Board games are a lot of fun for kids, but they can also be a great educational tool for teachers to target skills with their students. One of the best things about playing board games is that students think they are just “playing”, when in fact they are learning as well! I encourage you to add board games into your classroom schedule each week … not only can you target skills in an engaging way, but game playing a great leisure life skill.
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Turn taking is one skill (probably the most obvious) that is easy to target with board games. Our students don’t get many chances to take turns or work together with peers, so they often have difficulty doing it. Learning to take turns also involves:
- Attending to peers when it’s not their turn
- Listening to peers
The more opportunities we can give our students to wait, listen to their peers, and take turns, the better they will be prepared to be a good friend and be a part of their community.
Hand-eye coordination and dexterity can also be targeted with board games. Most games have small pieces that need to be maneuvered around a board, cards that need to be taken one at a time, dice that need to be rolled, etc. Hand-eye coordination and dexterity are critical for many tasks throughout their school day (eating, writing, cutting, dressing, etc). Playing board games with them is a fun way for them to practice those skills in a fun way.
- Talking to peers: telling the next player it’s their turn, to ask other players questions, etc.
- Listening to peers
- Understanding and following directions
- Eye contact with other players
- Descriptive language
- WH questions: Ask the kids questions about what they did on their turn, what the other players did, or why they did something.
Math & Reading
Academics can easily be targeted while playing board games. Most games have counting and reading of some sort involved, like counting spots on the dice, counting the spaces to move, reading the cards, and many more.
You can use games like BINGO to target many different academic skills. We have used BINGO to target money, sight words, letters, numbers, adding and subtracting, theme vocabulary … the possibilities are endless!
Critical thinking & strategy
Critical thinking and strategy are also a big part of game playing. Many games take some thinking and strategy to play. These will be hard for many students when they first learn how to play a game, but after playing a few times you should notice them starting to use these skills more and more.
For example, when first learning to play a memory game, I have students who will choose the same cards over and over again or not pay attention to cards their peers choose. However, after playing a few times, and seeing how more experienced students play, they will often start to think about what cards have been flipped over and will start choosing different cards.
In games like Sorry or Trouble, kids will start trying to “get” other players’ pieces and send them back to start, or think about which of their pieces would be best to move. Board games offer many opportunities for critical thinking and strategizing, which are important in many aspects of school and life.
You might laugh at this one, but LOSING is a great skill to target with board games! Many of my students over the years have struggled tremendously with losing. They either don’t have experiences with competitive play that results in losing or they have been allowed to win when they have played games in the past. Only one person can be the winner, so games allow for practice for most of the students playing. Losing often leads to outbursts, tantrums, grumpiness, being rude, and other negative behaviors. I have found though that these students can quickly learn to lose gracefully with a little practice.
favorite games to target skills
Board games are helpful for targeting many critical skills. The benefits our kids get from playing games will carry over not only to the classroom, but to their life outside of school as well. So many of the skills they will learn playing games, like waiting, turn taking, language, critical thinking, and losing are skills needed in their everyday life. Like I said before, the kids will think they are “just playing a game”, but they will be learning and growing while having fun … how awesome is that?!