A Time To Play
Our family loves board and tabletop games. We incorporate them into our day on a regular basis. In the afternoon, once we’ve finished all our activities for the day and find time to relax, the boys often head to the games shelf. Now that Teddy is 7 and Harry’s 6, they are able to play games together without me. However, on Saturday evenings after dinner we put time aside for family games night. We make a bowl of popcorn and all gather around the table to play.
Playing board games offers multiple opportunities for children to develop vital social skills. Playing harmoniously requires people to show respect through taking turns, listening to one another and following the rules. These are important life lessons which we use to develop friendships and build trusting relationships.
At the bottom of this post, you will find my unsolicited top ten family games. I have done two different lists, a 4–6-year-old and 6-9. Most are amazon affiliate links however some go directly to the company or small distributors we purchase from.
Developing Emotional Skills
Most of all we want to encourage fun and laughter whilst enjoying a game and playing together. By design, games are mostly competitive and drive towards a single winner. The notion of winning and losing can be difficult for children and adults.
Children experience a number of different feelings whilst playing games including: excitement, nervousness, happiness and even sadness. It is important for children to recognise these feelings and understand why they are feeling this way. As adults we can manage our emotions and have learnt to cope in difficult environments. Knowing what makes us feel happy and calm can help us deal with tense situations where we feel frustrated or angry. This can be a bit of a roller coaster ride for children who are still developing and learning about their emotions. Games can bring out all of this.
If you wish to incorporate tabletop games in your home but your child finds the competitive aspect difficult, I recommend cooperative games. These games encourage players to work as a team to win the game together. One company I recommend which has a range of these friendly games is Peaceable Kingdom.
Looking at our shelf of games now, I realise most of them are maths and logic based. This was not a deliberate theme but are the games we enjoy most. Teddy and Harry do not consider playing games as ‘learning’ or something they have to do. We play for fun and enjoy spending time together. The bribe of popcorn also helps! The skills they are naturally developing are a steppingstone for life.
Many early years games such as Uno, dominoes, memory and bingo all require children to perform basic skills in identifying and classifying in some way; whether this is by number, shape or colour. Matching and sorting are fundamental maths skills, providing the ground work for the development of more complex skills later on.
Other skills which can be developed through tabletop games include: addition and subtraction, time, money, shapes and social skills. Most of all, remember that games are meant to be fun, choose games that are right for your family and know that there is a whole world of games out there beyond the mainstays of Monopoly and Cluedo.
Our Top 10 Games (Aged 4-6)
Here are my top 10 games, all of which line our shelves and have enjoyed much use over the last few years. While some are aimed at children aged four to six many easily continue on into adulthood.
- Battleships (all ages) – a classic game introducing co-ordinates.
- Swamp Sums (4-6) – introduces a number of maths skills including basic additional and subtraction, odd and even numbers, higher and lower numbers.
- Uno (all ages) – matching cards by number and colour.
- Dos (all ages) – matching as well as developing addition skills.
- Go Fish (4-6) – another matching game. We always start the sentence with ‘Please can I have…’
- I Sea 10 (4-6) – an addition game to ten using numbers and animals.
- Pop To The shops (4-6) – this Orchard Toys game helps develop money skills.
- Match A Track (4-8) – a memory game matching animals to the correct tracks they would make.
- Dobble (all ages) – a matching game with 8 different symbols on each card requiring concentration and observation.
- Triominus (4-9) – a domino style game in triangles.
Our Top 10 Games (Aged 6-9)
As Teddy now approaches 8, we have added more complex games to our collection. These are my top 10 games I recommend for children aged 6 – 9. By the time you get to this age many of the games are suitable for children and adults with easier and harder ways to play.
- Leaps And Ledges (6-9) – developing strategies with numbers as players climb to the top of a tower.
- Qwirkle (all ages) – matching and sorting tiles by shape and colour, surprisingly complex. Count and add points along the way.
- Blockus (all ages) – developing skills in using shapes and spatial awareness.
- King Domino (all ages) – a game using grids to build a land. Use multiplication to add up the final score.
- The Genius Square (all ages) – this Happy Puzzle Company game of magnetic shapes is even tricky for me.
- Swish (all ages) – a quick and easy card game matching colours and patterns.
- Ticket to Ride First Journey (6-9) – developing strategy and counting in this great introduction to adult style boardgames.
- Yahtzee (all ages) – great for developing addition and multiplication skills.
- Moneybags (6-9) – this Learning Resources game uses coins and develop numeracy skills with money.
- Monster Sock Factory (6-9) – a maths boardgame aimed at developing multiplication and division skills.
Discover Related Topics
Checking out library books at the beginning of all these topics really helped to introduce Teddy and Harry to the theme.