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As humans, one of our instincts is to belong to a group, to fit in, to feel special.   Originally, it was a survival mechanism, groups can support each other, look out for each other, and utilize each others’ skills for the benefit of the group.  I feel that boardgaming furthers that instinct.

Take kids as an example.  If you have any, you know as soon as they are born, they need attention, want to be held, want to be close to others.  As they get older, they start wanting to be part of what the parents are doing.  Even if you don’t have any kids, I’ll bet you can remember a time in your younger days when you wanted to be part of what ever your parents were doing.  Why not get them involved in gaming as soon as they show an interest?  The benefits are endless.

My two grandsons, Garrett, age 5. and Troy, age 3 are already avid gamers.  They get games as presents for birthday’s, Christmas, and just because.  Within an hour of my wife and I visiting them, they are pulling out a game and asking us to play.  When they visit us, they soon are asking me to play Toc Toc Woodman with them.  As they get older, the games will advance in complexity, and someday we will be playing Dominion, Agricola, or Paths of Glory together.   And then, in their teens, cars and girls will arrive in their lives, and the games will go away. 🙂  But then, if my own kids are any example of what will happen, they will be back, wanting to play games again.  And for certain favorite games, they may never go away completely.

So, what do you start with?  I am by no means and expert, but I can tell you what works for us.

1- Let them roll dice….lots of dice, big dice, soft dice.  In our family, both the boys, when they were only a few months old, had the ritual roll of a d6.  Granted, it was little more than putting the die in their hands, and eventually they drop the die (maybe it wasn’t really a roll), but it counts!  The die my daughter found somewhere, it is about a 3″ cube, and made of foam.  By the way, Garrett rolled a 4, and Troy a 6.  As they get a little older, let them roll dice for you in a game (make sure you watch them closely so they don’t eat the dice).

2-Get a copy of waterproof UNO cards, and play.  Basically the boys are just trying to match colors initially, and later colors and numbers.  All of the skip and reverse cards we just use to match colors and symbols.  The waterproof cards are great for spills and getting chewed on.  Initially, when they’re attention span wanes, let them stop.  But as they play the game more, make them finish the hand before stopping.

3-Space Rockets, the card game.  This is the card game War, with cool rocket pictures on the cards.  (We do model rocketry as a family also).  They are out of print, but available on ebay.  I sleeved them and away we go.  At this point, we do keep score, and have winners and losers.

4-A themed dominos game.  Matching characters, like Cars, Spiderman, or such on the domino’s.

5-Toc Toc Woodman.  We, as adults, follow the two swing rule, but initially, let the boys swing until they knock out a core piece.  At first, we also give the boys points for each piece of bark they put on the core when reassembling the tree.  Then, an amazing thing starts to happen, as they get older and play the game more, on their own, they start only taking two swings, because that is what the adults do.

6-Can’t Stop.  Rolling dice again. As adults, we follow the rules.  So far, we let the boys roll the dice until they can’t place the dice, with no penalty.  As 3 and 5 year olds, they don’t understand the chances of rolling certain combinations are more difficult than others.

7-Dino Dice.  The boys love dinosaurs, so this is a bit hit.  Initially, we let them roll with no penalty.  But slowly, they start to realize that the adults are playing by different rules, and change on their own.  Garrett is at this point, Troy is not there yet.

8-Swipe. Rolling lots of dice, and getting to steal dice and chips from Grandpa is a huge plus!  One thing that this game helps teach, more so than the games above, is sportsmanship.  At first, it is hard for them to have dice and chips stolen from them, but we keep reinforcing that it is part of the game, and you have to be a good sport if you are going to play games.

9-Sorry Sliders.  Another great dexterity game.

10-Blokus.  Garrett asked to play this game, there is a version of it at his pre-school.  He actually does pretty well, but he hasn’t won yet.

11-Monster Chase.  A memory game.  What the boys like about this game is when they make a match, the get to yell “In the closet, monster!” and banish the monster from the game.  They absolutely love this part of the game.

12-Ninja vs Ninja.  Garrett is a ninja fanatic, so I picked up this game for him.  While it is a very simple game, it is a little advanced for him, because you have so many decisions to make.  So, right now, I show him his different movement options.  I am confident, that soon, he will be seeing those options on his own.

Other games Garrett has played recently are Castle Panic and Sentinels of the Multiverse.  Obviously, at 5, he doesn’t have the reading ability for either game, so we help him by explaining to him what options the cards he has have give him, and let him make the decision on what to do.

As you can see from above, we make rules adjustments to the games for the boys.  As they develop, they start to understand the concepts better, and so far, have advanced on their own.  I do feel that you have to have winners and losers, so they understand that winning and losing are part of playing games. We stress finishing the games and good sportsmanship.  I will admit, I have put off winning, such as rolling again in Can’t Stop, to give the boys more opportunities, but I only do it once in a while, and usually when the boys have had a lot of bad luck.  I will, at some point in time, stop doing this.

Develop a gaming relationship with you kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews.  Be a Big Brother/Sister and introduce them to the wonderful world of boardgaming.  You will educate them, teach them important life lessons, improve their self esteem, and develop a much closer bond with them.  And along the way, your will receive all of these  benefits in return, and just maybe, find a gaming partner for life.


Next blog; “Everything Deserves A Second Chance”.


Jeff Chattin

Great gaming gang!

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