Ease Them into Rules
Teaching children to play by the rules is key, but it's also important to let them enjoy the game as they develop an interest.. Instead of enforcing strict rules from the start, let them grow into game play. Start by focusing on what they do right (counting, for instance), even if they lose. And remember that it's okay to take things slowly. Count out loud with your children as they advance their game piece on the game board, ask them to name colors, and give them second chances if they don't get it the first time.
Slowly introduce more rules in future matches. Before you know it, they'll be playing by all the rules—and beating you in the process.
It's also important to recognize if a game is just too much for your child. If that's the case, then it's time to make adjustments. One easy one: Choose a different game. "If you find that your child is constantly throwing tantrums over a misunderstanding of (or disregard for) game rules, or is impatient with the game-playing habits of others, play simpler games," says Jones.
There will always be time for more challenging games when they are older.
Don't Forget Your Younger Children
My husband and I chose to play games around my son's sleep schedule, but we've taken a different route with my daughter. With her older brother to look up to, she tends to be a little more easygoing about trying games—even when they are beyond her ability.
To ease her into playing games, we allow her to try Memory or to play along with Candy Land. Each time her turn comes up, we remind her of what she's supposed to do and cheer her on—even if she is just turning the same two cards over again and again.
Indi Avila, a writer, has had success with a similar approach with her three-year-old daughter. She says, "My biggest challenge was, of course, turn-taking. I found that narrating the game and reciting all the moves out loud was really effective."
Another option? Let them team up with Mom or Dad and play as a team. That way they can feel like they are part of the game—even if they are too young to really follow along.