If you’re planning a family trip to London during the holidays the British Museum has an interesting free exhibition on until the end of September. Playing with money: currency and games www.britishmuseum.org takes a look at how board games, toys, gambling and role-playing games have contributed to our understanding of money from the 19th century onwards.
The game of Monopoly is familiar to almost everyone, but the exhibition shows that plenty of other board games were devised to entertain generations of children while introducing them to the fundamentals of money and capitalism.The rise and crash of financial fortunes is reflected in games with names such as Ratrace, Payday and Black Friday.
There’s even a political alternative. Class Struggle was invented in 1978 to teach children about the principles of Marxism. This game sets Workers (represented by hammers) against Capitalists (represented by top hats, naturally). While it may possibly have been hours of ideological fun for some families, sales of Class Struggle peaked at 230,000 and the game disappeared in the early 1990s. Monopoly’s popularity shows no signs of abating – more than 250 million sets have been sold since it was launched in 1935. At least there’s still one place where paper money is going strong.
Since it’s still a rainy day favourite that may come out during the course of this half-term holiday, we wondered what children (and their parents) really learn about when they play Monopoly?
Bankers. It’s almost always the same person who is desperately keen to be banker. An early sign of probity and fiscal prudence or a cunning plan to siphon off high value currency when no one’s looking? You decide. In our experience the banker never loses.
Mascots. Who’s desperate to have the little dog? Who says they’ll swap their little dog for your boot for a ‘fee’? Who runs the little dog off the board with their racing car?
Money. The monetary lesson Monopoly teaches is both simple and profound – money is power. See also: money is the root of all arguments; getting rich is as much about luck as strategy; investing in property is usually a good thing; just because you know the banker doesn’t mean they’ll bail you out.
Strategy. Buying up all the cheapest properties and covering them with hotels could indicate entrepreneurism. Ditto charging top rent for houses on Mayfair and Park Lane. Not buying anything and paying rent doesn’t get you very far in this game. Beware of players who shun the property ladder, it could be an early indicator that moving back in with parents after university is on the cards … or you could buy them Class Struggle (it’s still available on eBay).
Morality. The moral universe of Monopoly is an odd one. Going to jail and getting out of jail are governed by chance, not by actions and consequences. And it’s important to point out that in real life there is no such thing as a ‘get out of jail free’ card.
The rules. Who insists on playing by the rules? Who does side deals whereby properties are demanded with menaces in lieu of rent/hotel bills? Who rules the board and throws it in the air when things get sticky?
Social change? ‘School fees’ remain a very reasonable 50 Monopoly notes and the ever popular ‘You’ve won second prize in a beauty competition’ is still cue for an onslaught of jokes about who (or what) came first. The ‘receive consultancy fee’ is a recent addition to the oddly named Community Chest though. The economics of Monopoly world mean that you need two consultancy fees to pay school fees.
Communication. Who shouts the loudest? Easy – when playing Monopoly everyone shouts the loudest.
Children’s book of the month
From inspiring stories about famous names to books about nature and the environment, children’s non-fiction is going through a golden age.
D-Day, written by Michael Noble and illustrated by Alexander Mostov, is another winner – an inspiring way for children to learn about the Second World War.
Published to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, this stunning picture book tells the story of the Allied invasion of Normandy through the eyes of a host of different people. It features 20 eyewitness accounts, all of which describe the events of June 1944 from individual perspectives. As Michael Noble writes: ‘It was a dangerous and risky endeavour and success was far from certain. At stake was the future of Europe, indeed the world itself, and the people involved in planning the invasion took their work very seriously.’
The real-life characters featured in the book range from soldiers on both sides, sailors and commanders to war reporters, medical staff and civilians.They include the legendary war correspondent Martha Gellhorn, who was so determined to cover the story that she stowed away on a hospital ship heading for Normandy, Jim Radford, the youngest person to take part in the invasion, and Stanley Hollis, the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery on D-Day.
Their stories are told through illustrations, photographs, maps and their own personal testimonies. As the book says: ‘These are stories of bravery, sacrifice and innovation.’
D-Day also provides a wealth of additional information about the people who were involved and a useful glossary explaining terms like Allied Forces, codebreaker, reconnaissance, shrapnel and squadron.
This is a book that brings history to life on the page. It will fascinate children, parents and grandparents alike and prompt lots of discussion at home. We reckon that school librarians up and down the country will be ordering it in their droves too.
Going up, going down
Musical youth. Classic FM has launched a series of weekly shows aimed at revising students. It runs until June 15 and the radio station says: ‘We understand studying for GCSE, A level and university degree exams can be difficult so we've put together suggestions from Classic FM's extensive music library to provide the perfect studying playlist to aid brain power.’
World of work. Research by the charity Education and Employers says that inviting employers and employees into school to give careers talks has a positive impact on teenagers’ GSCE results and that lower achievers and less engaged learners benefit the most.
Poetry please. Congratulations to talented teenage poet Lucy Prescott, a pupil at The Lakes School in Troutbeck Bridge, Cumbria, who has just won the 2019 Tower Prize, a prestigious award for aspiring 16 to 18-year-old poets.
All work and no play. School breaks are up to an hour shorter than they were two decades ago says a new study by UCL. The upshot is that children are missing out on opportunities to make new friends, develop social skills and get fresh air and exercise.
Teachers know best. This term’s Sats are behind us now but a study by King’s College London warns that the tests are no better than teachers at predicting pupils’ future exam success.
The perils of social media. Despite parental concerns about the amount of time teenagers spend on their phones research by the University of Oxford declares that spending hours on social media may not be as harmful as we feared. Academics claim that online activity only has a ‘trivial’ effect on teenagers’ happiness.