Including Little Kids in Board Games

Games can be fantastic teaching tools. Some games have amazing math manipulatives, others might teach game theory, still more can motivate kids to improve their reading skills or gather subject knowledge.

The problem is, games can also generate a lot of problems for young children. Some children can’t read and others get upset when they lose.

There are games geared towards little children, but what’s more fun is when everyone in the family (or in any other gathering) can play the same game and still have fun!

Choose cooperative games.

Not every game has to have one player win and another lose. There are games where all the players work together to either win or lose together. This is great for kids who are perfectionists and hate losing, for situations where kids can’t read (if you’re working together, people can help read your cards for you), and children who might need a little more emotional maturity to handle competitive games.

Some of our favorite cooperative games include:

  • Castle Panic — A sort of tower defense game where all the players need to work together to defeat a whole army of bad guys coming to take down the castle. You can have a winner who received more points than other players, but you still all win or lose together. You can also choose to just not count the points.
  • Forbidden Island — A team of treasure hunters needs to find four important objects and get off of the island before it sinks. Each player has their own special skill.
  • Pandemic — This is by the same company as Forbidden Island, but this time you are a team of scientists trying to save the world from diseases. Each player still has a special skill, but this game does require a bit of reading (to remember your skills, match names of cities). It’s also pretty good for learning some basics about geography.

Choose games that don’t require reading.

There are plenty of games that little kids can play that have very little text involved.

Some games that my youngest loves are:

  • Tsuro — Every player is a dragon. You place tiles to try to run the other dragons off of the board.
  • Zombie Dice — Every player is a zombie, trying to get more brains than the other players without getting shot.
  • Coup — Every player is a government official trying to bribe and bluff their way into power, knocking their rivals out of the game. Okay, that seems a little heavy for tiny kids, but it seems to work just fine for my youngest. The best part, for me, is that lying is part of the game, so little kids who get confused about rules… can’t break the rules. The biggest problem I have with the game is that players who get knocked out of the game are stuck with nothing to do. Luckily the game is pretty fast, so they aren’t left out for long.
  • The Resistance — Takes place in the same universe as Coup, but in this game you’re part of the resistance that opposes those awful government officials. The only problem is… your band of rebels has been infiltrated by spies! This game requires at least five players, but you can play with up to ten players, so it’s great for parties. You use logic to try to determine which players are the spies before they ruin too many of the missions.
  • Get Bit — Every player is a swimming robot trying to get away from a shark that wants to bite their limbs off. It’s way cuter than it sounds. My robot and shark-loving six year old has adored this game for years.
  • Card games — Don’t forget card games like Go Fish, Rummy, or War. They just require knowing a few numbers

As it turns out,  my kids are interested in somewhat grim board games. I’m sure there are plenty out there that would appeal to kids who love other sorts of games. I’m particularly fond of Gamewright games — they have interesting pieces and excellent game play. They also tend to favor subjects that aren’t usual for board games, such as making cupcakes or trading pieces of sushi.

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