Day 786. February 25, 2019. Lagos...
Eduardo suggested a few weeks back, that I should share my thoughts about gaming with children. After so many written session reports of games played with Alice in the blog. Coincidently, it is now about two years since I introduced her to board games. Great timing for a great idea Eduardo!
A word of caution. If you stumbled upon this, chances are that you're a gamer already and you have small kids around you with which you would like to play. Perfect! These series of posts are written for gamers with children. Parents that already know a bazillion game mechanics. Can sift the wheat from the shaft of the thousands of games that come out each year and know there way around BGG. If you're not one of those... see this week's posts as windows to a wider universe of what is possible when you start playing games with very young kids. And by very young I mean ages 2 to 4. It's all I know yet.
I was already telling her stories twice per day when she was two years old. It was only natural that our first game turned out to be Rory's Story Cubes... after I let her discover and play with the dice at her own free will for several days. Then one day, I asked her to throw a die. I began telling her a story. The story stopped mid-sentence, and I nodded at her to throw another die. And so on and so forth, until the die pool and story were over.
With this, I had just shown her one simple thing that happens in every single game. Cause and effect. You do something (throw a die), something else happens (daddy tells a story). Along the way, she also learned how to throw dies and the million possibilities that can come out of them.
Storytelling became a doorway to introduce her to new games. The Wolverines want to go home and need to hopscotch their way through colorful rocks (Gulo Gulo). The monsters want to play with the children toys and don't let them sleep (Monster Chase). The kids were exploring the castle and then started to play hide and seek with white bed sheets (Spooky Stairs).
Some times though, we would find ourselves in a situation where I was playing a solitaire "grown-up" game and she wanted to take part in some form. Then, I would try and include her in any way possible. Not for her to play, but to help in any way she could. Storytelling and small theatricals were crucial to this. Limes' woodcutter decided to change professions and turned into a fisherman. Aquaducts die was a boat along a river. Daddy is a pirate looking to hire a crew and I needed her to find them for me in Port Royal. She flipped the cards, one by one, while I asked for a particular card, shouting "please, oh please, no more yellow boats!"
It doesn't have to be Shakespeare, Melville or King. It doesn't have to be perfect. Just tell them an improvised story, held together by the thinnest of plots, and they will follow you anywhere into this world.
What worked for us: Incorporating creative storytelling in any game.
Some of the games that we've played in the last 2 years:
Rory's Story Cubes: Her first game and one that she still asks occasionally. I've added a couple of expansions over the years. In retrospect, the base game is enough. Recently I've been trying to get her to tell a story instead.
Bear Went Over the Mountain: The story of a trek through the woods never gets old. I keep forgetting about the rules since sessions are few and far between. Most of the time we improvise with what I remember and it works fine. She still doesn't mind about the goal cards she's supposed to win, but it's ok. She learned to draft with this bear. And more often than not, I find her in the living room, playing with the cards and creating a path of her own.
Dragon's Breath: That useless first player gigantic token dragon is actually a fundamental part of this game for us! The token is the daddy dragon, who spews fire and melts away the rings in the ice mountain! Flying in circles and making spewing noises before any of us removes the top ice ring. She loves the theatricals. But will always go for the purple stones no matter what.
By Golly!: Our most portable memory game and one that she's getting better and better as we play. She really likes to keep the farm nice and clean, by physically swiping away the poo with the shovel card! She also almost always beats me fair and square these days.
Links to the series: How to raise a gamer. Ages 2 to 4.
...how to raise a gamer: once upon a time...
...how to raise a gamer: patience my young padawan...
...how to raise a gamer: breaking rules...
...how to raise a gamer: one two many...
...how to raise a gamer: growing up...
Photo & Image credits: ZombieBoard