Aiden was about 26 months old when he first became obsessed with board games. His first board game was the Curious George Discovery Beach game that was all about finding shapes and colours hidden in the ‘sand’ and he played it all the time. Since that very first board game, we have been modifying game rules to suit his age. Now that Aiden is older, he still requests to play a board game almost every day, except now the games are much longer and more involved.
I have spent far too many hours researching board games for kids and more often than not find them too stupid or not well made or boring after a few plays. Even after my research, some of the games we’ve tried have been duds. The most successful games for Aiden (who is now 4.5) have been adult games, modified to suit his ability level. I find that adult games, being longer, are more easily suited to the enjoyment of the process of playing, rather than winning vs losing.
Aiden’s favourite game right now is Carcassonne. Thankfully, it’s my favourite game too, so I don’t mind playing it a few times a week. This was an extremely easy game to modify for Aiden, as it simply involved taking out whole sets of rules. For example, when we began we took out the cloister cards and didn’t build farms. Instead, we focused on cities and roads only. Since Aiden has experience playing dominoes, he found it very easy to understand this game – indeed, he won against me fair and square the first time (I rarely dumb down my abilities). I sometimes have to remind him “Do you want to claim that city / road?” if he forgets, but the placement of the cards has been very easy for him.
Aiden has only once been upset playing Carcassonne, because he “didn’t get to flip his card to 100”, not because he lost. He’s won a couple of times, but usually I win and he’s ok with that. We have already added in the cloisters, so only the farms are excluded from our games now.
Here is Aiden playing “the train game,” aka Ticket to Ride. This was not quite as straightforward to modify, since there are a lot of cards and rules involved. You can find ideas for modifications here, though we went further and removed the destination tickets, instead just having fun building the train segments.
The next came on my list is a children’s game specifically simplified from the adult version, Catan: Junior. Given that Aiden’s 5th birthday is coming up, we’re trying to be patient ;)