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The holidays are almost here, and with them, a whirlwind of events, activities and reunions. And when you’re not running errands, you’re likely running around your home, preparing to host your own party, or simply making sure the kids don’t kill each other during those extreme-cold cabin fever days.
A good way to keep the young ones’ minds occupied during the winter break is with any one of the new generation of board games that can compete with phones and gaming consoles for kids’ attention. And this is actually a good time to get board game deals in Canada.
Learn how playing board games benefits children, how to choose the right type for your kids and discover three of the most popular games around.
Why Board Games Are Good For Kids
Most people can probably appreciate how playing board and card games have a healthy effect on intellectual development – especially during the formative years. Common ways kids benefit from playing board games include:
- Communication skills
- Colour and shape recognition
- Depth perception and motor skills needed to gently move pieces around the board
- Learning numbers, counting and basic math skills
- Early literacy skills
- Concentration and problem-solving skills. (asking your kids about strategies they and other players chose can enhance their learning)
- Strategic thinking and deductive reasoning
Aside from intellectual development, however, playing board games also has a positive effect on children’s mental wellness. For example, playing board games has been shown to:
- Ease social anxiety. Board games provide structure for kids who are still learning how to interact socially with each other. There is a procedure to follow during gameplay, and the game gives them something to talk about.
- Help children learn patience as they wait for their turns.
- Educate children on how to work as a team in cooperative games.
- Teach kids how to deal with frustration and disappointment when things don’t go their way.
- Keep them engaged in non-screen activities.
And it’s not just your little ones whose brains get a boost from playing board games. Older children and young adults who play board games enjoy further development of their frontal lobes when exercising executive functions like organizing, planning and decision-making. Research also shows that board games can improve memory and mental agility in adults as they exercise their creativity and strategic thinking.
Choosing the Right Board Games for Your Kids
There are two basic considerations when narrowing down the options and finding the right types of games for your children – choosing skills you would like for them to establish and picking a game that suits their temperament.
When deciding which skills you’d like your children to practice, there’s a balance to be struck between challenging children, so they develop those skills, keeping them engaged, and preventing them from getting discouraged. Below are suggested skills kids should be focused on by age:
- From ages three to six – games that simply teach kids to wait their turn and start recognizing shapes, colours, letters, and numbers are ideal.
- Between the ages of six and nine – introduce your kids to games with basic strategies like Checkers.
- From ages nine to 12 – this is the age kids can handle more complex games that require deductive reasoning like Clue and strategies like Chess.
- 13 and up – games that combine multiple skills are ideal.
You must also assess games based on your child’s temperament. For example, games that involve a lot of luck can be discouraging to children who are easily flustered; and be wary of zero-sum games like the classics, where players are eliminated and may have to sit out for a long time before getting to play again.
One of the reasons for the resurgence of board games is the innovation in gameplay. Newer board game options include those that require player interaction, teamwork and storytelling.
Here are three examples of games that check all the educational boxes and are some of the most popular titles in the board game world.
Dixit (ages 8+, 3-6 players, 30 mins of playtime)
What’s old is new again as your kids practice the age-old art of storytelling in Dixit. Each player is dealt the same six (beautifully) illustrated cards. The storyteller chooses a card and narrates it using one sentence. Each player then looks at their own cards and selects the one they feel is being described. All players hand the storyteller their guess face down. The storyteller shuffles the cards and displays them face up.
Each player then bids on the card they think is the storyteller’s. If all players guess correctly or no players can guess the right card, the storyteller scores zero, and the guessers each earn two points. If not, the storyteller receives three points, as do any of the guessers that pick the right card. Guessers also earn a point if another guesser picks their card. The first to 30, or the highest score when the deck is empty, wins!
Wingspan (ages 10+, 1-5 players, 40-70 mins of playtime)
If your family doesn’t already own a copy of the global phenomenon that is Wingspan, it’s time to discover this highly addictive and beautifully-crafted tabletop game – especially if your family is the nature-enthusiast, outdoorsy type.
In Wingspan, each player owns a nature preserve and tries to attract as many birds (or as many of the right birds) to their preserve as possible by trying to strike the right balance between playing food tokens and laying eggs. Each bird they hatch or attract is worth a specific number of points, and the winner is the ornithologist with the most points after four rounds.
Ticket to Ride (ages 8+, 2-5 players, 30-60 mins of playtime)
A game of Ticket to Ride is just the right balance of strategy and a little luck, and it isn’t too complicated, making it a good choice for younger enthusiasts and those who are looking for an amusing way to pass the time.
Players compete for train cards that allow them to build certain routes between cities. They get extra points if they can connect those routes to secret destinations. The choice is yours, risk a longer, more lucrative route you might not complete in time, which means you lose points, or build as many smaller, quicker routes as quick as you can and hope they add up.