How board games can help promote learning

The main goal of playing any board game is to have fun and bond with family or friends, but many games designed for children have sneaky little educational components you might not even notice! A game might seem like just a fun activity, but it might involve counting, matching, grouping, or number, shape, or color recognition. There might also be other benefits like improving hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, listening and memory skills, and the skills of focusing and following rules.

There aren’t a ton of family board games designed to include children under 3, but at Baby‘s age, board game competition isn’t exactly fierce, the winner isn’t going to matter, and the rules aren’t super important. Because of that, you can turn a lot of games into age-appropriate games for Baby by skipping over some of the more complicated rules or taking out cards in the deck that make the game harder. Then you can focus on having fun and learning along the way!

  • Candy Land: Take out some of the more complicated cards if you have an older version (the latest edition just has a spinner), and this game can help Baby learn their colors and have fun taking turns and following directions! 
  • Memory: Memory lets players choose cards that are face down on a board, flip them over, and then try to find the other matching card in the group. As the name might suggest, it’s great for developing and improving memory skills as well as recognizing shapes and colors, and if you don’t happen to have the game at home, a deck of playing cards can work in a pinch, too.
  • Uno: Uno is great for learning colors and numbers, and eventually strategy can even come into play. You might want to remove the more complex “+4” and “Skip” cards and just stick to colors and numbers until Baby really gets the hang of it, though.
  • Chutes and Ladders: This game is marketed for ages 4 and up, but it doesn’t require any reading, so it can work for Baby. Chutes and Ladders can help them learn numbers, and one interpretation of the game says it can start to teach them about good deeds! (Refresher: good deeds get you a ladder up, bad deeds get you a chute further down the board.)
  • Hi Ho Cherry-O: This cherry-picking game can be an early introduction to counting, color matching, and (if you have the newer edition) puzzles! The newest edition has different kind of fruit, so Baby can learn about cherries, blueberries, apples, and oranges while they practice counting (and maybe even some foundational math skills!).
  • Monopoly: Okay, Baby probably isn’t really ready for this one yet, but you two can play with the money so they start to learn the basics of currency! Or, you know, just work on their dexterity with some colorful paper.

Because some of these games are technically for ages 3 and up, they might have small parts that are potential choking hazards. If you and Baby do have fun with one of these games, make sure to watch out for little cherries, gingerbread men, etc! And if Baby doesn’t quite “get” a particular game right away, don’t worry. You can try it again when they are a little older or just make up the rules as you go along. Creativity is learning too! 

  • “The Benefits of Board Games.” Scholastic. Scholastic Inc. Accessed June 20, 2017.

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