There are oodles of benefits to family board games. However, on a selfish level, I really just want my kids to love board games so it can continue to be a ‘go to’ family activity as the kids get older! For that to work out, they have to grow up loving board games. We have had a lot of successes (and some failures!) playing board games with our kids, which I’ve used to put together the following tips to raise board game loving kids!
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5 Tips to Raise Board Game Loving Kids
1. Simplify when learning new games
When teaching kids a new board game, it’s easy to forget how much of a strain it puts on them. Most games for younger kids seem simple to adults who have years of experience with all sorts of different board games. Combine the new concepts kids are picking up with the fact that most games for kids are designed to teach them as well and it can be very intimidating for kids to learn new board games! To counteract this, we try to simplify games where possible. There are a few ways we do this. First is looking for ways to simplify the rules during the first play through. Some games do a great job of laying this out for you (thank you Robot Turtles!), while other leave it for you to figure out.
The main ways we have simplified games are (1) removing some of the more complex rules and (2) easing the ‘learning’ burden of the game. Depending on the game we may do one or both of these.
Removing Complex Rules
Removing more complex rules is pretty straight forward. As an example, when learning sleeping queens the first play through we took out a number of the cards and just focused on a couple of the special cards (knights and dragons). This made it so much easier for him to understand the cards in play, then we incrementally added the other cards back in and he had the whole game figured out in no time!
Easing the Learning ‘Burden’
Easing the ‘learning’ burden can be a little trickier. Most kids games try to teach kids something, colors, addition, reading or something else. That’s one of our favorite things about kids board games, but when kids are learning a new game it can be a lot to also ask them to learn a skill at the same time. During the first play through (or two) we don’t stress the learning aspect. Maybe that means you do the piece movement the first time so they aren’t stressing about their counting if that is a developing skill for them. This will greatly vary by game an age but it can really help kids pick up a new game, and have fun while doing it.
2. Match game themes to your kids interests
Something I never would have guessed is how much the game theme would impact the fun factor. As an adult, the board game theme doesn’t really matter. With kids the theme can make or break the game. The right theme can really ignite their will and determination to learn a new game. This was really eye opening for me when our five year old was really into medieval times. He had seen my wife and I playing Carcassonne and ‘building castles’. After seeing that he was determined to learn the game. I tried to stall him with “you’re not old enough” to no avail. When I finally gave in and taught him he was SO determined to learn! I of course employed tip number one and played a simplified version. Fast forward and Carcassonne is now one of his favorite games to grab from the game closet!
3. Let them make mistakes
It is so natural as parents to want to ‘help’ our kids. In board games that manifests itself by suggesting different moves or better strategies. While I’m not saying you should never give guidance (I certainly still do it more than I’d like!), try to limit it as much as possible. I view board games like a puzzle, when you tell kids the best move it is like rushing in at the last minute and sticking the last piece in place! Kids will learn from watching you play and through trial and error, and they will feel better about themselves for figuring it out. That first time your kid beats you with a move you didn’t even see, you’ll really feel proud!
4. End on a positive note
If something is fun, kid’s brains tell them to keep doing it until its not fun anymore. You want them to remember the fun part, not the end when they got bored! As a parent your job is to figure out that point and help the gaming end on a positive note. For new games we usually shoot for one play through and then take a break. New games take a lot of concentration and sometimes kids don’t realize how hard they are focused until they are completely spent. Once the kids have learned the game playing is less draining, and we’re more flexible about replays. We just make sure to watch for when the attention span starts to wane and the wiggles take over to guide us to the right time to stop playing.
5. If the kids aren’t having fun, stop!
I was raised to finish what I started, and while I do agree that is an important trait for somethings, don’t take it to the board game room! When we first started playing board games with our kids, sometimes they just weren’t in the right frame of mind. Maybe the game wasn’t a good fit, or they just needed to be outside running around instead, or something else entirely. My first instinct was to press on…big mistake. This led to the kids causing more and more of a raucous until someone got really upset, and the board game was left collecting dust in the closet until the traumatic event was forgotten.
With time, we’ve learned that its really tough to change an attitude mid-game and powering through just leads to associating negative emotions with board games. If the kids aren’t having fun, we pack up the game or set it aside for later. What a change this makes! No more board game blow-ups!
These tips have helped us have a lot more fun while board gaming. When kids have fun board gaming they want to play them more often which creates family fun and more opportunities to learn through playing games!
What are your favorite tips and tricks when playing games with your kids? Comment below!
Ready to find the perfect games to try these kids board game tips on? Check out the links below to find our favorite board games for your age range!