Board Games: A Fun Way to Target Developmental Skills


Board games have been around for a long time.  In fact, they can be traced back to as early as 2500 BC.  Games have been played throughout history as a way to enjoy each other’s company and as a way to rest and relax.  With all the technological advancements, many kids these days play games using hand-held electronic devices.  While playing with these electronic devices may work on hand-eye coordination, there are many skills children learn only by opening a box, sitting around the table and playing a traditional board game with family and friends.

Taking Turns:  One of the most obvious developmental skills targeted while playing board games is turn-taking.  Children learn when it’s their turn to play and when they have to wait for someone else.  Just about every game with 2 or more players incorporates this skill, while also working on sharing and interpersonal skills with others.

Following Directions:  Each game has its own set of rules and directions to follow.  While playing these games, children are learning how, when, where and why you do certain things – which aid in critical thinking and problem solving.  Every game you play targets this skill.

Increasing Vocabulary: Children learn a lot about language by hearing it.  Games provide opportunities for language growth and development.  Children learn a variety of words specific to each game and are introduced to new words and their meanings.

Being a Good Sport:
  While playing board games, there is typically one person or one team that wins.  Children learn how to be a good winner without gloating or bragging and how to lose with dignity without whining or crying.  They also learn how to be patient and let others complete their moves without telling them what to do.

Encouraging Math Skills:  Many games require counting skills.  You count the spaces you move, count the pieces you have left or the pieces you may need.  Other math skills targeted include adding points at the end of the game, sorting and matching pictures and game pieces, sequencing skills, etc.

Asking Questions:  Introducing new games allows children to work on skills like asking “yes/no” and “wh” questions. Clarifying how, who, what, when, etc. is great practice for children. Other games, like Guess Who?, incorporate asking questions into the game itself.

Increasing Social Interactions:  There are very few board games you can play by yourself.  Most games require 2 – 4 players.  Board games encourage pragmatics (social interactions) and may decrease anxiety some children face while talking with others. Once the game begins and the players start talking about the game, there are a variety of social cues children will learn.  These social cues include maintaining eye contact with others, understanding facial expressions, nonverbal gestures, etc.  It’s important for children to learn and understand these social cues and these are skills that will carry-over while interacting with others in society.

Increasing Cognitive Skills:  There are numerous games where children must identify, name and match pictures, colors and shapes.  Other cognitive skills include problem solving and making choices. When someone plays a move that blocks you or grants you an opportunity, you have to use your problem solving skills to figure out what to do next.  Making choices and planning what to do next are skills which will carry-over throughout the child’s life.

Maintaining Attention to Tasks:  The length of a board game can range from a few minutes to several hours. Be sure to choose games that are appropriate for your child and will help them focus and complete an activity. We want board games to be a positive experience for them.  Finishing what you start is another life skill targeted while playing board games.

Bonding With Others:  This is perhaps the most important skill children may learn.  Games allow people to bond.  Whether it’s a family game night or hanging out with friends, time together allows children to feel secure, feel like they are part of the “group” and interact with others while doing something fun.

Board games are a great learning tool for your family and/or classroom.  Remember to keep it fun and choose games that are appropriate for your child.  If you need help choosing the right games, check out the list below for more information.  So, grab a game and your family and start playing!  Have fun!

Preschool Games (ages 3 – 5 years)
Chutes and Ladders
Candy Land
Connect 4
Guess Who?
Sorry  
Checkers
Feed the Kitty 
Hisss
Step To It 
Memory

Early Elementary (ages 5 – 8 years)
Chess
Scrabble Jr.
Boggle Jr.
Zingo
Monopoly Jr.   
Junior Labyrinth
Carcassone 
Ticket to Ride
Game of Life
Pay Day
What’s G’Nu?
Password Junior
Rat-A-Tat Cat Deluxe  
Mancala

Older Kids – Adults (ages 8 and up)
Clue
Scrabble
Thurn and Taxis
Boggle
Parcheesi
Settlers of Catan   
Ticket to Ride (all the expansions + countries)
Smart Mouth  
Pictureka!
Carcassone: Hunters and Gatherers 
Sequence
Elfenland
Stone Age
RoboRally
Dominon

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