Having a 7 year old can be interesting to say the least. In today’s wage of tech, it’s increasingly easier for kids to get lost in the grasp of screens. Time without screen access is like a prison sentence for my son. He was known to sit in his room full of toys and proclaim, “I just don’t have anything to do!” We found a non tech solution in board games as we found more board games that were appropriate for him. When we started getting into Dungeons & Dragons, he showed a huge interest and there began my quest for how to make this game available to him. While gaming with adults can be great because the need for censorship for tiny ears is gone, you’d be surprised how great it can be to play with the untapped imaginative potential of a child. Bringing your kids to the table is no easy feat but is definitely rewarding. For this reason, I’ve compiled some tips to make it a little easier on anyone attempting this.
Start Them Young
A lot of games out there are listed at the earliest as 5+. Looking through some of these games, it’s apparent that this is more for a liability than a complexity issue. A lot of games have small pieces that indicate a choking hazard for small children. At this point, it is up to you as a parent as to how safe any of these games may be for your child. I’m not suggesting that you bust out your chess set with your one year old, but as you look around, you will quickly find games that are simple enough for a developing mind and are safe with adult supervision. Getting your kids started at a younger age instills the notion that games = entertainment which will keep them on the gaming path as they discover the quality time involved in playing games with the family is more rewarding than video games alone in their room.
Pick Games That Won’t Drive You Crazy
Playing games with kids is great. Playing Monopoly JR. 42 times in a row is not. There are plenty of Hasbro games out there that are great for kids. The “typical” board games such as Clue, Monopoly, Trouble, and Sorry can be fun the first time around but the replay value is lacking and the chance mechanics get dull. I suggest finding games that the kids can play but can either be played for a decent amount of time or replayed over again at an increasing level of fun. Gamewright makes plenty of games that are targeted towards younger kids but are surprisingly good even for adults. Geek & Sundry has a great article about this exact topic. The goal of this is to find a game that fits this parameter so you don’t find yourself hating every game your kid suggests you play. You want to be excited about the game you’re about to play with your kid so they don’t get discouraged after multiple refusals.
Don’t Let Your Kids Win
It is always tempting to try to boost your kids confidence by throwing them a bone everyone once in a while. While in the short run this can keep a kid happy, it prevents them from ever learning to deal with losing. When they get older or start playing with other kids, nobody will let them win and if they haven’t learned to lose well yet, then they are in for a hard time taking that first loss. My son loves the game Connect Four. Personally I think that game goes against the suggestion above this one as I can’t stand it, but he loves it. He played with his mother for what seemed like forever one day and for that entire time he lost; over and over again. Now I’m not saying you should destroy your kids every time you play with them and do a victory dance over their defeated crying faces, but there’s a huge difference between a real win and a thrown game and kids can tell the difference. Going back to the game of Connect Four, eventually, my son figured out how to read the patterns and started winning. He ran around the house claiming, “I’ve beat the master! I’m the master of Connect Four now!” If he hadn’t lost all of those games, he wouldn’t have been nearly as proud when he started winning.
Working Towards Tabletop RPGs
When it is time to introduce your kids to the world of RPGs, you’re more than likely going to know. Even so, I don’t suggest just throwing them a player’s hand book and setting them loose. Let your kid sit in on a session. Most likely, they’ll end up wanting to play before the session is over. This is strictly your choice as adding a character in the middle of a session is already awkward. On top of this, your players may not want to play with a child. We tried a couple of different things. First, we started with a small game where I was the DM of a short one shot adventure and the players were my wife and son. This gave him a chance to play and he begged to play every day from that point on. Secondly, with it being summer, he gets to stay up a little later and watch our regular Dungeons & Dragons sessions. Recently, on father’s day, I promoted him to assistant DM. He got to be involved with rolling dice and moving figures without causing any issues with the way my players wanted to play the game. He thought this was great and it was a good way to keep him involved in the game.
I would also suggest that you start your halflings with a pre-made character sheet. You might even go as far as keeping their character sheet with you so all you have to do is tell them what number they need on the dice to make it easier. Keep them rolling dice. They love rolling dice. It also helps them feel more involved as they may get bored with long periods in between dice rolls. The more you make their game about the story and the combat, the better. You may be surprised at the unique ways, they look at a problem and solve it.
Gaming is a great family tradition and having kids is a great way to always have someone to play with. Surprisingly enough, sometimes kids can even be better and more mature gamers than some of their adult counterparts. As we raise our children, I feel that we have a responsibility to bring more geeks to the world. If nothing else, the family that games together, stays together.
What do you think? Have you tried gaming with your kids? What worked and what didn’t? Let me know in the comments below!