Making Board Games Fun for the Littlest Kids

When my son, Will, was a toddler, my husband and I would often play Scrabble after dinner. Not wanting to be left out, Will would abandon his choo-choos and try to swipe the tiles from the game board. Eventually, we moved our game-playing time to a later hour, after Will's bedtime.

As Will has gotten older, however, things have shifted. Every few weeks, Will gets to stay up later and play a game. At four, he can't read, so games like Scrabble and Monopoly are out of the question, but there are many games that meet his current skill set.

Want to start playing board games with your child? Here are some tips to get you started.

What Interests Your Child?

It's important to remember that every child is different and will have different interests when it comes to games. Just because your daughter loved Don't Break the Ice doesn't mean your son will. When introducing kids to games, keep an open mind about what they might like to play.

Child development expert Jennifer Jones, PhD., author of The Three P's of Parenting: Advice for a Lifetime, says that kids as young as three can play games, but you need to find the right games for them. 

"Consider introducing three or four very different kinds of board games and take some time to play each one with your child so that you can see firsthand what aspects of the game he responds to most," Jones says.

Variety, and stretching your young gamer's skills, is great, but it's also important to know your child's limitations. For example, active kids might have a hard time sitting down to learn a game. If they do, try this trick.

Mom Kristi Stilson, who runs ChildrenRFirst.com, introduced her active son to the game Candy Land by creating a giant game board on their driveway. "He could still be active, and learn the rules of the game at the same time. Once he understood the basic concept of the game, he realized that board games could be fun, and now he enjoys playing the regular-sized version as well," says Stilson.

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