Playing games with kids isn’t always sunshine and roses. I know I write about a lot of fun family memories, so it may seem that we never fight, argue, or get upset. That is false. Sometimes there are tears, frustration, and sadness. And that’s okay, too.
We try to prevent these situations before they happen (more on how to do that below), but just a few months ago my son flipped the game board for the first time. We were playing Blokus Trigon, and one of us took the space he had planned to play on next. He really, really wanted to take back the last set of moves, and we said no. So he pushed all the pieces off the board in a huff. We put the game away despite his requests for a do-over. It was late, and he was tired, and after a while he calmed down.
Really, it’s amazing that hadn’t happened before. I know I feel angry when my strategy is thwarted or I failed to foresee an opponent’s move. I want to flip the board, too. So, how do we prevent that?
We considered naming our son Calvin, and it would have made sense. He is a natural Calvin-ball player. (In Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, they make up a game called Calvin-ball with ever-changing rules. It’s impossible to understand, but it’s a whole lot of fun.) Sometimes a homemade game is all you need to have a great time.
Are you sick of Candyland? Ready to flip the Monopoly Jr. board? Wondering whether you’ll ever be able to play the games you love with your kids? Donate that copy of Chutes and Ladders, and pull out your favorite game instead. Here are five proven strategies for playing games with kids.
Use the pieces, modify the rules.
When my son was 3, he pointed at the Terra Mystica box and asked to play. A logical person would have said, “Well, the box says it’s for ages 13 and up, so let’s play Memory instead.” Instead, my husband pulled out the box and started explaining the game. They did not play with all of the rules, and they didn’t play more than a turn or two. But, they did figure out a game that worked. Over many months they built up to the full rule set.
If you’re reading one post on this site, this is it. This is the foundation of my philosophy of board gaming with kids: It’s good for them to win. Until he was about seven, my son “won” most of the games he ever played with me. And yet I never “let” him win (well, almost never).
It’s okay for kids to win when you play board games. Before you post a comment about what’s wrong with entitled kids today, read this to decide whether this makes sense for you.