Mommy play with me? Parents out there, how many times have you heard this? There are times when my 5 year old asks me this and she means her Shopkins, or her stuffed toys, but then there are times when she means games. Games! Not Candyland or Cooties, although we do have those, but “Mommy’s games”. These are games that are generally not rated 3 and up. That right there is when I drop everything and go! (Not really, but you get the idea).
One of the questions that I get asked quite a lot, and a question that I see posted on the boards that I frequent is “How do I get my (insert age here) year old to play games?”. This is a hot topic and one that I hop on to answer a lot. For me the answer, or answers, was simple. Here’s a quick rundown:
1- My daughter, Emily, is 5, she has been playing games since she was right around 2. She owns the classic toddler games, but did not cut her teeth on them. Don’t be afraid to skip Chutes and Ladders. One of her first games was Roll For It by Chris Leder published by Calliope Games. Matching the dice she rolled to the cards was amazingly simple, and she loved getting the matches.
2- When you child sees you playing a game, and asks to play too, don’t roll your eyes and pack it up. They’re asking you to play what they see, not something else, so let them play too. My daughter frequently plays Arkham Horror LCG (published by Fantasy Flight Games) with us by pulling the tokens from the bag, moving the pieces around the board and drawing new cards for us. She sees that I’m excited about the game, and she wants to be a part of it too. So we let her! And that makes her excited about it too!
3- There are some games that can be “dumbed down” to make it accessible to a kid. There are times when we play open handed, even if the game is competitive, so that we can play with her. There are times when we change the rules a bit, or even remove some, so that she can enjoy the game too. When she starts to catch on, then we add them back, or teach her new ones. A great example of this was Takenoko by Antoine Bauza, (published by Asmodee) until recently we played open handed. We helped her find the matches to her cards to score points. Recently she has moved up to playing on her own, and she frequently wins!
4- Kids are so very smart, and adaptable, don’t underestimate them. They can pick up on things, and remember rules that even we forget. I recently took a chance and picked up Fabled Fruit by Friedemann Friese (published by Stronghold Games). This is a kind of legacy game, without permanently damaging the pieces, but the cards had a lot of text. At the start of each game I read the cards to her and then we play. Here’s the cool thing, she remembers the card effects! Right now we are playing through the game as a legacy, and she is beating me by 2 points in the overall standings. She may not be able to read, but she can remember, and she does! I can’t say this enough, do not underestimate kids. Try it, and surprise yourself!
5- Don’t be afraid to try something new. Take your child to a game store and see what appeals to them. See what types of games they gravitate to. Do they seem to like space games? Animal games? Star Wars? Then look for something that you can play together. This is a hobby that we are all excited to share with new players, how cool would it be to share it with someone that we live with? Let them guide you, and if it’s something that doesn’t tickle your particular fancy, then try it out. It may just turn out to be a great game mechanically, and one you can share for a long time!
I am excited that my daughter has turned into a little gamer, and when she found out that I was running a blog about solo gaming, asked me when I would talk about her, and what games she likes to play. In response I am writing this little article. I also promised to highlight “her games” once a month in a new feature called “Come Game with E”. I’ll discuss games that she and I are playing together, her thoughts, changes we may have made to make it playable for her, and anything else that we can think of.
If you’re a parent, someone who knows a kid who wants to game, or just want to hear a 5 year old’s take on our precious hobby, I invite you to join me. I promise you, it will be anything but boring!
Leave me a comment below, and let me know what games you think we should play, or even share your experiences. And don’t forget to follow me here and on Twitter for up to date postings!