The Power of Board Games and Critical Thinking for Children

It’s family game night. You and your loved ones are sitting down for a fun version of Monopoly. This economic-based game has your family members winning or losing money, collecting $200, buying, trading and developing properties, all with the intention of causing their opponents to go into bankruptcy. But, did you know that while playing Monopoly, your children are learning and developing necessary life skills? 

Board games aren’t just for fun; they can also be useful educational tools when it comes to helping children build critical thinking skills. In addition, these tabletop games allow children to think creatively and make decisions quickly based on the information given to them in a moment. Children are allowed to think in multiple ways about multiple choices and in multiple environments. Problem-solving, logical thinking, critical thinking and decision making are all essential skills that will help children develop in school and towards adulthood. 

According to the article, “Developing Thinking Skills through Board Games” on the website Potential Plus UK, these essential skills are utilized because, through board games, children are “planning with a restrictive amount of choice, managing and prioritizing limited resources, thinking ahead, predicting what others may do, evaluating advantages and disadvantage of different moves, staying ahead while remembering and adhering to the rules, processing sets of information simultaneously, and practicing flexibility in playing the same game differently each time.” Through playing board games, there is regular repetition and practice with memory and information processing which can lead to academic growth. In addition, children can learn about teamwork, patience and how to win and lose gracefully.

Among these skills, language development is boosted and anxiety can decrease. There are certain games that help students grow their vocabulary and spelling, as well as, reading comprehension. As for anxiety, games provide structure and teamwork with all players working towards a common goal. Conversations are formed, easing the anxiety and stress some children can feel when working with and meeting others. Sounds like board games are a win for all! 

If you would like to be strategic in planning your family game nights, there are specific games, such as the ones below, for different age groups that can develop these skills. However, any game you choose does help form these skills in one way or another. 

  • Settlers of Catan This board game, for older children, pops up on multiple suggestion lists for forming essential skills. In this game, players settle the island of Catan by gaining resources, building roads and other elements of a society. Probability, decision making and critical thinking are all utilized, plus other skills. There are also junior versions of the game for younger players. 
  • Yeti in My Spaghetti Geared towards younger children, Yeti in My Spaghetti focuses on growing a child’s fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, visual motor and perceptual skills, attention and organization. Through this game, they are pulling strands of spaghetti out of a bowl, while trying to not let the yeti fall into the bowl. 
  • Guess Who? – A beloved game with many benefits for kids of all ages! Guess Who? gives children opportunities to solve a mystery by figuring out who the person on the other player’s card is by asking questions and processing information. 
  • Race to the Treasure – Great for ages five plus, Race to the Treasure, allows players to design a course to the treasure before the Ogre gets to it. Basic graphing skills are put to use, as well as, organization and following instructions.
  • Mancala – This two player game is 3,000 years old and has withheld the test of time. Basic math skills, logic and planning skills are practiced when players try to capture the other person’s marbles. 

Classic games such as Go Fish, Old Maid, Scrabble, UNO, etc. are great options, as well. Any time a child plays a board game, learning is happening and they are growing more than we realize. 

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