Starting a regular family game night is a great way to bond with your child while also helping them learn important skills. You might be surprised by just how many benefits board games offer for your child’s development. Along with improving cognitive, social, and motor development, board games are a great way to unplug and spend quality time together as a family. Plus, board games have been shown to improve memory and focus for people of all ages, so you will benefit from playing too.
Keep reading to find out a few of the skills children can gain from playing board games, along with some recommended games to check out if you aren’t sure where to start or just want to mix things up.
Math and Language
Studies have shown that number-based board games can improve mathematical performance in preschool and school-aged children, including number recognition, counting, addition and subtraction skills. For younger children, Chutes and Ladders is a good introduction to board games that is number based. As your children get older, they will benefit from playing more complex strategy-based games that require more focus. Ticket to Ride: First Journey is a great option for school-aged children that will get them planning, matching colors, and adding numbers as they complete colorful train routes across the United States.
Children who are learning to read will benefit from games that involve reading cards on their turn, while simple games that focus on colors and shapes will help toddlers and preschoolers practice the language skills they need for kindergarten. ThinkFun Roll and Play is one option that is not only good for building your toddler’s vocabulary, but preschoolers and kindergarteners will also have fun reading the cards and performing actions as well.
Problem Solving and Decision Making
Problem solving and decision-making skills will benefit your child throughout school and into adulthood. While many of the board games geared toward preschool children are luck based, there are plenty to choose from that do require some simple strategic planning. For example, the classic game Trouble, though it has a luck element to it (dice rolling), allows players to choose which game piece to move and when, which requires some thought.
If you are looking for something that requires more strategy for school-aged children, check out Labyrinth. This game features a maze of tile pieces which players move on their turn in order to get to the treasure they need to complete their quest. Players need to carefully plan turns and overcome unexpected obstacles to reach their treasure first.
Teamwork and Social Skills
There are plenty of life lessons to be learned from board games, from following rules and working with others to losing gracefully. Younger children will benefit from even the simplest games, as they will teach them the basics of following directions and waiting patiently for their turn. There are also many cooperative games for children that will teach them the importance of teamwork. Hoot Owl Hoot and Seal Squad are both awesome games for younger children that require players to work together to achieve a common goal.
Games can also be a way for your child to work on both fine and gross motor skills. Many board games involve moving small pieces around a board, which can strengthen your child’s pincer grasp. But if your child could use some help improving their motor skills, there are plenty of games out there that are more physical than a traditional board game. Stack Up is perfect for preschoolers to work on their dexterity as they build a tower of blocks. Another similar stacking game that is a little more complex is Rhino Hero, in which players stack cards to make a building as the rhino climbs higher up.
Limiting screen time and encouraging your child to have fun in creative ways is also important for your child’s emotional well-being. Board games can be a great way to unplug and spend time together. They also provide opportunities for children to learn how to regulate emotions when things aren’t going their way, which can be transferred to other situations.
While any uninterrupted time where you are focusing on your child will benefit them emotionally, games that get you communicating and having thoughtful conversations with your child are especially helpful. In Q’s Race to the Top, players help a monkey named Q climb to the top of his treehouse, answering thoughtful questions and performing fun actions along the way.
Try these out for your next family game night! Play, Learn, and Grow with board games!
Noda, S., Shirotsuki, K. & Nakao, M. The effectiveness of intervention with board games: a systematic review. BioPsychoSocial Med 13, 22 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13030-019-0164-1
Ramani, G.B. and Siegler, R.S. (2008), Promoting Broad and Stable Improvements in Low‐Income Children’s Numerical Knowledge Through Playing Number Board Games. Child Development, 79: 375-394. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01131.x
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.