Now, I know when a lot of people think of Montessori, their first thoughts won't include board games, but bear with me on this, because I think they have a lot to offer to a Montessori inspired family.
We've had some Orchard Toys games for a couple of years. Things like Shopping List, and some other simple matching games; but our interest in board games grew recently and they have had a huge positive impact on our family. We now play them most days and the growth I've observed in my (recently turned) 4 year old is immense. We've concentrated on games that are specifically made for the 3 -6 year age group and that a child should be able to play independently.
The development of memory, strategy, vocabulary, maths, turn taking, patience, cooperation, leadership, planning etc have all increased since we started playing regularly. Whether they're games that my son plays autonomously or cooperative games that we play as a team, the benefits have been great and the amount of time we spend playing together as a family having fun has increased massively. I really can't recommend them enough to others.
Now playing games together as a family also offers great teaching moments for us as adults to model graciousness in and around the subject of competitiveness. During the ages of 3 - 6 children are still going to struggle with these concepts and impulse control can definitely rear its head especially when children are tired and hungry. It can help immensely if adults are realistic in their expectations of the behaviour they're likely to see from their children. Collaborative games where you play as a team are fantastic resources for building skills in collaboration as you win or lose together.
If you chose to play a competitive game then think before hand about how strict you want to be over the rules. What do you want your child to get out of the situation? For me, I feel at this age that I want to foster a love of games, and enjoyment of family time together. That means the rules get fudged slightly sometimes to preserve that. I still let my son know that yes, we can play it his way, and that’s different from the rules, but we can make up our own. Now, for the most part, he’s keen to learn the regular game rules and recognises that others may win too. Sometimes that can bring up big feelings but we hold space for that and he quickly recovers. He's also keen to show others that he knows what the rules are and wants to teach others. This is also another valuable learning opportunity for him and shows his growing maturity in this area.
There's a fantastic Facebook group called Little Board Gamers where you can get specialised help and advice from other board game fanatics with young children. It's a very friendly online community which houses a wealth of information. There is a huge array of games out there for families to chose from and here are some of our favourites for you to look into further. Age guides are approximate as every child is different.
This is a color matching game, which also offers a fine pincer grip element. It's a great introductory games and kids younger than 3 can also join in. It's fast to play and I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't enjoy it.
A cooperative color-matching game which doesn't involve any reading. The aim of the game is to get all the owls back into the safety of their nest before the sun comes up. You take turns drawing cards and move an owl of your choice to the corresponding color on the board. When you draw a sun card instead of a color card, daylight draws a bit nearer. Everyone works together to move all of the owls home before dawn. Suitable for 3 years and up.
A fun and simple memory game. Players must race to be the first to fill their trolley or basket by matching all the items on their shopping list. As they play, children develop matching and memory skills and personal and social skills. Suitable for 3 years and up.
A 1 person game where the player has to work through the book of puzzles and then try to solve them using logic and spatial awareness skills. The challenges get progressively harder as you work through the book. Suitable for 4 years and up.
This is our most recent purchase and is now played multiple times a day. In the game, a sneaky fox has stolen a pot pie and it’s up to the team of collaborative players to solve clues and uncover the guilty party. Initially the game seems to involve a lot of pieces, card decks, figurines, multiple dice etc, but it's been quickly mastered. Each round reveals a clue as to which of the foxes stole the pie based on what they are wearing or holding. Memory, deduction and reasoning skills all come into play while you work together to solve the whodunnit. Suitable for 4 years and up.
Another 1 person game which uses elements of a Montessori classic, the tangram. Made by the same makers as Little Red Riding Hood, it using a book of puzzles to challenge the player to make progressively harder shapes using visual perception skills. Suitable for 4 years and up.
This game can be played by 1 person or more if so desired. Match the male and female pairs of 25 species of bird from around the world in this beautifully illustrated memory game. To play, simply place the cards face down and see if you can remember where the matching bird is located. Suitable for 3 years and up.
If you've a child who loves cars then they'll likely adore this racing board game. The racing cars are competing, but only if the colour of the square adjacent to the racing car is shown on the dice, can the car zip ahead. A speedy car race for 2 to 6 players encouraging early tactical thinking. Suitable for 4 years and up.
Something a bit different now with Rhino Hero. A heroic 3d-stacking game for 2 - 5 super heroes. The super hero from the animal world fearlessly scales the highest houses looking for burglars and rogues. He is as strong as a lion and as smart as a fox but also as heavy as a rhinoceros. So even the most robust multi-story buildings may start to wobble. Can you help Rhino Hero accomplish his wobbly mission and build a skyscraper as tall and solid as possible? Great for dexterity skills. Suitable for 5 years and up.
A group of monsters is coming right at your Castle! Catch all the monsters before they smash the Castle flat. My First Castle Panic is a cooperative game - you can show your cards to each other and talk about the best way to catch the monsters. Work together as a team to win! Featured skills: Matching colours and shapes, strategic thinking, planning ahead, cooperation and taking turns. Suitable for 4 years and up.
A nature based cooperative game which is the perfect mix of adventure and learning, Wildcraft! takes kids on an exciting quest through several ecosystems – while learning all about 25 edible and medicinal plants, where they grow, and how to use them! With waterfalls to slide down, logs to cross, and deer trails to wander down, Wildcraft! home games have the fun interactive elements that kids love. Suitable for 4 years and up.
Co-authored and edited by Mie Mari Sløk Rusdal and Jude Saffron
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