The Right Board Games for Kids
by Carlos Sandico
In this day and age, the prevalence of tablets and gadgets affect how we interact with one another. Families and friends used to talk and socialize when together. Nowadays, one just pulls out a smartphone or iPad to get their entertainment fix. How often do we see people sitting together and yet are hunkered down behind their gadgets? That’s why I prefer board games. Just bring out a game and everyone gets immersed and interact with one another.
What differentiates a great board game for kids from a lesser one?
The board games that we grew up with such us Snakes & Ladders and Monopoly often brings up fond nostalgic memories. However, I do not consider them as great board games. Here are the reasons why:
1. Luck dependent
Snakes & Ladders is a random game. There is no skill or decision making involved in it. A player just rolls the dice and moves his pawn accordingly. The player is subject to the whims of the die roll as it dictates your fate. The only meaningful decision that you will ever make is whether to play the game or not. This is what we call a Roll & Move game. Some say that Monopoly can fall into this category but I digress. Monopoly’s fault is discussed later.
2. Player Elimination
The concept of player elimination is that during a game, one player is removed from the game for certain conditions. Such a game design element is not bad per se but when coupled with game length, it becomes an example of bad game design.
Monopoly falls in this category. Have you ever finished a game of Monopoly? Where no one quits the game? This takes approximately 4 hours to finish. When a player goes bankrupt, he is stuck waiting for others to finish the game. Which could be in another hour or two, thus ruining a game night where everyone should be involved.
3. Game Length
Board games for kids should not last too long. Their attention span are short and they can get bored easily. A game duration of 30-40mins is good especially if it engages them. This can make a second game welcome as everyone enjoyed the previous game.
What makes a game great for kids? Well, it’s usually the inverse of the above:
1. Skill dependent
A great game involves some sort of skill or decision making. This type of game engages kids and parents alike. This makes winning a more fulfilling accomplishment rather than relying on blind luck. It also relays a lesson that succeeding is more of skill than being lucky.
2. Engaging for all/ Enjoyable
When we play games, we all want to be involved. No one wants to be the odd person out. Playing children’s games usually entails a parent to hold back or intentionally lose so that the child can enjoy. When we parents do that, a game is not truly enjoyable as we take joy in our child’s reactions and sense of wonder. A well-designed children’s game engages even the parent on a certain level. It also draws you in along with your child in game play. It makes playing the game again less of a chore as one enjoys the experience too.
Not all games need to satisfy this criteria. Being educational does not imply that it teaches facts and figures to a child. It can be an abstract concept such as teaching a child to plan ahead, improve their memory and facilitate quick thinking. It can just improve their motor skills or improve socialization for shy kids.
Remember to talk and discuss with your child their thoughts and experiences after playing a game. This can provide insight on what games they like and can be a good bonding moment with you.
Here are my personal game recommendations that fit all these criteria:
For toddlers, it’s hard to find a game where a 3-year old can sit down and play. I have found success with this memory game.
Chicken Cha Cha/ Zicke Zacke
Theme: Chickens are learning to dance (“cha cha”) by completing circuits around the yard.
Goal: To “cha cha” your chicken past every single other player’s chicken, stealing each one’s “tail feathers” as you go by them. The first player to collect all of the tail feathers wins.
This is a great memory game for ages 3 and above. It rewards the first player to memorize all the 12 images. In most memory games, you only need to remember an image or two. Here, you need to remember images in a certain order. It’s a good game to develop memory and one of the games where toddlers and parents play at an equal level.
For preschoolers, I recommend the following dexterity games.
Coconuts is a dexterity game based on the “Monkey King” character from Chinese mythology.
In the game, players launch coconuts toward a field of cups in the middle of the playing area. Land in a cup, and you get to stack it on your player board; land in a cup on someone else’s board, and you get to move it to yours. By playing special “Monkey King Magic” cards, you can force opponents to shoot blind, take long shots, or otherwise bollix their efforts to cup a coconut. Whoever first completes a pyramid of six cups on his player board wins!
This is an excellent dexterity game for ages 6 and above. It helps in fostering the abstract concept of cause and effect and allows the child to plan ahead. Also, who doesn’t love a monkey flinging coconuts!
Another good dexterity game is Rhino Hero/Super Rhino.
Rhino Hero/ Super Rhino
Super Rhino! presents players with an incredibly heroic – and regrettably heavy – rhinoceros who is eager to climb a tall building and leap other tall buildings in a single bound. First, though, you need to construct that building. Players each start the game with five roof cards, and they take turns adding walls and roofs to a single building. On a turn, you first place walls on the highest floor, then you choose a roof card in your hand and place it on the wall. Each roof card bears markings that indicate where the next player must place walls on the card. In addition, some roof cards force a player to perform special actions, such as placing a second roof, changing the direction of play, or moving Super Rhino to a new location on the tower. Keep your hands steady!
The first player to build all of his roof cards wins the game. Alternatively, if the building collapses, the player who caused the collapse automatically loses, and the player with the fewest roof cards in hand wins.
It’s basically a form of Jenga but less noisier and more strategic. My problem with Jenga is that there is a moment in the game where the next player will always topple the tower. It basically becomes a form of trapping a player into losing. Here, the toppling of the tower is dependent on skillful card play and stacking.
For gradeschoolers, I have recommendations based on what educational aspect you want to improve. I have one for math, vocabulary and facts.
7 Ate 9
It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3! Players add, or subtract, 1, 2, or 3 to the number on the top card on the pile to determine if they have a card that can be played next. Sounds simple, but with everyone playing simultaneously, the options are constantly changing. The first player out of cards wins!
The game enhances a child’s math skills as he tries to solve addition and subtraction in real time. Sharpens his skills while under time pressure. A challenge even for parents!
Word on the Street Jr.
In Word on the Street, players – either individually or in teams – try to claim letter tiles from the game board.
To set up the game, seventeen letter tiles (all the consonants in English other than j, q, x, and z) are placed in a strip down the center of the game board – the median strip of the street, if you will, which has two “traffic lanes” on either side of it. On a turn, one team is presented with a category such as “types of fruit” or “something a player is wearing”, and that team has thirty seconds to come up with an answer in that category, then move the letters in that word toward their side of the game board. Any letters in the word that are not on the game board are skipped. If the answer were “pineapple”, for example, the team would move P, N, P, P and L.
If a team moves a letter off the game board, it has claimed that letter and that tile will not move for the remainder of the game. The first team to claim eight letter tiles wins!
A more enjoyable form of Scrabble. This game helps expand a child’s vocabulary as he strives to come up with longer words to score points. The game requires quick thinking under pressure as you need to come up with an answer and spell it to score. I expect parents to have a good time with this too.
Timeline: Diversity is a card game played using 110 cards. Each card depicts a historical event on both sides, with the year in which that event occurred on only one side. Players take turns placing a card from their hand in a row on the table. After placing the card, the player reveals the date on it. If the card was placed correctly with the date in chronological order with all other cards on the table, the card stays in place; otherwise the card is removed from play and the player takes another card from the deck.
The first player to get rid of all his cards by placing them correctly wins. If multiple players go out in the same round, then everyone else is eliminated from play and each of those players are dealt one more card for another round of play. If only one player has no cards after a bonus round, he wins; otherwise play continues until a single player goes out.
My all time favorite as an educational facts tool is the Timeline series of games. In this game series, one learns which event occurred first as cards are arranged in chronological order. The cards depict the year an event occurred and the inventor or discoverer of an item. As the games can be combined with each other this makes for a very enjoyable game.
All games are available for play at Ludo Boardgame Bar & Cafe (www.facebook.com/ludogamescafe ). Feel free to drop by and try them out first if they are a good fit for you and your family. If you have any questions about this article, do message me on Facebook or at the Ludo website (www.ludogames.ph)
Comments are closed