As a kid with three siblings, my family often played board games so it is something that I have tried to encourage with my kids. Board games can teach the lots of fabulous skills like team work, problem solving, and strategy skills. Even as very small children there are games that can teach colour recognition, basic number skills, pattern recognition and language. These days we are often tempted to give kids games to play on an iPad or computer, but there are social skills that you don’t get playing an electronic game by yourself. I still love the board games for the chance to interact with my kids and to encourage them to interact with each other.
Here are 5 of our favourite board games.
Cluedo is a game of sleuthing and problem solving. The concept is that someone has been murdered and you have to work out who did it. At the start of the game, three cards are chosen and hidden from everyone. These are who committed the murder, where they did it and what weapon they used. Everyone gets some clue cards and a list of the possibilities to help them solve the case. Then players roll the dice and move around the game board trying to guess what happened and gradually eliminating possibilities until they have figured it out.
My 10 year old particularly loves this game. She is very into spy and mystery books at the moment so this is right down her alley. We spent the first couple of games talking about strategies that we might use to work things out and the thinking involved in ruling out items for sure from our list. A bonus of this game is that it seems to make my kids feel like they are super clever when they solve it – great for their self esteem.
Monopoly is one of those games that you really need to have a few hours spare to play. I can remember as a kid getting quite sick of playing it, but it is perfect for a long day stuck at home in the holidays. We played the original version of this game with paper money at Grandma’s house a little while ago but when I saw the chance to buy a version with “electronic banking” and no paper money I grabbed it. The kids loved the chance to play the game with credit cards of their own, and it certainly made it easier for them. Mind you, if you want to teach kids about counting and making change with money, the paper money version is a fabulous game for it.
The idea of this game is that you move around the board buying properties and paying rent to the owners of properties you land on. You can make money on some squares but you have to pay money on some moves. Gradually as you collect properties you can then build houses and hotels on them, increasing the rental income you receive from other players. We took the chance to explain to our kids about the ins and outs of property ownership in real life as well as banking and home loan concepts.
One thing we really found when we were playing this game was that we had the opportunity to talk about how sometimes you don’t get to buy all the properties you’d like to. The kids would often go into the game with a grand plan and then be upset when someone else purchased something before they had the chance to, so we had to work through dealing with that and making a new plan as the game goes on, rather than giving up.
Mousetrap is a game for those kids who love to build stuff. The first part of the game is spent constructing an elaborate trap for mice which requires careful building with a steady hand. Once the trap is built, the goal is to be the last mouse to be caught in it. My kids love the crazy trap pieces and have been known to pull this game out just to build the trap and play with it, rather than to play the game itself.
This game is great for counting, learning to share and fine motor skills. My kids often negotiate with each other to build certain sections of the trap – their favourite parts! – without realising how they are developing their negotiating skills.
Jenga is another building game. It is a simple set of wooden blocks which stack up to make a tower. Each person takes a turn to pull out a block from the stack. The goal is to not make the tower topple. It is a simple game but sometimes simple is really fun. Mr Happy especially loves the huge crash when the tower comes down!
There is some strategy involved in this game and it develops an understanding of some basic building concepts as they work out which blocks are most likely to keep the tower steady. We have also played with the blocks as building blocks. Mr Happy loves to build anything for his cars and these are great for building tracks and garages.
Guess Who is a guessing game for two players. There are two sets of people, animals monsters and more in our game. Each player picks a person and then they each try to guess who the other one has picked by asking questions and eliminating options. This game develops their thinking and questioning skills as they ask things like “Does your person have brown hair?” or “Is your person wearing something red?”. After a while they also start thinking about strategy and which questions will rule out lots of options at once, helping them to guess the answer before their partner does.
For younger children, this is a great game to develop their language skills. For older children, it is great for developing thinking skills and building more detailed description skills. As a high school teacher, I used to get my students to play this game in Japanese to help build their descriptive language skills and practice a particular sentence structure.
What are the favourite board games at your place? I’d love more suggestions!