When Games Aren’t Just Games: Part 1

If you’ve got a school-aged child, you probably have your eyes out for all the “educational” things you can buy them to help with things like logic or math or reading or spelling.  You probably look for flash cards, work books, anything to help your child master the concepts they are supposed to be mastering.  And your child probably hates them.  Very few children look at flash cards and think “Yes!  This will be fun!”  (Although to be fair, I actually know a few.)

What if I told you that you could help them in the same way but in a way that didn’t cause battles between you?  That didn’t cause homework time to become dreaded?  Cause a child to feel like he or she is being punished with more work?  Well, you can.  It’s called board games and for years we’ve known that children love them.  What isn’t as well known (apparently) is how much they can learn from them.  Seriously.

Somewhere along the line, board games went out of favour as learning tools.  I don’t know if it’s because kids have too much fun playing them and we’ve decided fun cannot possibly be equated with learning, but fun they are and learning they provide.  Not only do board games provide the chance for kids to learn multiple skills, but they also provide the family with some quality bonding time.  Sitting around each night playing a different game is a way for families to spend time enjoying each other’s company, all the while having your kids learn skills and information you need them to learn.  Compare that to a child up in their room doing homework or even downstairs with parents looking over their shoulder, and frankly it seems one is a clear winner.

In this series, I will present games that help master specific abilities or information for different age levels, starting with the area far too many kids seem to dread: Math.  Without further ado, I present to you, five games that you can enjoy as a family and that will help your child master basic math skills across the ages, yet none of them are called things like “Teach Math” so your kids shouldn’t run too quickly away from them.

1.  Yahtzee.  For children 8 and up, exposure your child to simple adding (though into the 3 digits) and probabilities.  Though younger children will be able to grasp the game, to excel requires an understanding of how probable certain events are, and this is a wonderful way to teach children about it.

2. Monopoly.  For children 8 and up.  Real life economics folks.  For younger kids, focus on addition and subtraction, but as you get older, your kids learn to manage money too.  Children can also learn how to assess relative growth by the amount they bring in via owning homes and hotels.  And the fact that games can go on forever means you can spend an entire week playing together as a family before you crown a winner.

3.  Black Jack (and other Card Games).  All ages.  Let’s face it – card games are amazing and there are so many of them that you can learn almost anything.  But black jack in particular will give your children the chance to learn addition and probability.  The fact that they get to play a gambling game (which will probably make them feel older and cooler) is just icing on the cake.

4.  Magic Cauldron Game.  For younger kids (ages 5 to 8), this game involves children having to solve simple addition and subtraction problems to earn the ingredients for their magic potions.  Simple, but for younger kids, need it be complicated?

5.  Lost Cities.  For ages 8 and up.  This is a 2 person game that is far too complicated to explain, but suffice it to say there are expeditions, handshakes, and cards that you can play.  But getting your final point total?  Well, there’s addition, subtraction, and multipliers to get you your final score so your kids are going to have to learn all that just to be able to tell who won.

These are actually just a few of the very many games that include math or even focus on math.  So if you’re struggling to help your child enjoy the learning process or are looking for a way to combine learning with family fun time, check them out.  Your whole family will benefit.

By Tracy Cassels

March 01, 2020