Family Game Night: Using Board Games to Improve Students’ Critical…
Chances are, wherever you live, that there’s a shelf or a closet with a stack of board games waiting to be dug out and opened for family game night. Whether it’s a low-key weekend, a snowy or rainy day, or an after-dinner activity, board games are often a go-to social activity for children and adults.
You may think that board games are simply a great way to entertain your child, but they can also serve to foster learning by boosting his or her critical thinking skills! If you’re looking to make family game night fun and educational, we have some tips and suggestions for finding the right game for your family.
How Can Board Games Help Students with Critical Thinking?
Board games that deal with major subjects such as English, math, and history can be a useful source for students to practice essential academic concepts. Here are some ways board games can stimulate critical thinking:
- Game rules often make things a little tricky. Students will have to put their thinking caps on and figure out a way to score points while still abiding by the rules. This will help with problem-solving skills.
- Board games are all about strategizing and planning ahead. Not only do students have to focus on what they’re doing, but they also have to pay attention to the moves their opponents are making!
- Many games require players to think and make decisions quickly. This is a greatly beneficial skill for school tests and quizzes.
- Logic and reason are major components of some board games. This will be helpful for both academics and the workforce in the future!
Finding the Appropriate Games
If you check out the toy section of your local store, you’ll notice that the board game section has significantly expanded in size since you were a kid. That’s because we’re in the middle of a “golden age” for board gaming! In fact, in the last twenty years, tabletop gaming has exploded in popularity, with newer specialty games for all ages taking a place beside the classics.
Here are some tips for finding games that will both entertain your family and help expand your child’s critical thinking skills:
- Check the Age Range and Average Playing Time – This information is always printed on the box and will distinguish the complexity of the game you’re buying. It is important to make sure that the game is appropriate for your child’s age level.
- Read the Rules – You can find rules for most board games by doing a quick search online. Besides making sure the rules make sense and can be understood by your children, you should also consider these factors:
- Can players make meaningful choices? This is the essence of a fun, replayable game that also provides students with valuable academic growth.
- How much luck is involved? If a game doesn’t allow for strategy or choice beyond the roll of the dice, then your child might quickly become uninterested and won’t gain any critical thinking skills.
- Do the players interact? Can you trade cards? Is it a cooperative game? Player interactions encourage important social skills such as taking turns, working in teams, and communicating.
Exploring New Options
Now that you know what to consider, here are some places to go for game suggestions:
- Mensa Select Award Winners – An annual list of the five best board games of the year.
- Games Magazine’s Game of the Year Winners – These games are chosen by the editors of this magazine devoted to board games and puzzles.
- Spiel des Jahres Winners – A prestigious German board game award.
- www.BoardGameGeek.com – An online database of games and reviews. “Advanced search” allows you to find titles by age, playing time, and number of players. Board Game Geek also awards the Golden Geek Award annually.
Below are a few great games for different age groups that make for fun, engaging, and educational playing experiences:
Elementary Age and Up
- Catan Junior – Based on the extremely popular Settlers of Catan, this game requires players to act like pirates who build their lairs around the map and win resources to explore new islands!
- Qwirkle – Players lay tiles in sequences based on color or shape. If they complete a sequence, bonus points are earned!
- Reverse Charades – A great group game! It’s just like charades, except the acting is done as a group and only one person guesses!
Middle School and Up
- Ticket to Ride – Players build train routes through a country and try to reach their destinations to score points. It requires light strategy and planning, but each player will have to think quickly!
- Small World – Become a Flying Wizard or a Seafaring Elf, and conquer the world!
- Fluxx – A simple card game with one catch: the rules can change on every turn! It’s perfect for learning adaptability and awareness.
- Carcassonne – Players lay tiles and then use wooden tokens to claim land! Carcassonne is easy to learn, requires some strategy and planning, and is best played on a big table or the family room floor.
High School and Up
- Dominion – A strategic card game that allows for near-endless variation.
- Smash Up! – Players select two factions (pirates, robots, aliens, etc.) and try to out-duel other players by taking over bases!
- Pandemic – Four diseases have broken out worldwide, and it’s up to the players to find the cure! Pandemic is a challenging game that requires cooperation, communication, and planning.
- The Resistance – This group game of “social deduction” is for 5–10 people. Players are members of “the Resistance” and work to gain freedom from a corrupt government—but some members are actually spies! Players must choose their teams carefully or else they fail the mission!
Family game night is a fun way to bring your family closer together and sharpen your child’s critical thinking skills at the same time! What are some educational board games you and your family play? Tell us how it helps your student with critical thinking in the comments below.