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Creating Your Own Board Games

Playing board games with children is a great way to spend time together. Children enjoy the attention, and they learn and practice many skills: social, physical and intellectual. You also can encourage your children to design their own games. Four types are described here. Cover boards and pieces with clear self-stick paper, and your family can play again and again.

Doubles of family pictures, grocery coupons or cereal box art, for example, are all children need. They cut out the pieces, mix them up and match two designs. As children mature, choose pictures that are very similar but not identical, to encourage careful looking. Mount the pictures on same-size pieces of thin cardboard so everything is the same shape. These same pieces, if joined two by two, can become picture dominoes.

Memory games are a variation of matching games. The same-shape pieces are turned over and children must remember where they saw the match. Start with six pieces and gradually increase the number as your children grow. A deck of cards will do, too.

Colors and Counting
Paths to follow on board games, such as the familiar Candyland, typically require that children know colors (color cards, spinner or a die) or can count (a die or spinner with dots) in order to move toward a goal. Children can invent their own “path” games, using cardboard or the bottom of a box for a staff base. A theme might be the route to a grandparent’s home or finding their way through the rain forest. Getting to the destination is great fun.

In other simple games, children collect pieces as they move around the board. At each stop along the way, players either pick up a card with the pictured item, give up a piece, or keep their treasures. Imagine creating a beach game. Use pictures of shells, birds, grasses, sand toys and sea creatures for children to collect as they move along. Waves and tides could mark spaces in which children give up an item. Children could make paper “sand pails” in which to save their treasures. Encourage children to choose the game topic and use their imaginations!

Remember, the fun is in making and playing a game. They cut, plan ahead, measure and make choices. Children learn fairness, taking turns and many other social skills as they negotiate rules among themselves.

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