#TeachingTuesday – #Boardgames we use in early childhood education

AS A BOARDGAME FAMILY the hobby has influenced many parts of our life. One influence I often don’t recognize is the role boardgames play in the education of children. This goes far beyond the very simple “be patient and await your turn” and is more that just “that game taught me a bit of history/science, etc.” In the RockyMountainNavy house, boardgames have long played an important role in educating our children through “active learning.”

Mrs. RockyMountainNavy loves to teach young children. She has found a niche where we live by teaching English and Math to pre-school and early elementary-age children of Korean parents. Often these kids come from one language (Korean) or dual-language (Korean/English) households and the parents are struggling to keep up with the kids English. This is where Mrs. RMN steps in to assist the children.

As much as Mrs. RMN teaches English and math she also has come to realize, based on our experiences with our kids, that play is an important part of learning. That is why she always factors in some “play” time for kids when she teaches them. Sometimes it is physical play (like going to a nearby playground). Other times it is imaginative play (we still have lots of Playmobil figures and accessories about) but just as often it is “play” using boardgames.

We tend to shy away from “educational” games as they often come across as “work” not “play” to the little ones. Sure, we have plenty of puzzle games that we can use. Instead, Mrs. RMN looks to boardgames to compliment and support learning. In pre-school kids, this often means games are used to build fine motor skills, spatial awareness, foster social interactions, and introduce strategy thinking.

One of Mrs. RMN’s current students is Miss A. Little Miss A is getting ready to enter kindergarten but she has trouble holding a pencil. It’s a combination of weak fingers and fine motor skills. To help little Miss A build up her finger strength and fine motor skill, Mrs. RMN plays Animal Upon Animal or Rhino Hero (both from HABA) with her. The need to stack the animals or cards means she has to control her fingers and hands. Best of all, she sees this as a game not an exercise. Animal Upon Animal also builds spatial awareness. In the case of Miss A, she struggles to imagine how pieces can stack. It appears that she has trouble “rotating” pieces in her mind. We also use jigsaw puzzles but those are inherently a solo activity and she instead of doing it by herself she relies on others. Games like Animal Upon Animal give her the learning support she needs while doubling as social interaction.

Two other games Mrs. RMN often uses are Chicken Cha Cha Cha and Gulo Gulo. Chicken Cha Cha Cha is really a simple memory game, but it introduces the kids to early counting and taking turns (a much needed social skill). In the case of Miss A, she is an only child and often just pushes ahead with a game by repeating her turn over and over again. Whereas Chicken Cha Cha Cha emphasizes the social, Gulo Gulo adds in fine motor skills (manual dexterity getting the eggs out of the nest) as well as early strategic thinking (push ahead with the next tile or maybe go a bit easier and get that color on the tile already face up and ahead of you). Admittedly, this is much harder to teach but it never ceases to amaze us when we see that “ah ha” moment where the child sees the strategy. Additionally, over the years we have discovered that young kids really love the appearance and tactile feel of wooden games – often with chunky components – which encourages them to manipulate the pieces.

One of the more recent games that brings together many of the skills being built is ICECOOL. ICECOOL builds fine motor skills (flicking), spatial awareness (chose your path), social interaction (take your turn), and strategic thinking (I’m going this way to avoid the hall monitor AND get my next fish). It also is good for early elementary kids as it uses simple counting.

Courtesy Brain Games

There are plenty of more boardgames we use, along with many puzzle games. This is only a sampling of the ones we use the most often. The most important lesson is to be open-mined about what a boardgame can teach. An added side benefit is that we know we are grooming the next generation of boardgamers by showing these kids that entertainment comes from places other than a smartphone or tablet.


Feature image HABAusa. Chicken Cha Cha Cha and Gulo Gulo images courtesy BoardGameGeek.

#SPIEL18 – My ESSENtial thoughts including AuZtralia, ICECOOL, lots of Plastic Soldiers, and wars across the world

The Essen Game Fair, or International Spieltage 2018, is going on as I write this post. BoardGameGeek collected a list of around 1200 games that either debut or will be available at Essen. Like so many others I reviewed the list to see what strikes my fancy. Apparently, I am too much of a niche-gamer because my list of “Must Have” or “Interested” is very small.

I have seven games on my “Must Have” and “Interested” list. All but one are wargames or a “waro.” One is a kids game because, you know, reasons!

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Spiel18 My Picks via BGG.com

AuZtralia (Stronghold Games)MUST HAVE

I am not a Cthulhu Mythos fan and for that reason alone this game should not be on my list. However, this Martin Wallace-designed waro looks so interesting with its mix of multipleĀ Eurogame mechanics (worker placement, resource collection, track laying, and action selection) combined with a semi-cooperative wargame. My preorder is already placed.

ICECOOL2 (Brain Games)MUST HAVE

The RockyMountainNavy house already owns the original ICECOOL. It is a favorite game amongst Mrs. RMN’s students (especially Little Clara). This expansion takes the possible player count to eight making it a great candidate for a Party Game.

1918: Death on the Rails (2D6.EE)Interested

Chosen mostly on the basis of the topic. Admittedly, the game does not appear to offer any really new or innovative mechanic but (hopefully) is a solid implementation of a block wargame. I have few European publishers in my collection; interested to see their perspective on wargames too.

Eclipse: Second Dawn for the Galaxy (Lautepelit.Fi)Interested

The original Eclipse was strongly recommended to me by Uwe Eickert of Academy Games but I never got around to picking it up. Maybe I will be better this time!

Lincoln (PSC Games)Interested

Card-based wargames are not really my thing but just maybe this one will work for me. Almost pulled the trigger during the Kickstarter campaign but several design controversies made my shy away. Still a bit reluctant to go all-in.

Radetzky: Milano 1848 (Post Scriptum) Interested

A cooperative wargame? Sounds interesting!

Wings of Glory: Tripods & Triplanes (Ares Games)Interested

Technically speaking, the RockyMountainNavy collection of Wings of Glory “belongs” to LittleRockyMountainNavy. He likes Wings of Glory over Fantasy Flight Games’ X-Wing because it is more historical and less tournament-based. That said, he does have an interest in the steampunk genre through games like Scythe (Stonemaier Games) or AuZtralia.

Undecided

Not shown above, I have another seven games in my “Undecided” category.

Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles – Starter Set (Ares Games)

Am interested in the topic but if this is another cinematic movement system and not vector movement (more thematically correct) then I am going to pass. Have some hope since the publisher’s blurb mentions, “…unique dynamics of the battles….”

Expedition Zetta (Ion Game Design)

Topic interests. Looks thematically appropriate. Need to learn more.

Hannibal & Hamilcar (Phalanx)

Another asymmetric card game. Not sure about card games.

Normandy: The Beginning of the End (Draco Ideas)

Need to explore what the Paths to Hell system really is. Another question is, “Do I really need another WWII tactical combat system?” After all, I am already all-in on Conflict of Heroes and the Panzer (Second Edition) series.

Quartermaster General: The Cold War (PSC Games)

Looks interesting…may be suitable for family game night with the RockyMountainNavy Boys. Few games out there in that 3-6 player category (with three-players key for the RockyMountainNavy Game Night).

Scorpius Freighter (AEG)

“Recruit Crew, Customize Ships, Smuggle Goods.” Sounds alot like Firefly: The Game, which I already own, only with the serial number filed off. Although thematically close it is much different graphically. Interesting, but once again I have to ask myself is another “pick up and smuggle” game worth my investment?

SHAEF (PSC Games)

Another PSC Games card-driven title. But only 2-player.

So there is my Essen. Of the 14 games here I think three or four maybe will get into the RockyMountainNavy collection within the next 12 months. Maybe.