If you are having a little trouble uncovering the inner-workings of one of your charges, I suggest playing a game. It can provide you with clues about a particular behaviour and other personality concerns.

My choice was a world championship table tennis marathon. Ideal for young Andrew, who is active, competitive, and has excellent dexterity. Actually, it was his decision over a game of chess or basketball.

For a boy of nine, I discovered he is quite cautious. No wild bashing or swings, preferring accuracy to taking a chance.

He has a sharp mind for keeping score but I already knew that. Just wanted to test him. I can trust him absolutely as he has no interest in winning dishonestly and there are no hysterics when he does lose.

Just quietly, I was the one who made a song and dance over a winning game whilst Andrew calmly accepted defeat with no need to gloat when he thrashed me 4-1.

Possibly a future champion but he would have to decide between karate and chess and swimming and football and all the others he excels in. My joy is that I can see a lovely soul and a wonderful man in years to come.

A personality shines through not just when there is homework to be done, chores to attend to or requests to be carried out. Sometimes it is easier and calmer to work out and work through an issue without the former pressure.

Games and play provide a fun and relaxed environment to discuss a niggling concern. Even constructing an intricate Lego masterpiece or simply rearranging furniture in a dollhouse is a great opportunity to get a child to open up. No need for an interrogation. A question or comment to start in between the play is enough. Patience is the key, so keep it short and expect more than one session.

Nanny lesson over. I need to attend to serious table tennis training before our next marathon. Not that I have any issues being outclassed by a nine-year-old.

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