Playing Scrabble on a rainy Sunday and Twenty Questions on a family car trip are wonderful family times. Games are, by their nature, fun, invigorating, and even exciting. Board games and card games also offer a wealth of learning opportunities. They can enhance our memory, teach spelling and mathematics, build cooperative learning skills, and provide lessons in strategy and logic.
Family games for fun and learning
Sometimes families get caught up in the win-lose aspect of the games and miss out on the fun. Parents should guide a young child through a game with words of encouragement. Ensure that she wins often by changing the rules of the game to fit both her level of skill and her level of comfort at losing.
For example, play a game so that there's more than one winner, or take the focus off individual scores by adding up joint scores and seeing how high a score the team can achieve. By the time they are ten, most children understand that they can't always be winners and they'll want to play the game just for the fun of it.
Word games for reading
By the time your child is six, you've probably found that riddles and rhymes have helped her talk her way to improved language skills. Encourage her to continue repeating these rhymes for you or playing other silly rhyming games at home.
Children aged seven and eight can practise reading skills in the junior versions of games like Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. With help from family members, a 10-year-old can follow the instructions. Their spelling skills get a workout in Scrabble, Yahtzee, and Boggle.
Everyone is a winner!
You can't lose with an investment in these classic board games:
Pop-o-Matic (AKA Touble/Frustration)
Snakes and Ladders
Ages 7 and 8
Ages 9 and up
Games that add up
Number songs and number rhymes also help young children learning to manipulate numbers. A six-year-old probably already knows half a dozen rhymes like One, Two, Buckle My Shoe and This Old Man that teach counting forward and backward.
Other games offer practice in the skills of adding and subtracting. Think of a Number is a good game to play in the car, in the grocery store lineup, or while waiting in the doctor's office. Say "I'm thinking of a number that is 4 more than 5. Do you know what it is?" Getting the right answer gives your child a chance to think up the next question for you.
Try fun Q & A games
Simple question-and-answer games like I Spy or Twenty Questions are time-tested games for helping children develop problem solving skills. Number cubes and dominoes help them practise counting as they throw a pair of dice, add up the dot patterns, and move their piece around the board in a game of chance. Any game in which a score must be kept provides practice with mental addition.
Bring out a deck of cards
Card games offer another fun way to play with number recognition and memory. Use simple card games to introduce younger children to the 52 cards in a deck, to the four suits of cards, to the values assigned to the face cards, and to the number cards.
You might begin by playing Snap! Remove from a deck of cards the 10s, jacks, queens, and kings. Shuffle the remaining 36 cards and deal them out. Each player turns over one card, either in turn or at the same time.
If the numbers on the two cards turned over add up to 10, the first player to shout "Snap!" wins those two cards. Play the game through until all the cards are won and lost. When children are older and more familiar with mathematical operations and with card values, they may be ready to play cribbage with Grandpa.
Looking more for more family-friendly activities? Check out these 30 fun things for your kids to do!