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Subject: How to Start an Afterschool Game Club in Five Easy Steps rss

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Ryan Sturm
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Do you love games? Want to share your love of games? Do you like working with kids? Maybe you should consider starting an after-school board game club at your local elementary, middle or high school. Over the last three years I have run an afterschool board game club at my local elementary school and it has grown to be one of the most popular afterschool activities in the town. Kids sign up session after session and new recruits keep signing up to the point that the club often has a waiting list.

School-age kids and parents are dying for a high-quality structured social activity afterschool that is an alternative to sports. In addition there are so few people out there who are aware of the THOUSANDS of great games that have come out for kids and families over the last ten years. Starting a game club at a local school is a powerful way to not only spread and share a hobby that you love but also to develop much needed social skills and to positively affect your community.

If you think you might like to start your own club, I would like to share my suggestions for tips on starting such a club in the hopes to motivate you to take on this valuable endeavor. It will include some of the basics to get started, some suggestions for good games to use and some basic management tips. It’s all here in my five easy steps to starting your own after school board game club.

Step 1 - Contact your local recreation department. Though you could run the club on your own, it will be much easier to get assistance in registration, securing facilities and promotion that is available to you at a very low cost from your local rec department. Discuss with them the possibility of starting such a club and details such as facilities it could be located at, registration costs and times. I suggest a reasonable amount to charge for the club is $5 per session or $20 for a four week session. Also keep your club size small, especially to start. Having ten to fifteen students is plenty to work with for your first session. Hopefully you can also work out the possibility of using a space within a school, such as the school library, to hold the club.

Step 2 - Promote your club.
The best way to be able to do this is to visit classrooms in the school the club will be located in by receiving prior permission from the school principal. If you know someone who works for the school or is involved in the school contact them to make this connection. I will tell you from experience that the endless flyers given out in schools do not capture the attention of the kids; they usually just get shoved into a backpack. But walk into a class with a box full of cool looking games the kids have never seen before and they will rush to go sign up.

Step 3 - Gather games to use for the club. Using games from your personal collection is a way to start, but be aware that any game you use for the club will probably get banged up and it’s likely you may lose some pieces; it just comes with the territory. If you are committed to this endeavor you should plan on investing 100-200 dollars in games to be used solely for this club. You should be able to cover this with the first session’s registration fees and use the games for years to come.

I recommend shopping at an online specialty game store for a wide selection of board games at discount prices. It is good to have some familiar “classic” games in the club but it is also important to introduce kids, and perhaps yourself, to what’s new in board games. Also consider asking local businesses, online game stores and game companies for donations for games to use for the club.

While shopping for games for your club, endlessly repeat this nine word motto in your brain; I am buying games for children, not for myself. It is critical to pick age-appropriate games for your club and err on the side of too simple rather than too complex, the students need to be able to play the games independently. Don’t let your own personal game biases decide the games you decide to get for the club.

My club is mainly made up of Fourth and Fifth graders. I have found that some of the most successful games that I have used fit into the following three categories;


Party Games
- Apples to Apples is the classic here but variations on it are popular as well. I recommend looking into the games Likewise, Last Word, The T-Shirt Game and Blurt. Also be sure to familiarize yourself with the new party game sensation, Werewolf.

Adventure Games - Games that capture the imagination are always popular. Some games that fall into this category include Incan Gold, Forbidden Island, and if you can track down copies of the out of print games Dungeon, Heroquest, or Heroscape you will have simple but fun games kids will want to play again and again.

Card Games – Card games have the advantage of being affordable and typically having simple rules. Some favorites in the group include; dexterity games Slamwich and Halli Galli, Zeus on the Loose, Sleeping Queens and Duck, Duck Bruce.

These suggestions are appropriate for upper age elementary students, if you are starting a club with older or younger students you may need to choose games that are more or less complex.

Step 4 – Establish and put into place two rules. The two golden rules I use for my Board Game Club and discuss at the beginning and end of each session are;

RULE 1 -
Play the games in a way so that everyone has fun – This involves knowing and following the rules, Staying focused on the game, playing at an appropriate volume level, showing good sportsmanship and making consensus decisions on the games that are played.

RULE 2 - Treat the game materials with the utmost respect – This means only using the game pieces for playing the game, treating materials carefully, making sure all players clean up and all pieces are put away the way that they are found.

Clearly go over these rules at the start of the first session and at the end of the session discuss concrete good and bad examples of play, behavior and taking care of the games that you and they observed.

Step 5 – Facilitate each session so all club members have fun. Your job will be to constantly teach new games and circulate to make sure game rules and game club rules are being followed. Here are some strategies I have used to facilitate getting games started with large groups:

-Have games with multiple copies so that you can teach once and have all of the students “fishbowl” around watching one group play. Then all students can go play the game.

-Explain 3-4 games with simple rules at the beginning and have students rotate through.

-Use a “passport” system in which students earn “points” as they play different games with different players.


With time your job should get easier as the students should be able to be the “teachers” of the games. The kids will come to know more game rules and your expectations for how games are to be played.

But I have to be very honest with you. Starting and running a club like this is a lot of work and takes a lot of energy. It is so much more than just sitting around playing games with kids. It is not for someone who wants to just play games or make a little extra money. Running a game club requires someone with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, for it is ninety nonstop minutes of teaching game after game and constantly moving from table to table checking in to help students play the games correctly and play games using good social habits.
But when you do get a chance to step away and take a breath and see the environment you have created, you will see a large group of kids all engaged and caught up in the magic that only games can create. When the students leave the club with big smiles on their faces talking with their friends about that amazing or hilarious game they just played and some of them turn to you and look you straight in the eye and say, “Thank You!” You will know that you have succeeded in sharing something special with those kids and that your love of games has been instilled in them. You will know that all your efforts were well worth it.


Ryan Sturm is an elementary educator of ten years and a game aficionado. For the last several years Ryan has run an afterschool boardgame club at his elementary school. Ryan is passionate about finding positive ways to use board games in the classroom as well as ways to use his background as an educator in promoting the hobby of board games. Ryan is also the host of the “How to Play Podcast”, cohost of “Ludology” and a regular contributor to “The Dice Tower.”

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Judit Szepessy
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Thanks for this great article! I have been working in a before and after school programme for four months, and my experience has been that the kids are so busy with other activities they just make up that they are rarely interested to play a boardgame. This is not bad, but makes it more challenging to get them play games.

Of course, running a boardgame club is a different scenario.

Keep up the great work and mission!!
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Scott Nicholson
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Great advice here. It really helps remove the curtain and help people see how to do this. Your discussion on the different types of games is quite valuable.

I will offer up another path to doing this that works in school, public, and academic libraries.

Contact your local librarian.

Many libraries are interested in matching interested members of the public to programs they can help run. For a number of years, we've been talking about the importance of gaming in libraries, so there are resources out there already to help you work with the librarian.

I put together a free class on YouTube about gaming in libraries, which you can find at http://www.gamesinlibraries.org/course/?page_id=117 .

If interested, the librarian can take care of a number of the issues above - space, marketing, signups, etc. You will still need to run the program and it will still be a lot of work, but having the librarian as a teammate will make the process easier.
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Chadwick VonVeederVeld
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how often do you suggest getting a session together?

I assume from the registration fees you mentioned, once a week...

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Ryan Sturm
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During the year I usually do mondays after school from 330 to 500. I started with 8 week sessions which was too long, now I do either 6 or 4 week sessions.

During the summer I do 4 - 1 week sessions on mon, wed and fri. This way its easier for parents to fit in with all the camps, vacations etc.
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R Moore
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I plan an hour once a week for 8 weeks along with a 15 min setup and 15 min teardown.

Some games (like powergrid) will require some method of snapshotting progress to save for another week.
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John Bobek
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I have a Chess Club on Mondays after school and a Games Club after school on Fridays. The Games Club is open to all games and I have several boardgames, but really, everyone wants to play miniatures games. They're not all wargames, some are super heroes and villains.

Yesterday (Jan. 13), I had a science project to have judged (got sick the day of the science fair), 3 tests to give absent students, 4 students who needed help with their art projects, and 2 making up a lab. I had cancelled out of running a game but had told the ones who had badgered me for a game that they were free to use whatever I had in the room and run their own. This they did. As I recently printed out 7 Years War cardstock armies and we will be doing a campaign with them soon, that's what was chosen. They did rather well, and only needed my help for the morale. (It was an unusual battle with British fighting Prussians!)

With minis, I have the minis in the classroom before the game. It gets their interest. I didn't do any formal recruiting, just gave permission forms out to whoever asked. The group just keeps growing. Who doesn't love miniatures?
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Jonathan deHaan
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This is a fantastic article, Ryan. Thank you!

I really like your idea of a passport system! Do you have the students make the passports themselves, or do you prepare them (do you have a file that you could possibly share?). Do you ask the students to keep records of the games and the other players?

Your fishbowl teaching method is really slick as well!

Thank you so much for sharing this.
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Ryan Sturm
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Jonathan deHaan
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Wow, that's great! Thank you so much for making and sharing that!
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Gary Clarkson
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Wow!! Thanks for the outstanding article. I think the bigest thing I am taking away from this is these two points:

1. This is about others and not my game likes.

2. Try to invest in "club" games.

Thanks,

Doc
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Dan Armstrong
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I've run a very popular strategy game club for over ten years now in classroom (H.S.). Mostly we play large box games auitable for at least 5 players and miniature games (GW, PP)

I have fund that establishing a relationship with your FLGS (friendly local game store) is key. I've got mine to establish a discount for kids in my club on all of their gaming supplies and the store gives me old terrain as well as great deals on "club" games. This, combined with some seed money from our schools ASB and a nominal annual fee to belong to the club ($20) has enabled me to buy folding tables, several dozen games (sometimes multiple copies of the same game), terrain for mini-based games.

We meet on Mondays from 2:00-5:00 which gives us ample time to play most games.

I have found that my students also like games that lend themselves to league/standings play/ladders. Examples I have used include Formula De (with multiple races and points for finishing places leading to a Cup winner), Bloodbowl league play, Last Night on Earth campaign as well as one-off games of Axis and Allies, War on Terror, Robo Rally, History of the World and many others.

I faced some push back from some "concerned" parents initially regarding some of the games (Blood Bowl took some explaining) but now it is well-supported and we even hold a game rummage sale for funding, a game exchange for members and we go to the Children's Hospital once each year to play boardgames with patients for an evening. The administration is very supportive and middle school kids look forward to coming to the high school for years in advance, or so I've heard...

All in all, it has been a very rewarding experience for me and I hope it outlasts me!
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Charles Waterman
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Sounds great! I'm hoping to get something like this started, too. Would you mind encouraging me with a few more details?

1) Roughly how many members do you currently have? About how many did you start with?

2) Roughly how many years has it been running?

3) How many years into the program did the discounts at the FLGS start?

4) How do students get free at 2 PM on Mondays? Do a lot of students at your school have last period free?

Thanks!

Chuck Waterman
Kumamoto Gakuen University
Kumamoto, Japan
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Gary Clarkson
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I ran my first event and the school and I had about 8 families show up!! Everyone had a great time and I had door prizes. The big winner took a ticket to ride game home. I have had two of the families go out and buy Ticket to ride. We plan on doing this monthly with the start of the new school year.

Doc
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Dave C.
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Just saw this post today. Last September I started an afterschool game club at my son's school for the younger kids that stay at an "Extended Day Program" - basically a daycare-like setting for kid's whose parents are still at work. I figured this would give them a little something to look forward to besides videos, checkers, homework, etc. and it has worked great. They've asked me to expand it next year to include the whole school.surprise

Mine's a bit different than the OP's in that: 1) The children I'm working with are much younger -from Pre-school to grade 2, and 2) I can't control which or how many kids show up each day - it depends on their parents schedules, other competing activities in the program, etc. It's a voluntary activity for them.

My thoughts for anyone who has to work a similar situation:

1) If you anticipate more than 4 or 5 kids, BRING AN ADULT HELPER. This is mostly true for the very youngest kids, as they will need near constant support with rules, behavior, etc.

2) "Scale up" some games by adding more playing pieces so that more kids can participate at the same time. This depends on the game whether you can do this or not and be careful to not allow too many kids so the board becomes too crowded or there is excessive amount of time betweeen turns. They don't have the attention for waiting, yet.

I play this Richard Scarry's Busytown: Eye found it! Game with 8 kids supplemented with Busytown toy cars and hardware store washers for extra magnifying glasses and it's a riotous blast!

3) Plan on a good mix of game types and be sure to include party games and dexterity games in the mix!! Kids LOVE that stuff!

4) Plan on teaching and playing some games you (as a BGGer) may hate. I played more Jenga and Operation than I ever wanted, but they enjoyed every minute of it. Mainstream games are often the gateway and are a great way to help non-understanding parents relate to what you're doing as you introduce some more modern/complex stuff.

5) Try to find cooperative games for their age level. It takes away the "Winners and Losers" situation that young kids are still working on handling. Suggestions: Aforementioned Busytown Game, The Secret Door , Tatü-Tata!

6) Buy a copy of Charades for Kids, toss the board and movers and just keep the stack of cards in your game box every session. It will always work for those times when you find yourself totally outnumbered by kids and your partner couldn't make it.

7) Buy at least two copies of Rory's Story Cubes and keep them in your game box always. They are a GREAT filler and pass the time when one table of kids finishes a game before the others or you don't have time for anything longer. This is also great for this: Cranium Brain Breaks

8) Enjoy it!! It's lot's of work but the kids love it and it's really good for them!! Really!

Other strong recommendations:
Lego games
Monza
Polizei-Alarm!
The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game
Cat & Mouse
Chuck-It Chicken!





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Kevin Keefe
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Anvilbrow wrote:
I have fund that establishing a relationship with your FLGS (friendly local game store) is key. I've got mine to establish a discount for kids in my club on all of their gaming supplies and the store gives me old terrain as well as great deals on "club" games. This, combined with some seed money from our schools ASB and a nominal annual fee to belong to the club ($20) has enabled me to buy folding tables, several dozen games (sometimes multiple copies of the same game), terrain for mini-based games.


Wow. What is your demographic? I have problems collecting $5 annual dues.

I've been running the Xenia Gamers Club since 2003 at my high school. I kinda rolled the dying Chess Club into a gaming club. We receive no funds from the district; the only support we get is being allowed to use the premises.

I've also tried to establish a link with the area game stores to no avail. None of them are in this town, and our demographic is lower middle class and below, so the kids don't have spending money or rides to get to the stores in neighboring towns. It seems that the stores have not found it to be worth their time/investment.

Any advice?
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Charles Waterman
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Karadek wrote:
Anvilbrow wrote:
I have fund that establishing a relationship with your FLGS (friendly local game store) is key. I've got mine to establish a discount for kids in my club on all of their gaming supplies and the store gives me old terrain as well as great deals on "club" games. This, combined with some seed money from our schools ASB and a nominal annual fee to belong to the club ($20) has enabled me to buy folding tables, several dozen games (sometimes multiple copies of the same game), terrain for mini-based games.


Wow. What is your demographic? I have problems collecting $5 annual dues.

I've been running the Xenia Gamers Club since 2003 at my high school. I kinda rolled the dying Chess Club into a gaming club. We receive no funds from the district; the only support we get is being allowed to use the premises.

I've also tried to establish a link with the area game stores to no avail. None of them are in this town, and our demographic is lower middle class and below, so the kids don't have spending money or rides to get to the stores in neighboring towns. It seems that the stores have not found it to be worth their time/investment.

Any advice?


Contact the guys at The Spiel podcast. I think they have a fund for sending game packages to schools or groups that can't afford them. Not saying they do this for schools yet, but they might.
 
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Kevin Keefe
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montebanc wrote:

Contact the guys at The Spiel podcast. I think they have a fund for sending game packages to schools or groups that can't afford them. Not saying they do this for schools yet, but they might.


Cool. I didn't know about them. I've tried the Funagain Games grant a few times, but we've never gotten it.
 
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Pete Henninger
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Excellent. We have several kids at the high school level interested, and this just may be enough information to help get things organized.
Thanks.
 
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Teddy Gabrielson
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For the last several years, I have successfully organized and ran the high school Games Club for the public school that I teach at. It is still early in the year, so the club is growing once again, but I currently get about 30 kids from grades 9-12 each week after school.

If anyone has any questions at all, I'd be happy to answer.

But I did want to point out something that has worked very well for me. The club is completely financed from within. I do this with a donation system. I create a list of three games that I believe will interest the club including a brief description of the game and the cost. I try to choose three games with varying themes and styles. Any student or parent can then donate money to the club and choose which game they are supporting. This puts power into the hands of the members, and actually encourages more donations (and repeat donators). When any game gets enough donations to pay for 50% of the cost, I throw in the other 50% and purchase the game. Then I replace it on the list with something new. We have already purchased six new games this year using this system and our collection continues to grow.

If you have any questions or thoughts about this donation system, or anything else, just ask.
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David Larson
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teddysetgo wrote:
I do this with a donation system. I create a list of three games that I believe will interest the club including a brief description of the game and the cost. I try to choose three games with varying themes and styles. Any student or parent can then donate money to the club and choose which game they are supporting. This puts power into the hands of the members, and actually encourages more donations (and repeat donators). When any game gets enough donations to pay for 50% of the cost, I throw in the other 50% and purchase the game. Then I replace it on the list with something new. We have already purchased six new games this year using this system and our collection continues to grow.


That's a nice system. Do you perceive a sense of ownership from the students? In a good way, I mean, as in taking care of the games because they have contributed through choice and money?

Why do you kick in the other 50%? Why not 100% donation?

I'm also curious about which games you have in the game collection. I'd be interested in seeing your club collection.

Thanks!
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S H
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Amirabutwo wrote:
teddysetgo wrote:
I do this with a donation system. I create a list of three games that I believe will interest the club including a brief description of the game and the cost. I try to choose three games with varying themes and styles. Any student or parent can then donate money to the club and choose which game they are supporting. This puts power into the hands of the members, and actually encourages more donations (and repeat donators). When any game gets enough donations to pay for 50% of the cost, I throw in the other 50% and purchase the game. Then I replace it on the list with something new. We have already purchased six new games this year using this system and our collection continues to grow.


That's a nice system. Do you perceive a sense of ownership from the students? In a good way, I mean, as in taking care of the games because they have contributed through choice and money?

Why do you kick in the other 50%? Why not 100% donation?

I'm also curious about which games you have in the game collection. I'd be interested in seeing your club collection.

Thanks!


Brilliant idea! +1

I'd also be curious which games did the donors "fund" successfully?
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Teddy Gabrielson
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The reason I donate 50% is because the games in the club will out last the students (they will graduate, but the games will remain). It seemed like a fair system. Also, I teach in a low-income school district, and I do my best to meet them half way as a show of appreciation for donations that might not be easy for them to give.

As for the games we play, the most recent purchases were Citadels, Munchkin, Nuns on the Run, Forbidden Island, Zombie Dice 2, and Dixit. Other favorites include Castle Panic, Ticket to Ride, Catan, Revolution, Werewolf, Incan Gold, Carcassonne, Elder Sign, The Resistance, Snake Oil, No Thanks, and a few more.

I would recommend Werewolf to anyone starting a club for this age group. It is possibly the most popular game I run (some kids ONLY show up for this). It's inexpensive, supports a ton of players at once, and forces interaction. In fact, I actually use Werewolf in the classroom on the first day of school as an "ice-breaker" to get students talking and to allow me to witness their personalities in action.

The club members take good care of the games. They're older kids (14-18), so they have a decent understanding of value. Of course, accidents happen, a card could get bent or a piece get lost. But most game companies are pretty good about replacing things like this for me.
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BoardGameGeek » Forums » Gaming Related » Games in the Classroom
Re: How to Start an Afterschool Game Club in Five Easy Steps
Great list!
I can second most of them for this demographic. I provide "gaming opportunities" for the teen sports teams I coach. And, yes, Werewolf is easily the most "demanded" game with my groups as well!

We emphasize co-op games (the whole teamwork thing), so the elimination aspect worries me sometimes. But they play so many rounds in one sitting that everyone gets plenty of play time.

Gotta love the enthusiasm teens bring to the table!
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kim brickner
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i am 40yr old stay at home mom of 4 from ohio. my kids ages are: 22, 17, 15, 10. i have babysat over the years. i collect toys & games. i have approx. 400 board games. i would like to start a game club of some sort so other kids can enjoy games. where do you store the games you buy? how do you get them to & from game play place? if you have after school do you provide snack or drinks or do they bring their own? do you allow them to have snack & drinks while playing games? or at seperate table? do you have kids showup that are not really interested in playing games but just want something to do or parent send them so they dont have to get a sitter? do you get paid? i have been throwing the idea around of having some kind of game place for a long time but never seem to figure out the details. any help you can give would be great!
thanks kim
 
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