Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Playing Board Games with Kids


Gaming with Kids: Part 2

Yesterday I shared our suggestions on the Best Games for Kids. This list is obviously not complete, since there are so many games to choose from, but I hope it will help others find new games to play with their children! Now I am sharing advice and suggestions for playing games with kids. I asked other parents from various Facebook Groups to put in their 2 cents, so you will have more than just my own advice.

If you are just beginning to play board games, especially with younger children, try out a game that either interests them or highlights their skills. So if your child has great memory skills or loves to play puzzles, choose a memory or puzzle game. We have about 6 different memory games, each with a different theme, because my children love the game but their interest in the characters change. Introducing them to a game that will highlight their skills will excite and challenge them and make them want to play more. And once they are more familiar with playing games, they will become interested in other games.

Or perhaps you have a stack of board games at home, but you either never know what to play or your child always wants to play the same game. Rather than letting that continue, turn choosing a game into a game. Have each person write down the name of the game they want to play and put it in a hat. The choice will be random and if you decide to play all the games chosen, then they will still get to play the game they wanted, and so will everyone else.

We always play to the end of the game and wait patiently for everyone to finish. While we still encourage children to win, we also cheer on the players who aren't "first". That way they are taught to finish what they start, even if it means they came in last place. It's a good life lesson in the making.

Munchkin and Bean are luckily pretty laid back gamers. Sometimes they are impatient to get through a game just to get to the next one, but they rarely ever argue or get upset at other players. When there is a disagreement, we stop the game and ask what the issue is. When they are acting impatient, we remind them that they asked to play this game first and we will finish with or without them. Sometimes that means one of them leaves for 5 minutes to play or do something else. We leave their player piece on the game and when they eventually return, they pick up where they left off. If they have no interest to return then we simply finish and put everything back in the box. Sometimes they just need to stretch their legs and do something else for a minute, and we work around that (especially Munchkin, who is 3 and does his best to keep up with his sister, who is 5).

Keep gaming stress-free. If there is a meltdown, we try to talk it out. What is the issue? Why are they upset? What can we do to fix it? Sometimes that means going over the rules again or giving them suggestions. We have actually only dealt with meltdowns with other children who are visiting, and Munchkin and Bean are really supportive and try to help out the player who is upset. Bean is especially supportive of new gamers and younger kids, and will show them how to make moves, how to play, when to draw a card or roll the dice, etc. We just try to smooth out the issue and get back to gaming when everyone is in a better mood, but we won't continue until everyone is on the same page. And if the issue cannot be resolved, we simply put the game away. Then we occupy ourselves with something else and there are no hard feelings.

Playing games is also a great way to learn manners (can you hand me a card, please? thank you. you're welcome), how to take turns, how to be respectful of others, how to be supportive whether you are winning or losing, etc. Gaming can be an educational and fun social experience.

We put emphasis on whose turn it is, especially with younger kids, by saying their name (now it's K's turn) and letting them know what to do next (draw a card, roll the dice, choose where to place the tile, flick the spinner) and when they are finished we say whose turn it is next, so they start to understand the play order.

When it comes to making mistakes or changing their mind, we try to be lenient to a point. When it comes to being an over-enthusiastic spinner (Bean) we try to remind her only to spin once. If they flick it and it barely moves, we tell them to try again. But if they get a good spin, we'll move the spinner away and let it finish, because sometimes they want to flick it 5 more times. As for cards, if they draw a card (like in Candyland), they have to move to that space. But cards in games like Robot Turtle, which they are still getting used to, we allow them to change their mind (which also happens to be allowed in the game - you just tap the bug and you're allowed one change per turn) and choose a different card. In games like My First Carcassonne we usually let them place their tiles wherever they want, but we will also show them where they can place it to earn points (placing their meeples when the roads close). We typically let them make their own decisions unless they ask for help or it's near the end of the game and they want help to score a couple more points.


We also allow them to play with their pieces - the meeple Olympics! :)


We don't "let them win," but I'll admit to helping them win. I don't do this with just my kids either. If we are playing with new gamers and I happen to have an abundance of resources (Catan), I will offer them a trade (3 rocks and 2 wheat for that sheep you don't know what to do with). I can be a very generous player and it's not against the rules. However, when I help out the kids in games (like playing tiles in Carcassonne that specifically builds their colors' road or closes it), they almost never actually notice.

I tend to play for the sake of having fun and less for the idea of winning. I try to model this for the kids. We welcome competitiveness, but only if it's good-natured. I feel like when they are older they will likely become more competitive, because they will also be watching the way Albz plays, and he is very competitive. If your children are naturally competitive, then I suggest teaching them how to be a good sport about it. It's ok to be upset if you lose, so long as you're not mean to the other players, and you should always be supportive of the other players. When my kids play against each other, they still cheer each other on.

I can't remember where I saw the quote, but it went something like, "families that play together, stay together." Update: Found that quote at: The Board Game Family. Playing board games builds family bonds and lasting memories. You may have a dedicated family game night, play once a month, or only on vacations, or perhaps even more irregularly than that, but regardless, your children will have memories of playing games with their family growing up. And if you play board games often, you'll probably notice how much they learn, considering that there are so many games out there that build strong learning skills like logic, memory and strategy.

We never try to limit the length of a game or hurry it along. If it's near to bedtime, we simply let the game continue. Staying up a few extra minutes is not going to make much of a difference and children often make mistakes or become upset if they feel like they are being hurried. If we start a game, we finish it.

Let your kids choose the games they want to play. Let them browse the games at the store, let them watch reviews online (TableTop is a pretty good source, but please be advised that some game reviews don't mind their language - if that's an issue for you), let them discover new games. Chances are they will discover awesome games that they will love and want to play for years to come. Our kids love visiting the comic store (it's called that, but is also a game store), because they enjoy checking out new games with us. They ask us what games we like, why we want to play them, when they will be able to play them. They also get to choose games for themselves (though usually game stores have a limited selection of "kid" games). We typically find games for them at Target, educational stores at the mall, or online.

My biggest suggestion is to just let them play. They will appreciate the time you spend with them and they will have a ton of fun. If you are playing a game with older and younger children, feel free to alter the rules to include younger players. Rule books will sometimes have suggestions or different rules on how to play with younger kids. So long as everyone is having fun, that's all that matters.

And if you're busy and don't want to play, and trust them with the pieces, let them play by themselves. Sometimes they play Candyland and make up their own rules, like draw two cards or collect the desserts, or play Spot It! like dominoes. Letting siblings play together will also build bonds between them and you can expect them to create some pretty crazy new rules.

I fondly remember playing Monopoly with my sisters, even though it was the only game we owned growing up, because we always had so much fun with it. Although, to be fair, we usually took turns making up new rules for the game. Like, if you rolled a natural 12 on getting out of jail, you could actually "break out of jail" and rob the bank instead. Whenever you "pay the bank" your money is put in the center and when you land on Free Parking, you can collect that money as if you "won the lottery."

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Some fellow bloggers and parents have chimed in with their two cents to share what gaming is like at their house and what games they love.

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Ticia M. shared -
1. Find games you love and simplify them to your kids' level, so I love Carcassone, so I simplified it when my kids were 4 to completing cities and roads, but not worrying about points as much, and now at 8 and 9 my kids are playing Touch of Evil and multi-hour games that many adults don't understand.
2. Since we've played games since the kids were little and talked about how no one enjoys playing with a sore loser OR a bragging winner, that's cut down on the problems. We also play several cooperative games, which my daughter much prefers.
3. Most popular games in our family: Touch of Evil, Castle Panic, King of Tokyo, Kings of Israel (that's a new favorite just in the last few weeks).
What Can Be Learned From Role Playing Games
10 Days of Using Games in School

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Jen W. shared -
We LOVE Orchard Toys Ltd (here is why Perfect Games for Children) as they are often both skill, tactical and luck based. So the oldest doesn't always win! My boys are only 14 months apart so ultra competitive even if we are not. Losing with grace is the hardest thing to learn for any child and we are not there yet. But we all play together and sometimes even the adults win. When they were younger we often paired one child with one adult. The youngest always goes first. Here are some of my post on the games we love:
Family Board Games Currently Playing
Screenfree Family Games Night

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Anna M. shared -
We play a lot of board games, but to give my younger children practice in playing without having to deal with the competitive element of siblings I used to play a lot one to one with each child. That was a much more relaxed and less frustrating atmosphere for them to practice those turn taking skills and get used to the process of playing board games, rather than throwing them in at the deep end with older siblings. When they are starting out, we also verbalize "mum's turn, t's turn, z's turn" using their names to reinforce the turn taking and get them used to waiting. Playing one to one also gives them less time to wait in between turns when they are starting out. My middle boy is Autistic and these skills like turn taking are not something that always came naturally to him, so it's something we have had to really work on and teach and board games are perfect for it!

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Liska M. shared -
We do not play any board games with my son yet, so I have only experience with playing with nieces and nephews. I do have a list of our favorite games to play with children (mostly 7+, but have a few for younger kids): Board Games for Nurturing Creativity

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Tiffany from Stuff & Things blog shared -
I'm not great at playing games with my littles, but I like playing with my older kids. When we play board/card games I try to choose games that are a challenge for me as well so it will be fair. We don't let each other win, because that's no fun for anybody. We make the kids stick with the game until the end, even if they're losing, and we don't allow gloating. Good-natured celebration is fine, though. Our favorite pre-teen/teen games are Munchkins, Clue, and Farkle.

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Kendra P. shared -
My husband wrote this guest post about how to raise a gamer. Your Turn Guest: Paul Peterson - Raising A Gamer

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MaryAnne K. shared -
We simplify the games to start off to keep them going smoothly. Here's a post on our simplified version of Monopoly: Simplified Monopoly (Dada Post)

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Debra H. shared -
We play games almost every day, if my daughter melts down about losing, we immediately stop playing and explain to her that nobody wants to play when someone throws a tantrum, the same thing if she tries to cheat. She doesn't do much of either anymore because she knows that it ends up the fun. We also come up with games as a family, we made one called muffin ball that she loves.

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Elizabeth D. from Just Sayin' shared -
We love games at our house and are very competitive! We do prizes often (candy bars, whoopee cushions, silly string, etc.) and normally make a big batch of popcorn and sometimes do rootbeer floats.
When they were little if someone was sad that they lost we'd explain "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose." When they were younger we'd team up, but now we play individually.
Some of our faves: Pit, Aggravation, Yahtzee and Ticket to Ride seem to be played the most often. But we have tons and it's hard to choose!

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Natalie F. shared-
We play a lot of games with our 8 year old daughter. Basically, we don't let her win just because she is young, but let her take back wrong moves. When she was younger, we dealt with loser upsets in a similar way that Debra (see above) outlined.
I wrote about our favorites here: Game Recommendations for Brainy Kids

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April L. shared -
I love to play monopoly Jr with my preschool daughter. We use it as a math lesson and we play by the rules she just turned 5. My advice consistency and fun. Also use age appropriate games. Always play to have fun and if you don't win maybe you will next time. In addition to homeschool time we have family game night.

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Pegi T. shared -
Our favorite family games are Parcheesi and Monopoly. We have game night once or twice a week.

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Christy K. from Houseful of Chaos shared -
Homemade Educational Games for Homeschoolers

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Jenny U. shared -
Our favorite game right now is Scrambled States. My daughter is 10 and we play it at the dinner table at least 3 times a week.

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Heather J. shared -
Our favorites are Scrambled states, Battleship, Monopoly & Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.

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Meg G. from Homeschool Gameschool shared -
An entire area of my blog is about board games, mostly reviews and make your owns: http://homeschoolgameschool.com/boardcard/

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Meegan Z. shared -
We started having a family game night about four months ago with our three and five year olds. We all love it! It's become a highlight of the week. We play a Frozen board game similar to chutes and ladders, Ants in my pants, Don't Spill the Beans, Thomas the Tank Engine version of UNO, Bingo and a Jack & the Neverland Pirates board game. It only lasts about 20 minutes because that's the attention span of our youngest. And we do follow the game rules. We actually started game night as a way to encourage our littlest to follow rules, take turns, etc. I see us doing game night for many years to come.

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Carlee R. shared -
We have played games with our kids since they were 9 months old. We would even make up silly games with coasters on the tables at restaurants. Our favorites for K and under were memory (we often made our own Memory using characters they loved--like who fought who in Star Wars!), Sequence Jr., and Blokus, and card games like go fish. In lower elementary we play Risk, Monopoly, Acquire, and Chess, and card games like war. Now that we have middle schoolers, we play "adult" strategy games: Settlers of Catan, Allies and Axis, King of New York (our 8 year old plays this one too), Battle Cry, Samurai Warriors, etc. And, card games like Pinochle.
We play for fun, but, when a game coincides with school, like Battle Cry is all about the Civil War, we play it for school too.
We always have played by the rules, even when they were little. The first few times they play, they are on a parent's team so they have help. We do read them cards they can't read, and then "forget" they have that card.
We have NEVER, EVER let our kids win. We modeled winning graciously when we won, and insisted on excellent sportsmanship for losers and winners. We will play all the way through--to last place (like Candyland--just keep going until everyone has finished). It's a good winner who will stick around and cheer for the last place person. Our kids are now excellent winners and losers, and we are all very competitive. If you play some "luck" games (Candyland) and some strategy games (Sequence), everyone will get to win at some point.
I would tell parents to play, play, play. Games build math skills, reading skills and life skills, and often fine motor skills. They are fun and bonding. They give rise to great conversations. I am convinced they develop higher level thinking skills too. We don't let them win because that's not real life. Learning how to lose at games with their family helps kids learn how to be a good loser in sports, competitions, and in life in general. Same for learning how to be a gracious winner.

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Olivia S. shared -
My son is 5 and we are very much into board games. Mostly for fun but they're also educational. Hoot, Owl, Hoot!, Race to the Treasure, Pet House, Sum Swamp, Memory, Obstacles, Community, Harvest Time, Stone Soup, Count Your Chickens, Swish, Acuity, Bible Trivia, Rivers Roads & Rails, Addition Bingo, Boggle Jr, Zingo, What's Gnu, Starfall (the board game), and Quiddler Jr. We rarely play Chutes & Ladders or Candy Land because my son hates to lose and just gives up if it's looking like he's going to lose. He doesn't complain, just loses the desire to continue.

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Dave P. from Bloke School shared -
We use lots of board games at our place. Here are a few posts I have written about them: HerbalistGolden Eggs, Their Drills Were Bloodless Battles.

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Jennifer S. shared -
We play board games and non board games with our boys. My 4 yo loves games and is currently working on learning all the rules to Uno. He likes to be included in the family game night. If we are playing a game that is too advanced for his age, we will team him up with someone else to help him learn and include him. We also do tic tac toe and the connect the dots to create the most squares with them. We see this as quality family time. Yes, there is educational aspects to the games but that's not why we buy the majority of them. (I have two which we bought primarily for educational reasons: Rummy Roots and Boggle Jr.) We will try to include my sister and her family and/or my parents on family game night.

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What advice do you have for parents who are introducing their children to board or card games? Do you ever create your own rules to include a younger player in a game? How do you deal with a child's frustration or anger if they don't win?
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