One of the best ways to have fun while learning, or to learn while having fun, is by playing board games. Playing games together as a family helps to bond family relationships. Adjustments can be made to suit most numbers and ages and rules can be adapted to suit your purposes. While the main thing is to have fun together, there is a lot of learning going on too.
One of the greatest benefits of playing board games is the development of social skills.
Some of the social skills children learn include:
Getting along and taking turns
Playing fair — accept the roll (if dice are used) or draw (if cards are used) for example, and respond accordingly: don’t try to pretend it wasn’t a “proper” roll (e.g. dropped); or attempt to change the count by skipping or counting twice on a square.
Abiding by rules — all games have rules. For games to work, the rules need to be followed by everyone. That’s not to say that rules can’t be adjusted to suit the ages and abilities of the player, but there needs to be agreement, and it never works if someone just decides to change a rule mid-game to benefit themselves.
Resilience — stay strong and focused and don’t crumple with repeated setbacks: okay, so you’ve been swallowed by this same snake three times now; next time you just might overcome it.
Persistence — keep going: you might roll a succession of small numbers but each moves you closer to the goal.
Humour and fun — always look for the light side: it is just a game after all.
Being a gracious winner and loser — while winning usually feels good, it’s not the winning that matters, it’s how you play the game that matters most.
Depending on the game you play, children may also be developing their skills with literacy and numeracy, or even adding to their store of general knowledge.
A plethora of games are available – new ones and old favourites. Games can often be picked up cheaply at second hand stores or dollar shops. They can also be home made. I have made some that can be downloaded and printed from my readilearn website for just a few dollars each. You can check them out here.
As a child I used to have fun making up games to play with my brothers and sisters. As a parent, I enjoyed making up games with my children. In fact, the Trick or Treat Halloween Game is based on one my daughter and I made together when she was about six or seven.
Why not encourage your children to make up their own games too, or make them up together?
Hundreds of different games of all varieties are available. Those listed below are just some of my favourites that are suitable for the 5 – 8 age group and older. I haven’t even touched on some of the more recent games, of which many more are produced each year.
Alongside some of the games, I’ve listed skills, in addition to the social skills noted above, that children may employ when playing the game.
Please let us know some of your favourite games in the comments.
No equipment necessary
Games like I spy, I’m thinking of or Guess my number require no equipment and can be played anywhere, anytime. These games, while not board games, are good for car trips or waiting times and are also great for combating boredom.
I spy can be played using a beginning letter, for example I spy something beginning with ‘t’; a colour, for example I spy something that is orange; or a shape, for example I spy something that is round like a circle; or by a use or feature, for example, I spy something that has legs.
In I’m thinking of one person decides on a secret person, animal or thing, for example an elephant. The other players ask questions to find out what the secret is. The questions can only be answered with yes or no, for example: Is it living? Does it live on the land? Can it fly?
In Guess my number players try to guess a secret number by asking questions. The questions may only be answered by yes or no, for example Is it bigger than, Is it smaller than, Is it odd? Is it even?
Pencil and paper
If you don’t have a board game handy, but you do have pencil and paper, you can play games like:
Noughts and crosses
Dots and dashes
Word search (e.g. find all the little words you can using the letters in ‘ornithorhynchus’)
I don’t think any of these require an explanation. I’ve put them here mainly as a reminder. However, please let me know in the comments if you would like an explanation.
Snakes and Ladders (subitising dots on the dice, counting by ones, one to one correspondence, recognising numbers to 100)
Ludo (subitising dots on the dice, counting by ones, one to one correspondence, strategy)
Chinese Checkers (strategy, planning ahead)
Draughts (strategy, planning ahead)
Scrabble (recognition of letters and words, spelling words, counting score)
*Cluedo (asking questions, recording pertinent information, deductive reasoning, problem solving, planning ahead)
Monopoly (subitising numbers on dice, counting by ones, counting money, reading, comparing amounts of money, following directions, planning, making decisions)
Connect 4 (strategy, planning ahead)
Pass the Pigs (counting, adding to 100, planning, strategy)
Yahtzee (chance, patterns of dice, counting, making decisions, strategy)
Card games are also fun; e.g.
Games with a regular pack of cards
Strip Jack Naked (also called Beggar my Neighbour)
Once again, I don’t think these games require an explanation but please ask in the comments if you would like any additional information.
Games with their own sets of cards
UNO (matching colours and numbers, understanding special cards)
5 Alive (adding numbers to total 21, understanding special cards)
And of course, don’t forget the jigsaw puzzles which help children relate details to the big picture, examine details, and develop knowledge of space and shape awareness.
I hope my brief list has inspired you to open that cupboard and bring out all those old games gathering dust. I hope it has reminded you of fun you had playing games as a child, or, if you didn’t play as a child, bring out the child within to play now.
*I mentioned changing the rules to suit your players and situation. I thought I’d tell you some ways we changed the rules of Cluedo to suit us playing as an intergenerational family. All the players agreed to the changes, acknowledging that the changes would streamline the game and make it more enjoyable.
When we first introduced the game to the younger children, they played as partners alongside an adult so they could learn what was required and pick up some strategy hints for recording information.
We found it tedious having to roll the dice to move from room to room, only to be called back into another room and away from where we wanted to go. First, we eliminated use of the dice, agreeing that we could simply move to whichever room we wanted to be in. Eventually, we streamlined even further so that just the token player we were investigating and the weapon appeared in the room. This made it easy for everyone to see what was being asked and avoided having to repeat multiple times. It made no difference to the fairness or the outcome but the game moved more quickly and was more enjoyable.
Adjustments can be made to almost every game you play to make them more inclusive.
Every day is a good day for playing games, but they may be even more important during our days when outings are restricted.
I’m certain some of the superheroes in this video will be combating boredom with board games. Enjoy!
Until next time, Norah
Norah Colvin is a lifelong learner and passionate educator. She believes in the power of education to change lives and is committed to raising awareness of ways to support and enhance learning.
Norah has spent her life learning and thinking about how children learn and how best to support their learning. Her own observations as learner, parent and teacher have enhanced understandings developed in both formal and informal study situations.
She believes strongly in the need for learning to be self-initiated, directed and motivated, and the importance of timely and appropriate support for learners on their individual journeys.
While no longer working with children in a school setting, Norah continues to share her passion for education through writing.
Connect with Norah on her blogs NorahColvin.com and readilearn.com.au. She can also be found (occasionally) on Facebook and Twitter.
This is a fantastic post, Norah. The benefits of board games are huge and it is super to see them all listed like this.
I knew you’d agree, Robbie. Thank you. 🙂
Well I’ve learnt a new word. Subitising. Thanks for that, teach!!
That’s good to know, Geoff. I’m pleased you learned something new.
Norah, Lovely video!!
Even adults need games. Our ‘pod’ has been playing Pinochle. Normally a four handed game, we used to play with six as well. With the lock down and a loss of a player, we went down to three. But soon we’ll learn a 5 person version. On top of that this card bidding game has two ways to bid. We’ve been playing ‘Contract’ which means you only get to keep two points over what you bid. The game goes longer that way I think. While I’m not a good card strategist and I’m also not good at counting trump, I still manage to have fun.
Just the other day the grands had to come by for just a couple of hours so I got out my UNO deck. Now there’s a game you can play with a house full!
Stay safe everyone!
I’m pleased you enjoyed the video, Jules. I thought it was delightful.
I haven’t played, or even heard of, Pinochle. It sounds a bit like Bridge the way you describe it with tricks, trumps and ‘contracts’. I had a quick search for the rules. When I have time, I’ll check it out more fully. Thanks for the suggestion.
UNO is always fun and, as you say, any number can play.
You stay safe too, Jules!
Pinochle has a special deck… but you can modify regular decks. Basically a Pinochle deck has two suits of every card from Ace to nine. And the Ten ranked higher than a King. Point for melds… that you might want to look up. But a Pinochle is the Queen of Spades and Jack of Diamond usually only worth 4 points but if you get both of them it is worth 30 points!
Thanks, Jules. It sounds interesting. We used melds in Canasta. It’s a game I played a lot in years gone by – growing up and with my children. There are so many fun games to play.
Pinochle – melds and a bit like Gin Rummy too. We played five handed last night. If you are interested I can attempt to explain it in an email. Three handed has it’s differences too. 😀
Thanks, Jules. I appreciate the offer. I’m pleased you’re getting to play some games. I’ll do an online search for Pinochle and see what I can come up with. I’ll let you know if I need anything more.
Our home has a game cupboard that at one time was filled to capacity. As the children grew and flew the coop, they convinced me their favourite game(s) should go with them. I am happy to say, the games are still being played.
One of our Christmas Eve traditions allowed for one present to be unwrapped, and I do mean one, not one each. It was always a game or puzzle.
We taught our girls how to play cribbage at a very young age. Math skills (learning to count and add to 15), eye-hand coordination (little fingers, little pegs, moving forward, and counting little holes). It was a game they could play with their grandparents as well.
The selection of games on your readilearn website is wonderful. I shall be passing that link along to others.
Norah, thank you for reminding us that fun and games and learning does not have to include modern technology.
Thank you for sharing your fun experiences with games, Ann. It is so pleasing to know that others fall in love with games too. I think we have about three cupboards of games still here though both children took some with them when they left. Each now has a huge collection of games in their own homes and the tradition of game playing continues.
Your Christmas Eve tradition appeals to me. Our tradition was to spend all Christmas Day (when we weren’t opening gifts or eating) playing games. We did the same thing at Easter. They were always special days but we played games throughout the year as well. Such a good way to build relationships and have a laugh together.
I didn’t teach my children cribbage, though I played it with my parents, when I was a teenager, I think. As you say – lots of skills are involved there too. My memory would have said we counted to 21 but my teenage years are so long ago now, the memories become a bit blurred.
Thank you for sharing my readilearn link and for reassuring me that I’m not the only one who still loves games that don’t require technology (though I’m pretty keen on those too. 😉)
We love board games and so do the grandkids or just hangman or noughts and crosses a lovely post , Norah 🙂
Thank you, Carol. I’m so pleased that you get to play games with the grandkids. It’s such fun. I taught mine how to play Cheat recently. It was funny. They expected GD to cheat every time and couldn’t believe that I would ever cheat. They soon found that what happened was the opposite of what they expected. What a hoot!
Love it…Kids learn so much from board games… Lily loves games which time her against the clock and will keep reducing the time until she wins… She is a good loser but has such a desire to win…
Lily sounds like my type of kid. The persistence and determination they (we) learn is of great benefit in life. Working to improve one’s ownself is also a great thing to do. I predict she will achieve whatever she sets her mind to. Maybe takes after Gran?
Oh she will… Last week she has roller blades and decided do you think I could jump in these so we had to set up a low bar which was set higher a few times.. She has no fear and if she sets her mind and this is at 7…I hope I am around to see what she achieves in life, Norah I really do…
She’s got a great Granny role model, Carol.
Fantastic post, Norah! Nothing better than having fun while learning new skills at the same time. There are so many teachable moments with board games. I attribute much of my initial interest in mental math to playing so much Monopoly as a kid.
I also loved having a big class jigsaw puzzle going on throughout the school year in my classroom. It was so interesting to see which children were stimulated by puzzles.
Thanks, Pete. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Monopoly too. There’s certainly a lot to be learned from it. I think I generally learned how to loose. 😂
I like your idea of having a big jigsaw in the classroom. It would have been interesting to see which children participated. I would have found it difficult to leave it alone. Did you mention that in your book? I can’t recall having read it. Apologies if you did. You have so much good stuff in it.
Love this. A long time ago, when I was a teacher, I used many of these games in my classroom and provided lists to parents. These games do indeed build numeracy and literacy skills and so the playing of them form an important foundation for further learning. The playing of these games also creates a relaxed time when student/teacher or parent/child can learn more about each other and build a stronger relationship. Missing from your list is Parcheesi and Othello. Crazy Eights is a card game kind of like Uno, but uses regular playing cards. A regular deck of cards can also be used to play variations on the card game War; fraction war, product war. Cribbage will always remind me of camping or of being in places where we made our own entertainment, there being little to no TV.
Good one Norah. Game on!
Thanks for your lovely comment and support, D. Long ago, indeed! 😉 And thanks also for your suggestions of additional games. I have never played Parcheesi or even heard of it. I’ll be looking it up. Othello I played as a very early video game back in the 80s (last century) but not in any other way. I may have had a few little individual puzzle games that worked on a similar principle. I don’t know Crazy Eights or War. I’ve a lot of learning to do, I see. I did play Cribbage as a teenager. My parents were big card players. We played Cribbage, Bridge and Canasta mainly, then other games like 500 and Solitaire (which we called Patience). There wasn’t much else to do in the evening when I was a child and homework was done other than play games or read. There are many more choices now but games are still fun when there’s a few of us together.
Parcheesi- the ancient game of India, or so they say. SORRY is derived from it, and my Jamaican students, though they called it something else and played by slightly different rules, recognized the board.
The decks of cards I used in the classroom had no numerals on them, so it forced the subitising and pattern making. My students always enjoyed creating their own board games. (Funny how much I can still remember!)
Sounds interesting. Sorry sounds familiar but I don’t remember it either. I have some learning to do. Thank you.
what a nicely categorized and comprehensive summary of board games!
Thank you, Jim.
Loved the video, picked up some presentation tips from the kids!
I think I used to enjoy making board games than playing them.
Did anyone play Consequences? Just struck me it’s the basics of story telling.
I’m pleased you enjoyed the video, Anne. The kids are pretty cute, aren’t they?
I agree. I think making up games is fun. If only we’d knew each other as children, we could have designed games together.
Consequences? I don’t know that one. I hope you will elaborate for us. Was it a published game or one that required little equipment (other than imagination)?
It was a pencil and paper game involving writing a very simple story according to a formula. The one we used:
• a boy named x
• met a girl named y
• he said to her …
• she (probably responded with due passivity)
• and the consequence was …
At each stage, you’d fold over the top of the paper and pass it onto the next one so that in the end of the stories would be mixed up. There was also a drawing version. Trying to describe it now I can’t believe how hilarious we thought it was! Simple pleasures.
Ah, yes. I remember that game. It was a lot of fun. I’ve not done the drawing version but it would be fun too. I’m thinking it would end up like those mixed up books that had different heads, bodies and legs each time you turned a page section.
Yes, simple pleasures are often the best. Thanks for the explanation.
I’d forgotten about those mixed up books. Yeah it’s the same thing. I suppose the story version could be done in a book as well but as much or more fun for kids to do themselves.
I agree. It would be. It’s great to help children develop their own imaginations and creativity rather than simply be users of others’.
Great advice on ideas of having fun without screens. My family still enjoys board games (Scrabble being a favorite) and jigsaw puzzles.
So pleased to hear it, Dave. Scrabble used to be a family favourite of ours too. Believe it or not, we kept records of all games for years!
What a comprehensive list, Norah! We definitely have our favorites. Our best friends’ grandchildren love Cocklebur. I rarely win, but it’s fast and ferocious. Any number can play. Deal five cards. The person to the left of the dealer has to bid two indicating that they will take two tricks when the cards are played out. Anyone around the table can outbid the two-bid and gets to name the trump suit. Then the playing begins. You don’t have to play the hand. If you do play the hand, you can take your chance and trade in your bad cards for something else. Once playing starts, you have to follow suit if you can, but you can sluff off and not play a trump card if you can’t follow suit. If the person pulls the number of tricks he bid or more, he scores the number of tricks he pulls. If someone agrees to play and doesn’t take any tricks they lose 5 points. If the bidder doesn’t get the number of tricks he bid, he loses that number of points. The first person to reach 15 points wins even it is in the middle of the hand being played. Game Over. 🙂 It’s a lot of fun. 🙂
I haven’t heard of Cocklebur, Marsha, but it does sound like a fun game. It reminds me a little of ‘Rage’ and ‘Billionaire’, particularly the fun, fast and furious bit. There are so many fun games. I’m looking forward to games when the grands come to play tomorrow. 🙂
It’s fun. I’ve never heard of Rage and Billionaire. Have fun with the grands. 🙂
I did, Marsha, thank you. We had two days of games. Such fun! 🙂
You’re not on lockdown, then?
We’re not at the moment. We have been doing well and our restrictions have eased. Just at stage 1 again now. Unfortunately, the disease is gaining momentum down south so we may have to revert again if it makes its way up here.
That’s why I asked. A blogger friend of mine in Melbourne said they were on lockdown. I’m so sorry. I hope it doesn’t reach you. 🙂
That’s right, Marsha. Things are not good in Melbourne. I hope it doesn’t escape up here too.
I’ll be praying for you and your state, for sure. 🙂
Thank you, Marsha. I think your prayers are needed the world over.
Yes, we just listed our house and are moving to Arizona. I called to make an appointment with the realtors that we met with last year, and they both are positive. They sound great, don’t feel bad, but are quarantined for 2 weeks. The real problem is like them, you don’t know you have it. We can’t get tested here unless we think we are sick. In AZ, they can. So we can just hope we don’t have it. Feeling bad and having a fever are not the only indicators. They have neither. She just had some aches and felt off.
It is a worry, Marsha. Stay safe and well. Good luck with the move to Arizona. I hope it’s all you wish it to be.
Thanks so much, Norah. A move doesn’t change anything with my online community, but I’ve started telling the important people in my life, and after living here for 35 years, that is difficult. Thanks for being a steady friend. Enjoy the week and play lots of games! 🙂
It will be a big change, Marsha. I wish you a successful move and a happy future.
Thanks, Norah! I’ve been driving for three 22 hour days. Almost no time to answer comments!
That is a lot of driving. Stay safe.
I’m back, thanks so much. It was a great trip. Found a house I loved.
Awesome. When’s the move?
As soon as we sell our house. We are fixing a few things, and it is going on the market August 1st. If the market holds and it is priced right, it should sell quickly. If not, we will have until April before the house is finished and we have to make two payments.
I hope it all works out in the best way possible.
I’ll let you know. 🥰🥰🥰
I love board games! One that’s not on this list (probably because of the pretty intense age, patience, and learning curve requirements) is DnD. I’ve always wondered how a family DnD night would go, but I don’t have (or really want) kids!
I didn’t add DnD for a couple of reasons. I think, as you say, it is more for an older group than I was thinking of, and, I haven’t ever played it. My son began playing when he was about ten, I think and has continued to play into adulthood. He has taught his children (easier verions that I think might be now available) and still has DnD nights with other dads. You could always ‘borrow’ a family to play with. 🙂
Haha, I bet I could!
Hi Norah, it’s so great to see all these family favourites listed in your post. I still love it when all my chicks are gathered and we bring out the board games. Growing up, we played ‘Cluedo’ which my mother still has with the original game pieces, including of course the lead pipe, but I was surprised to find it called ‘Clue’ when I bought it to play with my children growing up in California. Because we liked to play it at ‘Granny’s’ house during our visits back ‘home’ to England in the summer school holidays, my American children still call it Cluedo 🙂 Great idea about making adjustments when different generations play. I remember playing Happy Families with my great-aunt. My brother used to giggle all the way through at who knows what, but she would just carry on, cigarette dangling from her lips, pearls around her neck and a big, shiny brooch on her fur stole. We had those cards for years. Great entertainment and memories! Love this post, Norah, and how timely. There’s a lot to be said for good old fashioned games around the table instead of being glued to the TV. Although I have to admit I am also thankful for Netflix during lockdown! SMAG! <3
Thank you for sharing your memories of Cluedo and Happy Families, Sherrie. Playing games together does help to make happy families, doesn’t it? Your great-aunt sounds delightful. I’m sure there are many stories to be told about her. I’m sure Netflix has helped many get through these long days of lockdown. Enjoy! SMAG!
They do indeed, Norah. I especially loved it at Christmas time 🙂 Always lovely to chat…and always SMAG! <3
Definitely, Sherri. 🙂
🙂 <3 🙂
P.S. Be sure to check out the International Flash Fiction page. I read one of your stories. I hope I don’t misrepresent you. 🙂
Oh wow, thanks so much, Norah. I glanced at the page but need to check it out properly. I was so excited to read on FB about your, Anne and Charli’s Zoom meeting and the fringe festival! I’m honoured you would read one of my stories, thrilled! 🙂 You could never misrepresent me. Never!
I hope you enjoy my reading. 🙂
Oh Norah, I just today had my first chance to watch it. I loved seeing you and hearing your voice for the first time (I love your accent!) and I’m truly honoured and thrilled you chose my Water & Electricity story. You read it wonderfully, accent and all! A rather ‘shocking’ ending, but that’s what flash fiction does to a memoir writer otherwise constrained by the truth 😀 I loved the whole video. How exciting! Thank you again so much for reading my flash and for you all representing Carrot Ranch so wonderfully. Made my day, that! Always SMAG! 🙂 <3
What accent? 😁😉
I really enjoyed your story, Sherri. I think it’s a great example of just how much can be told in just a few words (and how shocking it can be).
I’m pleased you enjoyed the video. I was delighted to be invited and had fun getting together (though far away) with Charli and Anne.
Aww, thank you again, Norah, I’m still smiling 🙂 You guys make a great team…we all do at the Ranch, it’s wonderful isn’t it? <3
It sure is, Sherri. I’ve met some pretty nice people and made some mighty fine friends at the Ranch. 😉💖🌻
Hi Norah, huge apologies for my massively late reply. I missed it after I signed off the end of June and only just now catching up. Is it really September already??!! Mighty fine Ranch friends indeed! SMAG! 🙂 <3 🙂
No apology necessary, Sherri. We catch up when we can, as all good friends do. SMAG! 🌻
Absolutely…we have SMAG, so nothing to worry about! Thanks, Norah 🙂 <3
Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
I was over at the Carrot Ranch last week, discussing the benefits of playing board games as a family with the children. Pop over there to see which games I suggest and add your own favourite board games in the comments.
Wonderful and important message to parents, Norah. There is much to be gained by playing board games. You have suggested some of the best ones!
Thank you for your support, Jennie. Games are a fun way to learn.
Love this post! The video is fab, too! Bring on our games.
Thank you, Robin. I’m pleased you enjoyed the video. The concept is clever and the children are cute.
Amazing post Norah. Children’s playtime is so important to their social skill development – especially only children who often need to learn about sharing. <3
Thank you, Debby. Yes, playing games has many benefits.
Great game suggestions. We love card games – I used to play cards a lot with my family when I was growing up – mostly Hearts and Canasta and Gin. And Uno is so fun. My mother and father always played Gin. My kids still play board games – Monopoly mostly. And Chinese Checkers, oh my gosh, I loved that game as a girl. We played it all the time with our grandparents. Great post, Norah!
Thanks, Barbara. I’m pleased the post brought back some memories of playing games. They are such fun, aren’t they? I enjoyed playing Canasta too, though I don’t remember Gin. But perhaps that’s what I know as Gin Rummy or Rummy. (I wonder who named it. Perhaps those two alcoholic beverages were popular with early players.)
It’s great fun to play games that can involve all the generations.
That’s true, Norah. My parents loved playing Gin, which is like Gin Rummy but you don’t put your cards down – you hold them in your hand until you have a winning hand – it’s a fun game with surprises! I’m not sure I remember how to play Canasta, but I remember playing it endlessly when I was a girl. And I agree, the games that span generations are the best – Uno is another one!
Uno is fun – lots of laughs and surprises. Games are always so much fun.
[…] This article was first written for and published at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community as part of a series supporting parents with children learning at home. The benefits of playing […]
[…] This article was first written for and published at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community as part of a series supporting parents with children learning at home. The benefits of playing […]