Parents are often concerned about their children when they are unable to cope with losing a game. This may look like: refusing to join or continue the game, getting upset when losing in a game or teasing peers who lose in a game. Preschool children are not expected to understand the concept of winning and losing. However, there are different ways to facilitate competitive games which should help young children gradually understand the concept of winning and losing later.

  1. Learning the game’s rules – to introduce the idea of “competition” to young children, it is important for the adult to begin with simple race games such as “running” or “car racing”. These games should help children identify and understand the concept of winning and losing. When children have a better understanding of winning and losing then they can start joining simple competitive game such as “musical chairs”. It is important to talk about the game’s rules and demonstrate the game prior to beginning to play. Moreover, you can provide verbal reminders of the game’s rules whilst playing and gradually fade out the reminder as the child gets better.
  2. Praise the child’s efforts – often we help children emphasise “winning” or “losing” when playing games. It is more helpful for children to emphasise the effort they put into the game whether or not they win or lose. This can help children build up tolerance of losing in a game.
  3. There is always another time – some children get very frustrated and upset when they lose in a game. In order to prevent these negative feelings, we can explain to the children prior to starting the game that they may win or lose and they will always get a chance to win again.
  4. Teach your child to support others – teaching children to be supportive towards others will help them understand winning and losing from a third person’s perspective. When children are being observers in a game, you can show children how to clap or cheer for their peers. You can also demonstrate how to be polite to the losing team by saying “Good game” or “That’s a fun game!”. Children should then begin to understand that trying their best is more important than winning.