Family Magazine

Using Board Games as a Teaching Tool

By Elizabeth Comiskey @lazyhippiemama

candy-landToddler-saurus Rex recently played his first game of Candyland.  He did a great job. He identified all of the colors correctly and, after a few turns with me helping, had the general idea that you move your little gingerbread man to a square on the board that matched the color of the square on the card.  He had a tendency to pick ANY random square on the board that matched the color but, you know, he’s 2.  He’ll figure it all out eventually. Sadly, he lost interest and wandered off to do something else ONE turn before beating the entire family.  There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

As soon as I’m reasonably confident none of the pieces will get jammed up his nose (we had a recent incident with a plastic bean from Don’t Spill the Beans) I may have to let him have a go at working on his counting skills with “Hi-Ho Cherry-o.”

See that bump on the side of his nose? Yup. That's the bean.

See that bump on the side of his nose? Yup. That’s the bean.

Playing board games can be a fabulous way to sneaky-teach!  I have never met a child who didn’t like to play them and they almost all have some educational value.  Here are a few of my favorites for older kids:

Monopoly and The Game of Life – Not only do these games both require constant counting of money and making change, they both have instructions that include things like, “pay 10x the amount of your roll.”  Also, in Monopoly, you have to add the totals of the dice together so it’s great for practicing quickly coming up with small sums.

Cadoo – This game is full of interesting trivia and pushes kids to think outside the box when communicating ideas in unusual ways.

Yahtzee – More math. I’m all about the math games since my girl is so resistant to anything numerical… unless she doesn’t realize it’s actually math. Then she’s actually quite good at it. Go figure. (Hahaha! Get it?  “Figure.” *ahem*)

Battleship – If you are trying to get a child to understand how to plot or read a chart this game is a gem! It is WAY more fun than any worksheet and it’s so visual that it’s quite easy to understand. Parent bonus points – it doesn’t take 1,000 hours to finish a game. This game gets far more entertaining if you act like the Grim Reaper from “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” while playing it.

Blokus – We only get to play this game when we visit my sister and Sweet Hippie Daughter loves it so much she asks for it every time we are there.  It is a simple concept but the task of working the pieces into just the right shapes and spaces is a brain stretcher every time.

Scrabble SLAM – This card game version of the classic board game is a little easier for kids, I think, because there’s no pressure to unscramble a group of letters into a big, complex word. Instead, you are simply changing a single letter in a word to create a new word.  It’s excellent for spelling and reading.

What about you? Have you ever used a game to help your child brush up on a skill?  

Speaking of games – this isn’t a board game, but I thought this would be a great opportunity to give a shout out to one of the site’s awesome sponsors.  Dolphy Games offers some of the best educational computer games I’ve seen.  Not only are they well made, fun and colorful, but each game is personalized to your child so it will instruct and encourage them using their own name.  My kids love it and I bet yours would, too and their prices are super-reasonable which is always a big bonus.

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