friend over today, and I overheard the two of them discussing what they wanted to play. I soon realized that this was an extremely complex endeavor, and required savvy negotiation skills. Here is basically how the conversation went down:

“Let’s play!”

“Okay, let’s play bank.”

“What’s bank?”

“Well, I empty my piggy bank and then count the money. You can be the person at the bank.”

“Let’s play school. We can take notes and write a story.”

Notice how there is no mention of the first idea. This allows you to insert your idea, while letting the other person know that their idea was lame and you are not interested, without actually saying anything at all.

“Let’s play nurse’s office then. You can be the nurse and you take notes about why I’m sick.”

Now this is a nice compromise. Obviously, you agree to the writing element proposed by your friend, but you still get the service and attention aspect that you where looking for with the bank game.

Seriously, I condensed this conversation by about a third. It was an amazingly subtle cage match between two third-graders, and by the time it was done, my daughter’s friend had to go home. There should be a better way to decide what to play. Next time, I will suggest that they simply stare at each other for a full minute in total silence, like two samurai warriors meeting at opposite sides of a bridge. Once the battle of wills has been played out, it should be an easy task for the victor to determine what will be the game of choice.

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