5 Lessons Learned from Playing Board Games
by Sherr Artemenko, Play on Words
The holidays say family time and as the snow falls and forces us inside by the fire, we have a perfect time to pull out a favorite board game to name each other’s doodles, race for some treasure or spin a story from picture cubes.
What can kids learn from playing board games?
1. Social language: Kids learn the language of social skills as they take turns, respond to a player’s last move and are good sports win or lose. Preschoolers have a harder time reigning in their desire to win, so cooperative games are a great choice for their game cupboard. Here, emphasis is taken off of competing against other players and on teaming to overcome the ogre, cat or villain. I’m constantly modeling “Great job” or “Nice playing” for kids to encourage each other when they lose.
Players begin Race to the Treasure by taking turns drawing path cards to make a continuous line from START to the treasure, collecting 3 keys to unlock the treasure before the Ogre beats you to it! Lots of conversation ensues when players are strategizing on where to put their path card to get to the treasure the fastest in this cooperative learning game.
Kids loved moving around the forest game board, collecting animal picture cards to combine into a “croctopus,” “birdle” or “squale”–(crocodile+octopus, bird+turtle, or squirrel+whale). Thankfully they have a “trade” option to negotiate with a peer for the animal to complete their creature. Kids laugh as they practice saying the goofy names of their new animals, use language to negotiate a trade, and talk about which animals they need.
2. Concepts: Children learn counting, first, next, last as they take turns and move their pirates, or gingerbread man in a game. I find that kids often verbalize their position such as, “I am only 2 spaces behind you,” or “I just need 3 more to get in front of you.” Using spacial words like “more, less, first, next, last,” throughout a game builds vocabulary.
What’s It? is a cooperative game where players interpret doodle cards and score points for thinking alike. Roll the dice with category options such as you love it, use it, wear it, or don’t want it, flip over a doodle card, and record at least 3 guesses based on the drawing and category, trying to think like your fellow players. Thinking in categories is a higher level language activity as players have to call up vocabulary within a narrower class of words.
Little girls love a tea party as they “earn” treats by blowing on their teacup to spin a color, or squeezing the air puffer Teapot. Encouraging good manners, this game seamlessly integrates pretend play with fun, beginning game play. Children are exercising matching, decision-making, good manners and language skills as they pour a cup of tea for a friend before themselves, decide where to place their treats, learn colors and chat it up at the tea party!
3. Language of grammar: Some board games are designed to require asking questions, adding on to a story using conjunctions, or describing using rich adjectives for players to guess their object. Repeated practice using specific parts of speech strengthens language skills.
Who am I? An astronaut? Rain boots? Or a fried egg? The “Guesser” straps on the headband holding a picture card. Through a series of yes/ no questions, the child determines what picture is on his forehead. Asking and answering questions, thinking in categories and deductive reasoning all play into a great language building experience.
Take a trip with Rory’s Story Cubes Voyages using the 54 images to generate epic stories! Players took off in many directions, inspired by the 9 6-sided cubes depicting images from a pirate, giant, staircase, glasses, cracked egg, to a musical note, puzzle piece or rain cloud. Players enjoy solo story telling or group productions, adding on cubes as they expand their stories.
4. Emergent reading skills: As kids approach school age they are interested in letters as they recognize them on signs and cereal boxes. Fun games that incorporate reading skills are like popping yummy vitamins.
Kids get so absorbed in this game Bingo, sliding the “zinger” that they don’t realize they are learning to recognize and read words that aren’t easy to learn but make up for 50-75% of the words in written material.
uKloo Early Reader Treasure Hunt Game and FREE App by uKloo.
Kids love a treasure hunt so get out the clues and don’t let on that they are learning to read in the process! uKloo provides a “Picture Helper” chart to reference words they don’t know, as they race through the house following directions to arrive at the prized “Surprise” card at the end. Download their new FREE app.
Hop on a jeep and start your trip across a game board of desert, ice capped mountains, rain forest and tropics to capture animals and sites by photograph filling in the vowels to advance to win.
5. Language of critical thinking and reasoning: As children get older they enjoy games that require some strategy, involving predicting, inferring, and cause-effect as they lay out their game plan.
SimplyFun’s game “Qualities” is a natural language catalyst and a creative way to get to know and be known by friends. Up to seven players take turns identifying and rating certain qualities in themselves. What do I find more relaxing? Organizing, going to a park or visiting a museum? Or rate a player’s traits from aspiring, balanced, or commanding! So much conversation ensues as players defend their positions and reveal who is best “known” by their player peers.
Adapting the popular app to a board game, Ravensburger has added significant math learning and strategy, that generates conversation and thinking out loud. Doodle Jump, now a hands-on board game experience, challenges players to roll the 6 die to combine and count them as needed to match a number on the the reachable pads, strategizing as you aim for certain jumps and utilize special tiles while taking risk with subsequent rolls. A game for 8 years and up, we were surprised by all the table talk as kids figured out their next move.