Despite the fact that we reside in a digital age, board games are not dead. Board games are more vital then ever, as they give us a much needed break from screens while forcing live interaction with other human beings. Oh my.
I like board games, not only for the human component but also for the opportunities they afford me to teach my children valuable skills. Let’s have an honest discussion about some of the most popular board games that we play with our kids…
HI HO CHERRY-O
Synopsis: Players start with a tree full of fruit that needs to be picked and put into a basket. A spinner is used to determine the amount of fruit you pick off the tree with each turn (one to four pieces). The gotcha is when the spinner lands on a dog or bird picture, at which point you have to take everything out of the basket and put it back on the tree.
Skill Development: Counting, not carelessly dropping stuff, using “silly” instead of “stupid” (to describe the dog and bird)
Mildly Inappropriate Commentary: Seeing this has been the first board game I played with each of my children, it was also their first chance to lose a board game. None of them seem to enjoy that, which I think is a good thing. There is some comedy in watching them freak out though. Of note, that comedy is outweighed by the tedium of a game like this that has zero strategy.
Synopsis: Candy Land is a classic romp through a land made of candy, on the critical mission to find King Candy. Like Hi Ho Cherry-O, this game involves no strategy.
Skill Development: Counting, color identification, card stacking
Mildly Inappropriate Commentary: Candy Land always makes me hungry, but not for the reasons you may think. The game takes about 30 minutes more to finish than planned, typically overlapping with some meal or needed snack. My oldest daughter and I went through a phase where we played Candy Land before she went to bed. Depending on what time the bedtime routine started, I learned how to distract her so that I could stack the deck and have her pull the Frostine card in the first few minutes of play (which puts you at the end of the board). This is how you win even when you lose. Don’t worry, I told her (a few years later).
CHUTES AND LADDERS
Synopsis: A less visually appealing version of Candy Land, with slightly more advanced counting.
Skill Development: Counting, introduction to danger (chutes) and upward mobility (ladders)
Mildly Inappropriate Commentary: Am I the only one who hates this massively popular game? My kids don’t seem to like it all that much either. Chutes and Ladders is like an amusement park. It seems like a great idea…until you go there.
Synopsis: Not technically a board game, this tower building bash is a real crowd pleaser. If you’ve never played Jenga you should (after you come out from under that rock). The goal is to collectively build the highest structure possible while removing wooden blocks from lower portions of the tower and moving them to the top.
Skill Development: Basic physics, breaking stuff
Mildly Inappropriate Comment: This game actually requires skill, forcing participants to determine how they will impact the stability of the tower on their turn. Kids like when the tower crashes. They don’t like getting shamed for causing the tower to crash and effectively ending the game. Find another time to shame them. Like when they spill at dinner.
CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY
Synopsis: Best. Game. Ever. Oh wait, we’re talking about kid’s games. Moving on…
Synopsis: A timeless classic from the Depression era. Travel around the Monopoly board, buy properties, build on them, bankrupt everyone else.
Skill Development: Reading, budgeting, slum lording, teaming up to ruin other people, making America great againing
Mildly Inappropriate Comment: I’ve seen monopoly bring out evil in people. My younger brother takes ruthless delight in destroying everyone else, regardless of their age or mental capacity. He’s been know to play one-on-one games with his infant son, Griffin. Not a popular game among Bernie Sanders staffers, rumor has it that Bernie suffered brutal Monopoly defeat at the hands of his family growing up. In case you’ve been wondering.
Synopsis: Wander around a mansion attempting to figure the where, how and who of a murder. While “murder” is not a great topic for kids, it dawns on me that I’ve never considered that until writing this sentence. Go figure.
Skill Development: Strategy, reasoning, deduction, fact-based blaming
Mildly Inappropriate Comment: This game requires some mental maturity, thus it is a great opportunity for you to feel intellectually superior to your kids. Given its complexity, Clue is a tough game for younger children. We did attempt a family game a few months back, which included our three year old. Unfortunately she ended up ruining the game board. It was done by Samantha, at a coffee shop, with a hot chocolate. Permanent stainage.
BOARD, NOT BORED!
Hopefully this article has inspired you to pull out a board game in short order. At the very least, you’ll get to find out if your offspring is a sore loser. Best case scenario you’ll help to foster vital skills like counting, concentration and capitalism. Enjoy!