Rematch! 8 tips for helping kids play card and board games

My sister was visiting this weekend; her first trip to the new house. We did some adventuring about and lots of game playing and we really started working with Spencer about how to be a gracious loser not a jerk. He’s essentially still an only child as far as game playing goes so there is a lot of room for improvement in the sportsmanship department.

Yay for Aunts!

I grew up in a family of game players, of both the board and card variety and I love that Spencer is getting old enough to play more advanced games but I absolutely hate the kid-style of playing that inolves cheating, creative rule bending and changing the way of play halfway through. It was great having my sister here for a few reasons. She almost always wins, so Spencer (and I!!) got some excellent practice in on that front and she helped me explain to him about playing games like a big kid and sportsmanship.

  1. Go over the rules before you start playing and do a refresher on any “house rules.” It is find to change the rules between games, but remind kids that once you decide on the rules that they stay for the whole game. (You might be skeptical about house rules in kids games, but seriously they exist. Did you know it was technically against the rules to play a Draw Four Wild in Uno whenever you want? That sucks the fun out of the game. Or maybe I just grew up in a house full of vicious game players. At least we were good sports about losing.)
  2. If your child is anti-losing (like say… Spencer), talk about good things to say when you lose. We suggested bummer, good game, rematch, and the always popular let’s play 2 out of 3.
  3. Explain strategy but don’t necessarily push it in the beginning. Get the rules established and followed first.
  4. Be willing to quit/abandon the game if rules aren’t followed (i.e. rampant insistence on cheating – not that Spencer would ever do that).
  5. Chose appropriate games and you don’t really need to go by the age on the box. Spencer likes numbers so he’s been playing Yahtzee (with help) for a year now and this weekend we introduced him to a few card games that moved beyond War.  Conversely, Spencer didn’t like Memory which is often a hit at his age, so just try some different games. Rules can be modified. Even Candy Land comes with big kid rules.
  6. Play as a team. This is one of the best ways to have kids feel involved in game play when the game might be to advanced.  Spencer can participate as an active member in Trivial Pursuit by rolling the die, counting spaces, getting out the cards, distributing wedges and fetching beers of course.
  7. Let them try.  Spencer found a cribbage board in the back of the game cupboard and wanted to check it out. So we played. I basically was playing cribbage against myself because I had to do most of the card picking and all of the counting. But he could move the pegs and he loved it.
  8. Winner puts it away. I don’t know if my parents made this rule up one inspired day or if it was a house rule in one of their houses growing up, but it is fantastic. The fact that the winner has to clean up and put the game away take a small sting out of losing and keeps the winner occupied instead of gloating.

Growing up, I almost never had to put the game away. I won a game of Uno this weekend and I think it was the first time I won of game of Uno when my sister was involved since 2005. I am an excellent loser. I have lots of experience with which to train Truman. I imagine Spencer will take after my sister.


This post contains amazon affiliate links, but there is no need to use them if you don’t want to. Go to Target. You probably have one closer than 3 hours away. Lucky you.





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3 Responses to “Rematch! 8 tips for helping kids play card and board games”

  1. Sarah says:

    1) I love the “winner puts the game away” rule, and

    2) your Target is 3 hours away?!


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