Gaming with a 4 Year Old

As I mentioned in my first post, we have 3 kids. My oldest is an adult (He turns 20 on Sunday.), and our middle child is 16.

Then we get to, as I often describe her, our little surprise. Don’t get me wrong, we are extremely happy having Aleksia join our family, but we were not expecting another child when she came along. She brings an incredible amount of joy to my life daily, but there are challenges being a 40+ year old with a preschooler, especially 12 years after your last child.

The one great thing we get to do is share my hobby with her. She can’t read a book (Although we read to her.), she can’t throw a disc golf disc (Although we let her try, and even have a small one for her to play with.), and she gets frustrated quickly when playing video games (Although again, she tries really hard. They don’t make a lot of small kid video games that aren’t mobile.). But we can play board games.

Do I break out Power Grid? Of course not, but we have a good group of games that she can play, and beats us frequently at.

We’ve never played games to just let the kids win. Will we always put our full effort out there? No. Do we stop them from making an obviously bad move? Yes. But we also don’t try to lose.

We might help her optimize her move in Monza. We do help her out some in Ticket to Ride: First Journey (The game is 7+, so she needs help, but loves the game.). We help her make some of her moves in a co-op game, but most of the time, we show her what would happen if she tried THIS move instead, although if she insists, she’ll probably get her way.

Part of the joy of playing this way is when you notice that she is making the best moves on her own. I’m never sure if it’s just her getting older and understanding better or just learning from how we helped her previously. Probably a little of both.

It’s amazing to see her outgrow a game she was playing only a year ago. The games get too easy very quickly at these ages. She might still want to play Go Away Monster, but she won’t want to play it 4 times in a row. She remembers it being fun, but realizes it’s not as much fun as it was before she could play more complicated games..

Although I will warn you, expect to play some games a lot. And I mean A LOT. They are still young kids, who will obsess about something. And don’t worry about picking up something in a thrift store used, especially if it’s really cheap. We’ve had some terrible games we’ve bought this way that she loved. They still had a little educational value, and we’d let her play those on her own if she liked. There wasn’t any need to worry about the pieces getting lost. And you can use them to teach how to properly pick up games.

We definitely play the games we enjoy more often, but sometimes you just have to bite your tongue and play whatever, because she’s 4, and she really wants to play this game, no matter how much you suggest we could play this other game.

The good news is there are a lot of good kids games. The bad news is, some of them still don’t get a US release, but thanks to Amazon.de & BoardGameGeek, they are easy to get and there are often rules translations. Although it seems like the majority of the best ones are either already being made by US companies, or are imported by someone else.

Haba Games are kind of the gold standard of kids games. They often make clever games with fantastic pieces. They do make quite a few games, and not all are winners, but even the worst of them have some value to teaching gaming and game mechanics to kids. Did I mention the pieces are usually amazing? The one issue is that some of them can be quite expensive.

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Drachenturm from Haba. The Dragon pulls the string and the tower comes crashing down. You push the Princess token out of the tower, down the scaffold, and to the carriage, racing the dragon pulling.

GameWright here in the US is also a pretty good kids game maker. Haba might have better bits, but GameWright makes smaller, easier to afford games. I’m more likely to pay the $15 for Outfoxed, which is an fun young kids deduction game, than $50 for Drachenturm, which is a Haba game we picked up recently, but only paid half price. Beautiful, and a neat idea, but also a huge box, and a tad expensive. Had it not been 50% off, we probably wouldn’t have picked it up, knowing very little about it.

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Outfoxed from Gamewright Games.

You’ll even notice some of the department stores are starting to carry more games, especially for kids. I’ve seen Magic Labyrinth at Target. Target also has an exclusive on the US map for Ticket to Ride: First Journey. So some of the bigger chains are realizing that there is more than just Candyland or Chutes & Ladders, although they are still there too.

I have been exploring some kids based RPG’s too, although we haven’t tried anything yet. She has a vivid imagination, and i think she’d like them. I have a couple of really good ones I have played, but they require writing. I’ll try to get into a couple and try them this summer maybe.

I think I’m going to cut this off now, I’ve rambled on long enough. I’ll re-address this eventually, maybe once she’s 5. I’ll be posting some kid game reviews, maybe every other review at first, but maybe more often, kids games are often easier to review.

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Aleksia and I playing My First Stone Age, which I plan on reviewing next week.

 

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