Tabletop Games With Your Children

Tabletop Games is an umbrella term used to describe such games as board games, card games, dice games, miniature figure games, tile-based games and other games played on a table. My husband and I are huge fans of pretty much all of these genres of games. Our basement is full of different versions of tabletop games. We have all kinds, Monopoly, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Munchkin, Dominion, Zombies!!, Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Anomia and a dozen different role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Star Wars: Saga Edition. And we’ve played so many more.

Tabletop games are a great way to entertain a group of friends and family. They are a fun way to pass time. And a terrific tool for teaching and learning. Tabletop games are interactive by design. They encourage face-to-face communication and interaction. Some are designed to have the players compete against each other while others are designed for cooperation between the players. There is always a victory goal of some sort and fairly clear instructions to achieve that goal. There are games involving math, words, trivia and strategy.

With this in mind, it’s only natural that my husband and I look forward to a time we can share our love of games with our sons. And fortunately, that time is closer than we thought. Let’s take a look at board games.

Our son turned three not too long ago, and while we were shopping for birthday presents, we stopped in the game section of the toy store. It was impressive to say the least. And I was filled with a sense of nostalgia when faced with games from my own childhood. The aisle was a vast array of color, characters and smiling children and parents. I remember the first game I played with my parents was Hi Ho! Cherry-O. And looking at the box in that store, I was pleased to see the age range for that game starts at three! I traveled down the aisle and discovered many of the games I recall enjoying as a child are for preschool-aged kids. And upon learning this, I went about researching these games to identify what they could do to help my son learn. And was pleasantly surprised.

Most preschool and grade-school aged board games are meant to help a child with their learning development and motor-skills. Hi Ho! Cherry-O’s primary agenda is to have children take turns to spin the spinner and remove declared number of cherries from the tree. Counting skills in use! There are a few other rules with this game, in the newest edition there is even a cooperative aspect in which the players must work together to remove all of the cherries from all of the trees before a bird puzzle is finished. It’s simplistic, really, but it’s brilliant. It helps the children learn to recognize numbers, identify their own collection, count out specified amounts and it teaches the aspect of taking turns. Plus, those cherries are tiny and require a bit of fine motor skill dexterity to remove from the tree without making a mess all over the table.

Another favorite as a child was Candy Land. Yes, there are a lot of neigh-sayer’s for the game. It’s not strategic. It doesn’t require any reading and uses minimal counting skills. There is no decision making necessary for this game- which leads a lot of adults to roll their eyes at the mere mention of the game. But it does require the child to follow direction. It also helps your child identify colors and, though minimal, does allow for some counting skills to be utilized. I loved this game more for the appearance and small race-based story it created. My son was lucky enough to have gotten this game as a birthday present and loves playing with his daddy and me.

Chutes and Ladders is yet another classic preschooler game. This is another game to help with number recognition, counting and following directions. But it is also rather silly. If the child’s pawn lands on a square with a ladder, they can use that ladder to climb further up the board. If they land on a square with a ladder, they slide down the the board. It gives the game a bit of a suspenseful feeling, the children never know, until they’ve spun the number and counted out the squares, if they will be going up a ladder or down a slide.

One of the things these games all have in common is the light competitive aspect and the requirements that children take turns and follow directions. These are very important things for preschoolers to learn, they are not inherently negative. They are building blocks for civility. I’m not advocating for driving a child to become competitive- but to teach a child how to be gracious in the act of competition. Sportsmanship. Instilling the concept of friendly-competition. Teaching our children how to take turns and follow directions is not corrupting them to become mindless followers, but helps them learn the art of cooperation and communication. It generates respectfulness and peace. These are important values to teach our children at an early age.

Board games are a lot of fun. They bring families and friends together on rainy days and dark nights. They teach a multitude of academic skills and allow for personal development. These are all attributes children, with their sponge like minds, thirst for, so why not teach them in ways the whole family can enjoy? And if you happen to be looking for more interesting and possibly more challenging games, always look for advice from your local gaming stores!

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