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While we’d say that most of our blog is dedicated to adults with specific geeky interests, it’s no secret that many of us are old enough to have kids by now. And with a new generation comes a need to bond, or to introduce that new generation to our own interests.
Board games are a great way to do this. Children might seem completely alien, but remember – you were a kid, too, and chances are, you experienced the thrill of an evening spent over a board game with your family or friends at least once.
But besides bringing people together, board games can be educational, as an added benefit. We’ll be taking a closer look at some of educational benefits of board games, and why they should be a part of your household.
What Makes a Game Educational?
So, what exactly makes a game educational? We’d be willing to bet that when you think of an educational game, you think of some uninteresting number game with flash cards or something that you play in an elementary school classroom.
While it’s true that these sorts of games are indeed educational, a board game doesn’t have to be the way you’re imagining in order to impart valuable lessons.
For instance, the below features are common board game qualities that can make excellent learning experiences:
- Mystery or clue mechanics that encourage you to think.
- Having to add numbers or keep track of currency.
- Teamwork-oriented play where everyone must work together.
- Having to read cards or prompts and follow instructions.
Those are just a few potentially educational traits that immediately came to mind. But let’s take a look at exactly which learning benefits a good board game can offer to your family.
How Board Games Can Be Educational
They can help sharpen critical thinking skills.
If you’ve played a challenging strategic board game, then you’ve experienced firsthand how many of them make you pause and think. This same head-scratching quality applies perhaps even more so to children, who oftentimes haven’t greatly developed their critical thinking skills.
Best of all, board games don’t make it feel like a chore to use your brain. Instead of forcing kids to work through complex equations on homework or something similar, they’re using their heads to win a game. You’ll probably see them apply themselves so much more in this situation, especially if they’re competitive.
An example of a board game that encourages critical thinking (and is also appropriate for kids!) is Kingdomino. Suitable for ages eight and up, Kingdomino requires players to slowly build a kingdom turn by turn with dominos. Sides that are touching must be the same type of terrain, which means your kids can’t just put any domino anywhere.
This type of map-building mechanic forces you and your kids to think ahead and plan accordingly.
Playing games with others can improve social skills.
Board game nights are a fantastic way to get people talking. We’ve personally witnessed the most reserved people coming out of their shells when they gather with friends around a riveting game. You can almost forget how self-conscious you feel when you’re absorbed in the rules and play.
Games can cast the same spell over children. They no longer have to struggle to figure out what to talk about or how to fit into a conversation; suddenly, everyone is talking about the game, which your kid can chime in on.
As they grow more comfortable discussing aspects of the game, they’ll find themselves opening up. Teamwork-based games like Castle Panic would be especially wonderful for this, because it doesn’t apply the pressure of competition to any conversation. Players can just relax and discuss strategies together.
Some board games encourage strong teamwork.
We mentioned a little before how some games are cooperative rather than competitive. As you might imagine, these types of games are fantastic for encouraging children to work together with others.
If your child is the type of kid who struggles with working in teams or even being overly competitive, a cooperative game could help out. Games like this make players work together to complete an objective.
Because either everyone wins or no one wins at all, competition is irrelevant. These games are ideal for showing children (heck, even some adults) the benefits of strategizing with other people.
Again, Castle Panic is a wonderful choice in this regard. Players must work together to protect the team tower from waves of goblins.
If you’re concerned that your child is too young for Castle Panic, consider My First Castle Panic, which is a junior version of the game suitable for children as young as four.
It’s a way to get entertainment without screens.
One common complaint older generations have is how much time the younger ones spend staring into a screen. They lament about how disconnected we’re becoming, how impersonal society is these days.
Whether or not you think those complaints are valid, there’s no denying that staring at a screen all day can really strain your eyes and give you headaches. Even if you don’t buy into all the criticisms about the way online living impacts our social skills, you can probably admit that there are benefits to putting down our electronics here and there.
Your children aren’t as likely to see those benefits, though. Asking them to set aside their phone, tablet, or computer can result in some drama, to say the least.
A good board game can get around this, though. The more fun they have playing the game, the more likely they are to enjoy being away from their screens for a bit without it feeling like a punishment.
They encourage players to use reading comprehension abilities (in a fun way).
If you weren’t the type of person who was into English class in school, then you understand how hard it can be to motivate yourself to read sometimes. This can be particularly true for your little ones, who often have no choice but to read for assignments.
There’s something about being forced to do a task that makes it infinitely less desirable, even if you were planning to do it, anyway. Just think about all the times you’ve been asked to do something, and suddenly found yourself dragging your feet.
Board games can aid with this aspect, too. Many have cards, instructions, and prompts that require you to read. The difference here, however, is that this reading will lead to some kind of entertainment value, as opposed to, say, reading a textbook.
It’s not really a board game, but we can’t help but mention Apples to Apples when it comes to reading. In a nutshell, it’s Cards Against Humanity, but for kids aged 12 and up instead. Players have hands filled with cards with random things printed on them, such as objects and people, and must fill in the blank on a prompt card using one of their random cards.
One player, who’s a judge, picks which one they think is the funniest for the prompt. Not only is it a fantastic slumber party type of game, but it’s also fun to whip out for family game nights.
Players must learn how to cope with losing.
One of the hardest lessons in life is learning how to accept our losses. You’d think it would be easier, given that losing a game is something done recreationally, but it’s still difficult for competitive people to accept losses with grace.
A board game can help you teach this difficult lesson. Because the setting is usually a more relaxed one, losses in a board game show players that losing isn’t the worst thing that could happen to you.
This lesson is even clearer with cooperative board games. When everyone loses together, the loss is much less embarrassing, allowing all the players to laugh or talk about it together.
Hopefully, this post has helped you see that your geekier pursuits are worth sharing with your kids – not just because you enjoy them, but also because they can be beneficial for your children. Board games are one of the best home activities for the whole family.
We can also help you out when it comes to finding board games for the grown-ups in the house. Check out our list of the best horror-themed board games for adults.