The holiday season has ended, and many a child is playing with their presents. While some are whiling away the hours with the latest video games or toy sets, there are some who are discovering the world of tabletop gaming.
They are right that good parenting should include introducing kids to tabletop games.
Now, I’m not here to discuss the benefits of gaming with children, from learning to social time. Instead, this will be a mini-review of several games my little ones were gifted, from what I thought of them to how they reacted.
Please be aware, these are not new releases, the top games of any year, or intended for older audiences. These merely are the board games my six- and three-year-old enjoyed.
Probably the most classic game a young child can play is Chutes and Ladders. The concept and rules are so simple that any child that can count understands the game. Spin the spinner, move the number, and if you land on a chute or ladder, you either slide back or climb forward accordingly.
This variation of the game adds all the imagery of the My Little Pony fandom. Toy-sized ponies replace the cardboard cutouts, and they add rainbows that act like additional “ladders” you can place how you see fit.
My young children loved this game, which makes it a shame the construction was so shoddy. The ponies were pretty but not functional, as they kept falling over, and the rainbows didn’t align well. Otherwise, this reskinned classic should work for even the youngest MLP fan.
Part die roller and part trivia game, this was the most straightforward play and yet provided a unique challenge. Each player rolls a six-sided die with different colors and then moves the character that matches the color (regardless of owner). Should the character land on a stoplight, the owner must answer a STEM-related trivia question.
Although listed as 3+, my youngest struggled at times, but my six-year-old readily answered them. Even then, the questions are quite blatant, often containing the answer to the question – with a little word emphasis, my three-year-old was able to compete as well.
Unfortunately, Blaze runs out of replayability fast, as they learn the answers to all the questions. The additional “game” on the reverse side of the board isn’t a game either; it’s just an excuse to have kids pretend to race on a track with the cardboard cutouts.
A memorization game, players must use “red reveal” glasses to memorize the tiles they’ve been given. During the day phase, several tiles are revealed, and the players must assign them to each other based on memory. The night phase allows the use of the glasses to see if people remembered right; if they did, they get the tile, if not the villain does. Mismatch too many tiles by the end, and everyone loses.
Possibly the most frustrating game to explain to young children, I still enjoyed the cooperative nature of this game. I memorized my own tiles, but my kids also used deduction and remembered if they didn’t have it someone else did.
There’s some replayability to this game, as what tiles each player starts with is randomized. Unfortunately, for the youngest children, the concept of taking the mask off and on proved challenging. Also, if your child (or you) has certain types of colorblindness, then this game obviously won’t work.
Another memory game, this one proved the most enjoyable for my kids. Simple set up and instructions made the explanation easy, even for the youngest child. Colored eggs are hidden beneath penguins; roll two dice and try to discover a match for one or both. Succeed, and the penguin and egg are yours; match both dice, and you get a second turn.
What’s nice about this game is the adaptability as your children grow. Advanced rules allow players to hide or lie about what they have, while another level enables you to steal eggs from other players.
While the other games above were all based on popular culture, Pengoloo was excellent for bringing games back to classic themes. Blue Orange Games also made sure they were made of far sturdier materials than the flimsy cardboard in most.
These are just a few of the games my children enjoyed playing, and you don’t have to introduce them to simple stuff at first. My eldest now plays Santorini and Imperial Assault, albeit with some much-needed guidance; even the youngest enjoys rolling dice, although I recommend investing in a dice tower.
Regardless of what games you choose to introduce the new generation of tabletop gamers with, I can’t emphasize to keep the hobby alive. The young kids playing Chutes and Ladders of today may create the Pandemic of tomorrow.