I come from a long line of gamers. One of the most engrained vestiges of my childhood is not a person….but a place. It’s a closet located just inside the foyer of my grandparent’s house, which I believed possessed magical properties. Not unlike C.S. Lewis’ famed wardrobe, this closet and its contents had the power to transport me. You see, this closet was brimming with games….so…many wonderful games.
My grandparents had gathered quite a collection over the years, playing them first with their own children, and then with their ever-growing brood of seventeen grandchildren. So powerful was the magic of this closet, the smells of the old cards, the captivating detail of the original game boards, that I still have a visceral reaction to this day when I sit around a table with family and friends to play a game.
The day I was informed that a pipe had burst in their house, flooding the magical closest, and destroying the vast majority of its talisman contents I felt an actual crack in the fabric of time. My cousins and I all scrambled to purchase games in a desperate effort to replenish the beloved closet. None of us ever said it aloud, but something about the closet was different after that day.
When I became a mother, I desired to pass on this love of board games to my own children. Once my oldest was in preschool, I filled my own closet with classic favorites like Candyland, Hi-Ho Cherrio, and Shoots and Ladders. What I quickly discovered was that each of these games had one common thread……they made me want to gouge my eyes out.
You heard me correctly……there are only so many times a grown woman with a college degree should be asked to endure a game of chance. I need strategy…..I need suspense….I need something more…so…much…more.
Around the age of 8 the entire game playing experience shifts, and a whole new world of possibility awaits you and your child. I knew this season was temporary, and so I endured it with my first…and second….and third child, but by child number four it was simply too much. So this summer I made it my mission to conjure up a list of the top five must-have board games to play with your preschool-aged children.
This list will literally add 5 years back onto your life expectancy, it will help you when looking for gifts, and I’m pretty sure my selflessness in creating it now enables me to place the word humanitarian on my resume, receive an Honorary Doctorate, and apply for Dame-hood.
The magic of this list is that each of these games incorporates an element of strategy without requiring your child to have the ability to read. That pairing is the magic combination necessary to maintaining your sanity while playing games with your kids…..but finding those types of games, is essentially like capturing a unicorn.
Here are my list of 5 Board Games….that are sure to keep your sanity in tact….you’re welcome:
- Hiss – This color-matching, draw, and play card game, removes the ever-pesky variable of asking preschoolers to manage a handful of cards. The objective is to build interconnecting colorful snakes. The player to complete a snake, head-to-tale, gets to collect all the cards utilized in the creation of that snake. Once all game cards have been played, the player with the most snake cards is the victor.
- UNO Moo – A spin off of the classic card game, this version features an adorable barn storage unit, child-friendly fist sized plastic game pieces, and reinforces both color and matching skills. This game places an emphasis on probability while still balancing an element of luck….and since small children are freakishly lucky….they actually have a good chance of winning this game.
- Race to the Treasure. This delightful, cooperative game by Peaceable Kingdom, incorporates the strategic placement of path tiles with the objective of gathering scattered keys, and ultimately reaching the treasure at the far side of the game board. Every player works together to achieve this collective goal in an effort to arrive at the treasure before the ever ominous Ogres do.
- Outfoxed. This whodunit style game by Peaceable Kingdom is the perfect way to utilize problem solving and reasoning skills. This is a cooperative game where players work together to determine which of the 16 foxes has absconded with Mrs. Plumpert’s chicken pot pie. You gather clues, and determine the culprit through the process of elimination before the fox makes it to the exit.
- Sequence for Kids. Dragons, unicorns, and animal sequences, oh my! This strategy based board and card game combination teaches your preschooler multi-stage strategy skills. With an emphasis on reasoning, planning, and adaptability, this game is wrought with unexpected turns, and reinforces the need for flexibility throughout the gaming experience.
The magic in playing games with your children, is that you are not only spending valuable quality time with them, but you are also teaching them the essential life skills of logic, strategy, and cooperation. Certainly if these valuable lessons can be done while keeping your sanity in tact…I think we would all consider that a win-win. There’s something more to it all though….a bigger lesson to be learned. Victory or defeat should not be the ultimate objectives…..they are objectives lets not undersell it……but the how we help them to navigate those outcomes should be our greatest focus.
Motherhood lived in technicolor reminds me that instilling in my children the ability to be a gracious loser just may reveal more things about their character than whether or not they are a courteous victor, but both will be critical skills to carry into adulthood.
This story is dedicated to my grandparents…..and to the love and magic I always felt in their home.
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Summer Smith is a speaker, writer, and motherhood blogger. She and her family are currently navigating the suburbs of Northern Virginia. As the mother to four young children, Summer maintains her sanity thanks to her sense of humor, copious amounts of coffee, and Amazon Prime. Maya Angelou once said, when reflecting on her childhood, that her mother left an impression like technicolor stars in the midnight sky. Influenced by these words, Summer blogs at her website Motherhood in Technicolor, and can also be found on her Motherhood in Technicolor Facebook page.