At Play

8 Ways Board Games Teach Life Skills

Maybe we’re not all eager to break out the Monopoly on a Friday night—especially not your teenager. What if we told you, however, that building board game play into your week could not only benefit your family but also help to shape your children into focused, creative, patient, collaborative and problem-solving critical thinkers?

What if we told you that board games could teach your child to be a money managing, logical negotiator? Or that board games could make your child a better strategist, one who can really see the big picture? Or that regular board game play could even help shape your child into a budding entrepreneur?

According to the Harvard Business Review, board games can educate us by “forcing us into the spotlight, making us communicate in unusual and uncomfortable ways, or encouraging us to take giant lateral leaps in thinking…games can immerse us in hilarity, strengthen our connections with friends and family, and significantly stretch our minds.

Are you interested in game night now?

Here are just 8 skills family board game night can teach, helping your child build life skills, increase brain development, and actually help to prepare them for “real life.”


1. Logic & Strategy

Many games promote strategic and logical thinking. Chess, for example, requires planning, foresight, and taking logical steps toward a desired goal. It forces the player to consider how their next move will set up their opponent’s next move. Benjamin Franklin said we learn the greatest maxim in life from chess, as we “steadfastly continue searching for the solutions to our problems.”

2. Focus & Attention

Following directions, taking turns and planning strategies all require focus and attention. Children will learn quickly that making a rash decision can have immediate consequences when playing a game. If a player does not plan the next move, they may lose points, be penalized, or fall behind the other players. Attention is also necessary, as it’s important to keep an eye on opponents, weighing both your actions and their next moves. Children will start to sharpen their focus and attention to plan, prioritize, organize, and monitor their opponents.


3. Patience

It takes patience to focus on the game and pay attention to the other players. It takes patience to wait your turn. It takes patience to work through the roadblocks and wait out a long-term goal. Most importantly, it takes loads of patience to keep playing and honing these skills to become a better player and to start winning some games.


4. Collaboration

The game Pandemic requires players to come together against diseases– the players must work together to eradicate the risk of epidemic. The players must use their strengths to work together to reach an end goal. Collaborative games allow players to communicate, work together, and help pick up any slack. Other games, like Cranium, test collaboration through various forms of communication. The team that collaborates the best with each other wins. Team members must accept input from each other, play off of each other’s specific sets of skills, and make the best decisions for the group.

5. Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

Some games, such as Settlers of Catan, are all about critical thinking. A strategy board game like Catan requires the players to analyze the current situation on the board and to use their gathered knowledge to foresee what is coming next. You must see the big picture andunderstand the small details to win in a game like this. One must rely on strategy, instead of acting on impulse. Staying in the game means weighing your options. If you’re looking to boost critical thinking skills, choose a board game that poses problems to be solved.


6. Resource Management

Games like Monopoly and Settlers of Catan present real-world financial scenarios in a safe environment (i.e. messing up in a game of Monopoly won’t make you go broke in real life!). Players will have to learn how to save up “money,” points, or resource cards to make better plays. They will learn how to make a good trade, how to protect their resources, and what it feels like to lose or squander resources. Board games can also teach many business and leadership skills, such as the art of the deal, managing resources, investments, negotiations, and strengthening one’s position.”

7. Creative Thinking

Sometimes the right move isn’t always the obvious one. Board games teach children how to think outside of the box. In a game like Scrabble, for example, you sometimes aren’t handed the best “deck,” so to speak. A player is forced to make the best of a bad situation, and to get creative by playing off the words of other players. In a game like Boggle, where there is a timer, players are encouraged to make creative decisions under pressure.


8. Negotiation & Communication

Negotiation is an important leadership skill. Some board games require players to make deals and alliances in order to move forward. While this is competitive play, it’s also a form of cooperation and collaboration. Negotiation games teach players how to communicate well with their peers– in a way, it’s networking practice! Players must also learn to adapt and adjust when their gameplans don’t pan out, or when a negotiation opens up new possibilities.


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