You see it coming: a board game headed your way with a plea to play. But you can’t bear to play that game with your kids one more time. That’s a sign you need to mix it up a bit. Challenge your kids to come up with new rules for their favorite – or even their least favorite – game.
Take a game that most people seem to have, like Candy Land. It begins as a perfect first game: it takes only seconds to learn and children as young as pre-readers can participate. Then play that same game 1,000 times and watch as your kids grow out of it.
But, what happens if you add dice from a different game instead of using the cards? What if you deal out the cards at the start of the game and have to use them strategically? What if you turn the whole thing into a role playing game? Suddenly, your nameless little character could be an agent for King Candy or a minion of Lord Licorice.
I did a game workshop in my daughter’s first grade classroom where I gave each table of kids a different game, making sure no one at the table had played that game. I neglected to give them the rules of the game and instead prompted them to make up their own rules. Suddenly a matching set game like Quirkle became a building game. A tic-tac-toe-style game involved team play. A character-based math game suddenly involved Pokemon-style battles. Kids have an intuitive understanding on how games should work and can come up with some wonderful surprises when given the chance.
If redesigning an entire game seems intimidating, start small. Don’t like a rule in a game you’re playing? Tweak it or leave it out altogether. As kids get older, though, empower them to make their own rules to make old games new again.