Raising the next generation of gamers…

Playing Board games with kids

We all know that the kids of today will be the gamers of tomorrow. However in order for that to happen they need to develop an interest in the games of today. The trouble is that it’s not always easy or fun to play games with kids, especially the younger ones.

I recall many occasions were younger kids were actively discouraged from playing by gamers. This usually happens in competitive games. At a Warhammer 40K event there were some kids who were very keen to play. One of the players, whose game they were watching, picked up a model and then began to tell them how difficult it is to build them and paint them. He kept going until their parents took them away.

Another time I was playing Magic and there was a 7 year old who was watching and begged his dad to buy him a deck so he can play too. None of the players who were not in a game wanted to show him anything. When I was done with my game I offered to teach him. It was laborious. Basic arithmetic was something that I had to keep re-explaining to him and I let him win. Quite a few of the other players were smirking at me during the game, but the dad looked very grateful.

Even taking kids to stores that sell games is a mission, they run around wide eyed like the proverbial ‘kid in a candy store’. This is usually greeted with much trepidation from store owners. Kids, especially excited ones, can easily make a mess or damage things. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen store owners cringe or gasp and my kids ran around a store pointing at stuff and squealing at each new discovery. I can fully understand the owners POV, although there are a few that get a chuckle from the kids reactions and the kids notice and usually ask to go back to that particular store.

Playing Board games with kids
I was teaching Samara how to play Star Wars Armada. I still need to have a few more games with her, then start teaching Ronin. He learns quite a bit just by watching.

Things like that make playing the games that we, adults, enjoy a chore to play with kids. We may need to play something that’s more on their level, something that we don’t want to play or we need to dumb down a game that we are ok with or we have to ‘cheat’ to make sure that they have a good time. I’ll often try to palm my pieces off of the board to let my kids win a game.

It’s tough for parents, to play with their own kids. Ask them and they will tell you that more often than not their kids are better behaved with other people than with them. It’s weird but it’s usually true. They know which buttons to press and they hammer them often. Getting them to learn is tough.

I’ve had to ask myself ‘what do I get out of playing games?’ For me the answer was the experience. It’s usually a social experience but sometimes it’s the mental challenge or a pure stroke of luck that leave a lasting impression. Sometimes it’s everything, all rolled into one.

With that in mind, if you’re trying to raise a gamer, or just get someone else’s kids to play then you will need to make it fun, for them. Ultimately it comes down to patience and letting them play the games that they would like to play. I’m not saying let them go to town with your 4 grand wargaming models, but if they get to make pew pew noises with a sub R200 x-wing it’s not that bad. Yes it might break, but accidents can happen anywhere with anyone.

Games can also be used at learning tools. My son, Ronin, is not hyper but he only has 2 speeds, fast and off. I let him play Click Clack Lumber Jack and Jenga so that he can learn how to control himself and slow down without it seeming like I’m trying to force him to do something. I got a copy of Stone Age to ask on the spot multiplication and division questions, again in a fun way that does not seem like I’m trying to teach them something. It works. Sometimes you need to use simple game to teach kids skills that they can use for bigger, more complex games; baby steps.

Playing Board games with kids
Sometimes a luck based game can provide lots of entertainment and help to get their energy going. Also it will help to learn about not pushing your luck too far..

Letting them have some fun while bending and breaking a few rules might not be as much fun for us but it will pay off, eventually. Don’t give in to them for everything though. Play 1 or 2 games that they want to play then you recommend a game. They learn that you cannot always get what you want and how to take turns and will be more likely to play games that they don’t like if they know that they will get something that they like later.

IMO the biggest problem in SA wrt this niche hobby is not lack of product, it a lack of players. There are loads of good games available locally, but the player base is fairly small so finding someone to play the game that you like can be tough.

I’m not advocating brain washing kids to play board games, but you need to teach them. It’s easier to mash buttons on an xbox and figure out what’s right and wrong because it’s more interactive than board games. However kids like to do what their parents do and, while they won’t admit it, love using their imagination; so it’s easy to get them into gaming, if you try.

It will grow the hobby and you will have regular opponents. We try to do family board games every Friday. If something comes up and it does not happen the kids actually miss it and we will have to have make up games over the weekend. I cannot wait until they are mature enough to be unleashed at Cons without driving me crazy.

Not long ago Ronin asked me to teach him how to play Magic the Gathering, so now I have a quandary… do I get him into magic or do I buy a new car?

Playing Board games with kids
We are regulars at our local Pizza-e-vino, they don’t mind giving us extra tables so that we can keep our food and drinks away from the game components.
Playing Board games with kids
Wendywood U9 rugby team. I try to encourage them to have as many hobbies/interests as they can find time for.
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