How to take the ‘bored’ out of board games

Balonne Beacon - - LIFE - CASSIE HAMER

WHEN given a choice be­tween play­ing Bar­bies, play­ing a board game, or stab­bing my­self in the eye, I nor­mally choose a board game (though the eye-stab­bing thing runs a close sec­ond).

For me, a game of Snakes and Lad­ders or Zingo is a bit like going for a run – there may be a lit­tle pain in­volved, but it also may turn out to be fun, and I know it’s good for us.

Board games are un­de­ni­ably great for kids. They’re a dis­guised les­son in logic, prob­lem solv­ing, lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy.

They get kids off their screens and talk­ing (maybe even laugh­ing) with you, and then there’s also that im­por­tant life les­son – learn­ing how to lose grace­fully.

Now, the ir­refutable ben­e­fits of board games may be sad news for some parents who hate them and find they al­ways end in tears. But be­lieve me, there are ways to avoid the cry­ing. Well, the kids’ cry­ing at least.

1. Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate your child’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but don’t

over­es­ti­mate them ei­ther. If your child can’t read or write, then don’t start them off with Mo­nop­oly. Start with some­thing sim­ple, like Hun­gry Hippo or Snap. Con­versely, you’d prob­a­bly be pretty amazed at the com­plex­ity that kids can han­dle. Even a four-year-old can read a dice, which opens up a whole world of pos­si­bil­i­ties. At my girls’ school, kids in kinder­garten learn chess. I’m not say­ing they’ve got all the moves nailed, but given the right in­struc­tion, kids can learn even the most com­plex of games. 2. Break the rules or make your own. My girls are now aged four, six and eight, which means they’ve reached the point where we can finally all play games to­gether. How­ever, we do make ac­com­mo­da­tions for the youngest, which means oc­ca­sion­ally bend­ing the rules. To avoid ac­cu­sa­tions of cheat­ing from her sis­ters, we set the ground rules at the start.

Re­mem­ber, it’s your game. You paid for it. Once it’s in your house, it’s your rules. It’s not like the Has­bro-po­lice will track you down if you change them. 3. Set a time limit. At the best of times, my eight-year-old is in­de­ci­sive. This is mildly an­noy­ing when we’re at the su­per­mar­ket and I’ve given her two dol­lars to spend on a treat, but it’s down­right in­fu­ri­at­ing when we’re play­ing a game of Trou­ble and she’s paral­ysed be­tween mov­ing her first piece or her third.

Here’s the tip – set a time limit on tak­ing turns. Use an egg timer, a stop­watch, what­ever. As I’m al­ways telling the girls, a fast game’s a good game. 4. Make up your own board game. Don’t like what’s on of­fer? Then how about you make your own. For this ac­tiv­ity, you need noth­ing more than a large piece of card­board, some tex­tas

and a bit of imag­i­na­tion.

For a school project, my daugh­ter cre­ated The Game of Aus­tralia where we drew a map, in­serted some ‘stops’ and made up a few quiz ques­tions. A whole af­ter­noon, sorted. 5. Don’t buy the ju­nior ver­sion. Of anything. Re­mem­ber those school hol­i­days you used to spend play­ing games of Mo­nop­oly that went for days on end? Well, I can al­most guar­an­tee that you won’t get that same fuzzy feel­ing from play­ing Ju­nior Mo­nop­oly. It’s just not as good. You’re bet­ter off buy­ing the real thing and

dumb­ing it down your­self (see point 1 above)

6. Make a night of it. If you’re anything like me, your games are stashed away in a cup­board some­where, just wait­ing for some­one to re­mem­ber to use them.

Out of sight, out of mind. So, to get around that sad fact of sim­ply for­get­ting to play them, how about you sched­ule it in and make it a reg­u­lar event. Your chil­dren, and the poor ne­glected dice, will thank you for it.

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JUST ROLL WITH IT: Play­ing board games with your chil­dren doesn’t have to be a painful ex­pe­ri­ence.

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