Wednesday, February 19, 2014

5 Favourite* Games to Help a Child Learn, Eh!

This is an imaginary conversation I've had in my head with parents of children I've taught.

Parent:  What is one thing I can do to help my child learn basic facts and skills to prepare him for school?

Me:  Play games with him.

Parent:  Oh, please, oh please don't tell me I have to play Chutes and Ladders with him.  I just can't do that.

Me:  No!  I refuse to play Chutes and Ladders with my kids.  That game is awful!  Just when you think the game is over, someone has to slide aaaaallll the way back down.  Awful game.

Parent:  Are you sure I shouldn't do some worksheets with him?

Me:  STAY AWAY FROM THE WORKSHEETS!!!  I know they sell them all over the place these days, but do not buy them unless your child begs you for some homework.  Once your child learns some skills, he may very well beg you for those books, but don't do it yet.

Parent:  Why board games?

Me:  They are fun, and the kids will learn all sorts of skills without even realizing it.  All games will help children learn to take turns, to be patient, and to be a good sport.  (As long as you let the child lose.  Please, for the love of all, please let your child lose.)  The type of game you choose will depend on which skills he is learning.

Parent:  So, which games should we play?

Me:  Glad you asked!

Here are 5 games we play most often.  There are plenty more, but these are ones which always make the cut in our "This game closet is a mess!  Get it cleaned out NOW!" Goodwill giveaway.  They will never be given away.

1.  Monopoly Jr. Eh!

I'm not usually a fan of "junior" games, and I avoid playing a full version of Monopoly at all costs.  I was surprised I liked Hasbro's version for little kids.  The kids will learn names of colors, how to identify numbers, how to count, how to add and subtract, and how to make change.  Depending on how young the child is when you start playing (We never pay attention to ages on the box.), you will need to change the amount of help you give the child, especially with the money part of the game.  Each child is different, so you will just need to take cues from yours.  Be patient, let them do as much as possible, and they will be pros in no time.

2.  Bromley and Cotica's African Adventure Playzzle Eh!

This game is similar to CandyLand, but don't hold that against it.  When forced to play CandyLand, I set the deck to make sure no one pulls a gingerbread card just as he's about to win.  I don't do that in this game. Instead of colors, there are animals, and instead of candies, there are animal adventures, like a hippo wash or camel ride.  What makes this different from CandyLand are the extra cards.  There are some go back spaces or go ahead spaces cards, as well as some trade places cards, which makes the game more exciting.  It's called a "playzzle" because it isn't played on a board which will eventually fall apart.  The board is a sturdy puzzle the child puts together to set up the game, and it all fits very neatly into the box when you are done.  Your child will learn the names of different animals in both English and Spanish (if you choose to say the Spanish names written on the cards).

3.  Mexican Train Domino Game Eh!

 The game says 8 and up, but our kids have been playing it since they were 3 or 4.  As with any game, when first introduced, the child will need some extra help.  In no time, the child will not only know how to play, but will be able to beat you.  There are few rules, so it's easy to pick up.  The colored dominoes are helpful for the younger kids, as they don't have to worry so much about the number of dots on each domino.

4.  Animal Alphabet Puzzle Eh!

This is a great matching game to learn the alphabet.  If you want to know the best way to play this (or any matching game) with your child, read the post I did about it, then come back and thank me profusely.

5.  Spelling Bee Bingo Eh!

The game only takes a few minutes to play, and children of any age can play.  (Except babies.  Babies can't play.  Toddlers can.)  As you can probably guess, this game will help your child learn to identify letters and maybe even spell a few words.

There are so, so many more great games to play with your child.  If nothing else, get a plain old deck of cards.  A game of war (with a time limit, because a full game until someone wins is just torture) can be played anywhere.  Even when waiting in a Brady Bunch-esque car service shop.

I'm linking up with Fountains of Home, who is temporarily hosting 5 Favorites.

*Christy, the temporary host, is Canadian, so we had to spell it "Favourites" for today.  I threw in the "eh"s just for my mom, who is also Canadian.

Do you have any games you like to play with children?

Have a lovely day, eh!


  1. OK, so your spelling of "favourites" was pretty funny. And the "ehs"...funny too.

    This is odd to me that you wrote this today b/c I was JUST THIS MORNING I was thinking about games to play with a younger set. I am watching a friend's kiddos tomorrow know, when it's thunderstorming, so that will be good...and they won't be able to play outside. I was thinking about what games I have to pull out. And I remembered one of my favorites from childhood: Shopping Center. You've probably never heard of it, which is such a travesty. OK, maybe not. Basically the board is set up like a "mall" with all sorts of shops (many of which would never be at a mall) and you roll a die and move that number of spaces. Then you draw a card with a letter on it. You have to come up with an item you would buy in that shop that begins with that letter. I don't even remember how you win...I think you get a chip for coming up with an item and the person to a certain number of chips is the winner. See...counting and pre-reading skills (knowing those letter sounds, right?). Ok, it's a stretch but I always thought it was fun. My children never saw the beauty of it...which was your question, right?

    My kids like Master Mind (also a favorite of mine from childhood) and Battleship. Perfection is also up there, and Uno.

    1. Well, you have been on my mind recently...

      I do not remember the shopping center game. There's some learning going on in that game, from the sounds of it! I was wondering if your boys even agreed to try it. :)

      Master Mind? Never heard of it, either! We do play Battleship and Uno. Perfection makes me a crazy person. I jump every single time it pops. We don't have it in our house, but I need to find it. The kids would love it.

  2. Before we had another snow day I bought a word game called Quiddler. I love word games but Christopher isn't really ready for scrabble yet. I am still having to help him to maximize his point with what he can spell out of the cards he's holding but it's fun. I wasn't intended for math but I'll have him tell me what amount his cards come to negative or positive and he has work it out in his head. That boy has beat my pants off at regular Monopoly even from the first time playing. I need to look at the advanced rules of that game. The longest we've ever played was four hours. Now I just say, "Well I'm out of money, you win."

    1. We have that game! But we've never played it. I'll have to pull it out and give it a whirl.

      Four hours!?!? Oh, heck no. We have the SpongeBob version of Monopoly, and someone introduced it to the little kids without my permission. I've played it several times, and the 4 year old has beaten us, but there is no way I'm playing the same game for 4 hours. You are way more patient than me!

    2. Sorry to jump in, but just had to say Quiddler is awesome - we love it!

  3. Hey that's brilliant! Very helpful. Thanks for sharing these tips.

  4. Oh now I get all the "eh's"! hahaha! This list is great! I would never, ever have thought the monopoly jr. game was a good one (not a fan of the adult version) but now I'm getting it! We love games (board, dice, cards, anything!) so any new suggestions are great! Oh the domino one is right up our alley too. I'll have to look for it. Is it readily available, like from WalMart or Target?

    1. Ha!
      I'm with you on the Monopoly Jr. One of the kids got it as a gift, and I was dreading having to play it. It was a pleasant surprise when I actually didn't mind it!

      The domino game is available in many stores. It may not be the same cool carrying case, but they are around.

  5. Kids do love games. I've spent hours playing with my son, and then my granddaughters. They learn very quickly and pretty soon they can beat us old folks every single time.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. The kids LOVE it when they can finally beat me in a game. The only one I'm still holding strong in is Boggle.

  6. Cmon, you've gotta appreciate our spelling one day a year, right?

    Wow, I really love this list. It feels hard to find games that I don't hate and that they actually want to play so I'll definitely give these a look.

    1. I'll give you one day. :)

      There are most certainly games I will not play with the kids. It can be a challenge to find ones that make both adult and child happy. After 15 years, I've finally found a good number which qualify.

  7. I'm the mom who, when other moms talk about "Game Night" with their kids, hopes and PRAYS that my kids don't hear and get any funny ideas about doing it at our house...Not that I don't like playing and generally spending time with my kids, but board games are the WORST, as far as I'm concerned. I've learned quite a few math card games (we use Right Start Math, and there are games for almost everything!), but now I'm actually considering some of the games listed above. So thanks...I think. ;)

    1. Oh, we don't do "Game Night" around here, either. It can get to be too much. One game at a time, with a break in between is more my style.
      You're welcome, regardless. :)

  8. We play a lot of memory, the German version of Sorry (Lily ALWAYS wins!!) and (yes) CandyLand, and those games on seasons and learning the clock the girls got for the holidays. Thinking about getting the Monopoly Junior now! We also hate the "adult" version of Monopoly, but maybe the Junior version is the key :-) Thanks for the tips, Christine!

  9. We have a little bit of a game addiction issue in this house. Really, it's my fault. I tell myself that lessons are better learned in a hands-on, socially-motivated manner than through yet another dumb worksheet that I refuse to grade because I hate them. Hate. Them. You have given me some new reasons to shop Amazon today!

  10. We are a game-playing family! For older kids, Cribbage is excellent for practicing math skills. Set is a fab card game for visual discrimation. Apples to Apples Jr. and regular were favorites...especially with some of our exchange students. Qwirkle is one we added to our collection a couple years ago and this year it was for the adult set...Cards Against Humanity. Not sure how much educational value it has, but it's been fun!

  11. It was so nice to see you spelling correctly for once. But lose the 'eh's ;)

    I know you told me how to play war, but I've forgotten already. I'll have to Google it.

    Niece and Neff aren't into board games. They're into the DS (blech) and tv (blech) and PLAYING IN THE PARK (YAAAAY) and playing OUTSIDE (YAAAAY) and rough and tumble (painful - usually for me)

    But they do like my antique marble solitaire, though it has a limited attention span for them, and Neff plays (a modified version of) Warhammer with Husby (at *least* it's good for something) and sometimes we play pick-up-sticks, which both kids adore.

  12. What a great post - and I couldn't agree more. They'll get enough homework; play. Just play. We love games of all kinds and if I started listing favorites (of favourites), I'd never stop! And the family interaction time isn't a bad perk, either, right? Too many kids just don't get enough of that.

    Love the eh's - nice touch. :)

  13. I'm a little sad to admit that we haven't played any of these games with Davis. We do play lots of other games (card games, CandyLand, Guess Who, etc.) I'll have to look into getting a few of these games to add to our collection. Thanks for sharing!


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