Day 787. February 26, 2019. Lagos...
Take your time. Don't rush it. What's the hurry really?
I didn't want to drown Alice in new games and new rules every week. I rather that she knows how to play one game and asks for it frequently. With this in mind, patience is a valuable asset when introducing games to very young children.
The first proper board game that I showed her, was the baby version Animal Upon Animal. But we didn't play it the first time. Nor the second. Not the third. Just like with any other toy, we went through a sort of ritual with the game. Opening the box. Setting up the mammoth components, in the same disposition. Playing with them together. Creating a story around them. And finally, storing everything back in the box at putting it in its right place. Just like a toy.
These animals are truly amazing.
One day I flipped a tile. And put a matching animal on the clearing. I asked her to do the same. Then it was my turn again. Then it was her. And so on, and so forth until all tiles were revealed. It didn't matter who had the most tiles in the end. What mattered was that she had fun stacking the animals and that she had learned how to take turns when playing a game.
We did this for weeks. After a dozen of repeated plays, the rest of the few and simple rules appeared as if by magic. Slow and steady. Repetition, repetition, repetition... Imitation. That's how they learn during the first seven years of their life. Why should it be any different with games?
Taking time-off games for long periods of time was also a good thing. The world isn't just about games after all. Sometimes weeks go by before Alice plays a game. But when she finally does, she sees games as fresh and new and not as "I don't want to play with that again," boring eyes.
What worked for us: Repeating the same game over and over. Taking weeks-off games every now and then.
Some of the games that we've played in the last 2 years:
My Very First Games: Animal upon Animal: With this one, I was able to introduce turn taking. Rolling dices to match symbols. Winning and losing. Count up to 3 or 4. Competitive and cooperative games. The components are tougher than an already solid kids game. The game comes with three variants to slowly raise the bar and add variety as they grow. I can't recommend this game enough as the first game for 2/3-year-old.
Animal Upon Animal: The vanilla version is perfect to toss into the backpack and take with you during strolls through the city. You can play it pretty much anywhere. And once you get tired of the base animals, you can always add, or replace them with the other animal of the Animal Upon Animal line.
Animal Upon Animal: Balancing Bridge: Great way to introduce goal in games. While scaling the difficulty of the dexterity part down a bit, by including the not so balancing bridge. And raising complexity up a bit by adding cards+dice during gameplay. Yet, she doesn't request this one often.
Rhino Hero: We just play with the Rhino symbol and leave the others as mere decoration. Too soon to decorate what they all do and most of them aren't particularly fun in two-player matches anyway. We just take turns adding walls and roofs until everything falls. Great cooperative game too!
Jenga: When we first found this in a thrift store, we played non-stop for weeks! It has since lost its' lure. I should add it to the pile of games for her to play with other kids.
Stack one game at a time.
Stacrobats: Simple enough that she can play it with other kids, without a supervising grownup. There's a clear winner at the end, and it's more "freestyle placement" than Jenga or Rhino Hero.
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