Damien Learns Board Games

It’s that time again! With a 2-and-a-half-year-old now running around our house, we are looking for some quiet ways to tame those crazy moments. You know those moments where there is so much roughhousing that someone sprains his fingers. True story. Poor Aiden. 

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Anyway, we recently started revisiting early board games with Damien. When Aiden was about this age, he was beyond obsessed with the Curious George Discovery Beach game. Damien will play it a little, but is honestly more interested in throwing the cards around after just a couple of turns. He has no interest in spending an hour looking for every last object. 

More to his taste are Perfection (honestly he’s so patient with it!), Uno Moo and Candyland. In all honesty, Candyland is the only game he will “play,” whereas the others he just wants to make up his own games with them. He wants to smash in the animals on Uno Moo, fill up the board on Perfection then turn it on and anxiously wait for the pop, or put together some of the other games such as putting together the hammock on Who Shook Hook, but never actually playing the game.

Damien is a much more “open ended” kid than Aiden was. Aiden has always loved the rigidity of rules and instructions. Whereas Damien will happily build his own sets using Hexacus or Mega Bloks, Aiden wants to follow the booklet or design a specific ‘thing’. Each way of thinking is so amazing, and I am endlessly fascinated with the variability in the development of our (and all) children. 

At this age, I rarely enforce ‘rules’ and would rather Damien explore materials on his own terms (as long as he’s not destroying them). When we sit down to play a more formal game like Candyland, he seems fine following the rules and waiting for his turn, even if he doesn’t yet understand exactly how to play. 

Modifying Adult Board Games for Kids

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. 

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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. 

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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 ;)

Aiden’s First Board Game

For Christmas, Santa gave Aiden his very first board game: the I Can Do That Games Curious George – Discovery Beach. The premise of the game is to find hidden treasures. You select cards, look under the panels, and find the matching objects. You shake up the box so that the items always move about to different places on the board or become buried / unburied in the sand.

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We don’t follow the rules of the game yet: we let Aiden look under all the panels, not using the spinning wheel, and we don’t collect cards we’ve ‘won’. So far, we lay out several cards for Aiden and he chooses one to look for – he will pull up panels until he finds what’s on his card, though sometimes we have to shake up the box again.

Aiden has a lot of fun playing this game. He loves looking for the cards that are more open ended, “any brown” or “any shell”, and cheers whenever he finds a matching item. He’ll happily sit and play this game with us for a solid half hour.