Sunday Levity: Lessons on strategy from a kindergartener

Checkers, candy and rules of the game

This Saturday, the father thought, he would complete a few more chapters of the book he was supposed to reading. But before long, the kindergartener was back in the room.

“Let’s play checkers”, she said. “I like checkers”. [For the uninitiated, her likes change roughly every 45 seconds]

“Okay”, said the father, putting away the book.

She took out the board and the coins. Then she noticed a tube of candy on the table.

“Can I have a candy, please?” she asked, sweetly. [For the uninitiated, she does this every 45 seconds, until the tube is empty]

The father worried about what the mother would say if she found out that the father had allowed the kindergartener to have yet another candy. He had to think fast.

Firmly, he said “Do you want to to eat the sweet or play checkers?” He complimented himself for coming up with this masterstroke. She could either eat the candy and leave him in peace, or play checkers and let him show his wife that contrary to popular belief, he was serious about discipline and all that.

“I’ll want to eat the candy first, and then let’s play checkers.” The reply strangely made him feel rather proud.

“Let me teach you how it’s played. You need to place your coins (she wanted the red ones) on these squares like this. I’ll place mine at the other end. Then we move…and if I jump over your coin, I’ve ‘killed’ it, and it goes off the board. The objective of the game is…”

Before he could finish, the kindergartener was neatly taking her coins off the board, and placing it behind her.

“Wh..what are you doing?” he asked. “How can we play the game if you take your coins off the board?”

“If my coins are going to be killed, I don’t want to put them on the board”, she said.

The father thought she had won. And he could read the book now.

“Let’s play Memory”, she said. “I like Memory.”

9 thoughts on “Sunday Levity: Lessons on strategy from a kindergartener”

  1. Quoting Thomas Schelling:

    Salami tactics, we can be sure, were invented by a child … Tell a child not to go in the water and he’ll sit on the bank and submerge his bare feet; he is not yet ‘in’ the water. Acquiesce, and he’ll stand up; no more of him is in the water than before. Think it over, and he’ll start wading, not going any deeper; take a moment to decide whether this is different and he’ll go a little deeper, arguing that since he goes back and forth it all averages out. Pretty soon we are calling to him not to swim out of sight, wondering whatever happened to all our discipline.

  2. Aha, they are really smart. They sit and make you think. The best laid plans of dads just disappear into thin air in front of kids. Its nice to sit back and smile 🙂

  3. I think I should make money and retire before children like her grow up. Everytime I meet my 5 year old niece, I feel stupid. What a scary prospect to work with them in the same office. 🙂

  4. 6-yr olds today are scarily bright, and even more frighteningly, very comfortable talking in public or with strangers… my 6-yr old niece could be easily mistaken for a 10-yr old based on her conversation.

    Echo Sriram’s words… I need to get out of the way, before these kids enter the workforce. Otherwise, this dinosaur will be easy pickings…

    Is this the Flynn effect?

    Or just more exposure

  5. “If my coins are going to be killed, I don’t want to put them on the board”, she said.

    That’s a bit on the idealistic extreme, but she is young and has much to learn from a realist parent 🙂

    On the other hand, the realist could learn a thing or two from the idealist as well!

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