Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Teaching Kids to Play Games

3:13 PM by Mike ·
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I recently read an article from the Board Game News website (here). In it, Dale Yu talked about specific guidelines he follows when teaching his kids how to play games. I thought it was a great post, so I am adding my own ramblings to the guidelines he presents.

First, the 5 guidelines (from his post) that he presents:
1. Only teach the kids a game that they want to learn
2. Start with the basics
3. It's OK not to teach them everything at once!
4. Try to shorten the initial games to keep their interest high
5. Finally move onto the full game as they master the smaller parts

Now, my ramblings about each guideline:
1. Only teach the kids a game that they want to learn
I totally agree here. If a child is not interested in a game (or anything for that matter), it will be very difficult to teach them about it. This applies just as well to subjects in school. Our kids just naturally want to learn, but there are certain times when some things are more interesting to them than others. When they are interested in something, that is the time to help them learn about it.

I like how Dale Yu says that he'll just leave some games laying around so that his kids will "run into them." And how they usually are more interested in his games than the games that have been given to them. I find this with my kids as well. Of course, they have times when they want to play their games, but usually it's my games they are more interested in pulling out. These times make for the best opportunity to help them learn the game.

2. Start with the basics
This is good advice. I mean, if you want the kids to stay interested in the game, you've got to make sure to not overload them. Just help them understand the basics that will let them start playing them game. Then you can go along adding things in as needed. Perhaps you'll need to play 3 or 4 times before you've covered everything, but the kids will probably stay motivated to learn.

I've found, with my own kids anyway, that I also need to just let them go sometimes. There are times that they don't really want to learn to play the game. They would prefer instead to just play with the pieces and make things up as they go along. This for me is fantastic!! As I enjoy designing games, I think this gives them an opportunity to use their creativity and design games as well. In this case they are restricted by the pieces that come with the game, but many times they'll bring in other toys or things that are laying around at the time and incorporate them into the game as well. It's great to watch!!

3. It's OK not to teach them everything at once!
For the most part, I think this guideline fits right up there with number 2. Just introduce them to new aspects of the game as you go, as you feel they are ready to learn them.

4. Try to shorten the initial games to keep their interest high
This totally makes sense. Kids have shorter attention spans than us older kids. So, it's important to take that into consideration. I mean, that's probably one of the reasons for shorter kids games. How often have you seen a kids game that lasts an hour!!!? I think you can kind of gauge this as you are playing with your kids. If they are totally into the game, then let them continue. If you see that they won't be able to stick with it as long, well then, do things that will help reduce the time of gameplay, just like Dale Yu suggests with Dominion.

5. Finally move onto the full game as they master the smaller parts
Like I said above, just add a little here and there. Eventually you'll get the full game in and the kids, by then, will understand how to play and will be able to keep learning new aspects.

One game that my kids really like to get out is Heroscape (here). I'm guessing it's because of all the miniatures in the game. Plus, the terrain is customizable. You can interlock pieces, stack pieces, etc. It's great fun! Usually they just end up building their own thing, playing their own thing. We have played the basic rules a few times. And for the most part they follow along and it goes well.

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