Gaming with children

My church is launching a Light the World program for the month of December. The idea is to serve in 25 ways over 25 days during the month of December. In following that theme, I encourage you to serve a child by playing a game with them.

Think back on your childhood. Where did your love of playing games come from? It probably started with your parents playing with you. If not them, was it a sibling or a friend that introduced you to board games?

My dad often played games with us, but I remember the first time I ever got to attend one of his real game nights. A bunch of the youth from church came over to play an intense game of Risk. I had played once or twice before, but never a serious game. I went into the game pretty nervous.

My dad was my partner, and he guided me through the play. I wasn’t the first one eliminated, but I definitely didn’t win. This was a great memory. If I was going to be like all those wise teenagers, I would have to learn how to play games well.

This leads me to the strategy for playing with children, regardless of the game. Your purpose as the adult is to help guide them through the game process in such a way that the following things occur:

  1. They learn how to play
  2. They feel loved by spending time with you.
  3. They have fun.
  4. They gain a love for board games.

Notice how I didn’t say anything about you winning? Of course you can beat them in games. You are the dad, and they know you are awesome. The important thing here is raising children that will want to play games with you when they are older and can actually beat you. Here are a few strategies that help without letting them win. (No one wants to realize that they only won because you weren’t trying.)

  1. Change the rules to give them an advantage.
  2. Play on their team against another sibling.
  3. Play games that are mostly luck.
  4. Stack the deck against you.

Change the rules

When I was growing up, we had the Stoker Olympics (situps, pushups, stepups). We made the competition fair by giving the younger kids a handicap. It ended up being a competition of who improved most. This is what you do with games.

Some games lend themselves well to changing the rules. You could let them draw two cards instead of 1. You can let them roll twice and take the better of two roles. You can give them extra money, or let them see your cards, but don’t look at theirs.

The options here are limitless, and it allows them to know that you are trying your hardest, but giving them a slight advantage.

Team play

Being a kids teammate is great for meeting three of the four criteria, but some kids don’t feel like they have as much fun when you are coaching them along. Watch for this. If this is happening in your family, it may be time for you to back out and just let them play.

Play luck games

Some of the best games for kids have no skill at all. These are perfect for kids because they can legitimately win! Candyland is one of my kids favorites. It is pretty painful to play. “You are just moving along, and then you draw plumpy”. We adapted it so that you never have to go backwards. If you draw plumpy, your character goes back and has a “snack”, then moves right back to where they were. This really helps everyone to have fun.

Stack the deck

Sometimes you just have to stack the deck. It is actually quite fun to try to win after setting up your children to get most of the good cards. You can even play up the discrepancy by saying things like, “Awe man, I got the 2 again. That’s the 3rd time in a row!” They love it. and laugh and laugh.

Your competition of tomorrow are your children today. So play a game with a child, and make it great.

Please comment and let me know how it went.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Gaming with children

  1. Talking to my wife, I would add that Cooperative games can be great for kids. You all win or lose together, so you can even play complex games and lead them along on their choices.

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