Not the Usual Reason for Playing Board Games


Do you enjoy playing board games with your kids? When they say, “Do you want to play a game with us?” do you immediately put down what you’re doing and join in?

I must admit, I’m not very good at doing this. Quite often I say, “I’m busy at the moment. Maybe another time.” Unfortunately, ‘another time’ doesn’t arrive very often.


But yesterday…

About 8.30 pm, my daughter Imogen said, “Let’s finish off the evening with a rousing game of Scrabble. Who wants to play?”

“Do you want to join us, Mum?” asked Sophie as she opened the box and emptied the contents on the kitchen table.

I almost gave my usual response but instead, I closed my computer and said, “Yes.”

Gemma-Rose placed the board between us and then handed round the bag of tiles. I extracted 7 cream coloured squares and then arranged and rearranged them on my letter rack trying to make a good word. My rack was positioned so no eyes but mine could see my tiles.

“Don’t worry about hiding your tiles, Mum. If we can see them, we can help you.”


Help me? Perhaps my girls didn’t have much confidence in my Scrabble playing ability? No, that wasn’t it at all. They just don’t play board games in the usual way. An individual win isn’t important to them. Their object is to play the best they can as a team.

“I can see a word,” Charlotte said. “If you use your ‘j’ and the ‘a’ in the word ‘groan’ you can …”

“But if you move your word to that other ‘a’, you’ll get a triple word score. That’s even better.”

“What letters have you got, Mum?”

The girls weren’t thinking about the outcome of the game, but I was. I had a secret thought: “I hope I win!” Old habits, you know. And I thought I would win. I was well ahead. I was trying hard not to grin. But then two minutes before the end of the game, Imogen found a spot for Sophie’s ‘c’ and ‘r’ that gave her a big triple word score.

“60 points in one go!” All the girls grinned. Sophie won the game. But I didn’t really mind losing. You see, I didn’t really lose. I was part of the team who together earned a very respectable Scrabble score. That last 60 point word was amazing. Yes, that was worth grinning about!


So why do we play board games? Of course, homeschoolers will tell you they’re educational. Yes, while our children are having fun, they’re absorbing all kinds of useful things such as maths, vocabulary, and thinking skills. But maybe this isn’t the most important reason for playing games with our kids.

Here are two other reasons:

  1. Playing board games makes us slow down and concentrate on the present moment. In order to play properly, we have to push away all thoughts of our usual concerns. For a few minutes, all that matters is the game and the joy of playing it. And of course, our children.
  2. Yes, if we put aside our own occupations with smiles and glad hearts whenever we are invited to play a game, what does this tell our kids? We’ll be saying: “You are important. I love spending time with you.”


I’ve bought a few new games to give as Christmas gifts. I got some great ideas from Homeschooling without Training Wheels‘ blog post The Great Gaming Gift Guide.

On Christmas Day, my girls will say, “Hey, Mum, do you want to play this new game with us?” What will I say? What would you say?

So I’m wondering…

Do you play board games with your family? Do you play by the usual rules or do you ignore them? And what is your favourite game? I’d love to know!

Images: I took these photos while we were on a recent holiday at Swan Lake. We found a good selection of board games on a shelf in our cottage. 


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  1. Reply

    I love board games with the kids. Often we playing by the rules. Sometimes we change them. My husband doesn’t like competition, so he plays collaboratively as your kids do. When the kids play alone, they often add rules to make things more complex. The kids and I have played many games the last year as we get rid of them in anticipation of moving to Ireland. I do love it because it is time spent focused on them, which is still a necessity even though we are together 24/7.

    1. Reply


      I love the idea of making a game more complex by adding rules. That requires lots of creative thinking. Why play the game only in the way it was designed? Taking things a step further and building upon the rules sounds like a lot of fun. You’re getting rid of games? Is your move to Ireland going to be permanent or do you just want to reduce the amount of things you’ll have stored away? Moving to a new country sounds like a huge adventure!

  2. Reply

    I adore these photos, Sue. When I read your story I could just imagine being there with you. Cordie and I enjoyed playing games with our friends in Yorkshire last weekend. We have lots of games at home and I like playing most of them. We rarely finish one, though, because a few people in my family are rather competitive and things can get tense. I’ve got used to that, though. Learning to manage our emotions is perhaps one of the most important life lessons we can learn and playing games gives lots of practice!

    1. Reply


      The garden of our holiday cottage was beautiful. The back deck was the perfect place to sit with a cup of coffee while playing a board game. I enjoyed taking these photos and I’m pleased you like them!

      I understand how board games can lead to tense situations. It’s not only children who can become over-competitive. Andy and I have had times when we’ve had to agree not to play certain games because we end up getting upset with each other. Playing games is supposed to be fun and not end in tears or angry words. Perhaps we both need more practice in handling our emotions. Maybe we should be more like our non-competitive daughters!

    • Karen
    • November 19, 2016

    I loved playing board games growing up! Monopoly was one of my favorites. And as a kid, I remember making additional rules to the game of Monopoly. 🙂

    My family plays games too…mostly my daughter and I. Right now, her favorite game is Uno and Go Fish. We play Uno at least several times a week. And sometimes, we switch up the rules and ask trivia questions when you draw certain cards. (The homeschool co-op program we’re in teaches various memory work for different subjects so that’s what we like to use for trivia) Basically it kind of turns Uno into a sort of Trivia Pursuit version. 🙂 Anyway, sometimes we play it the regular way, and sometimes my daughter asks to play Uno the trivia question way. Some other games we enjoy are Farkle, Connect Four, and Sequence.

    1. Reply


      I love how you add modify the games you play with your daughter. I imagine this keeps things interesting.

      We found a very old version of Trivial Pursuit in our holiday cottage. The questions were from the 80’s. My husband could answer most of them, but the girls had no idea. I was in charge of the questions and I decided to give the girls lots of hints so they had a chance of answering some of them. This frustrated my husband. I think he wanted to play by the rules because he really wanted to win!

      I haven’t heard of the game Farkle. I shall l do some googling!

  3. Sue, this post almost had me in tears. We LOVE board games, too … but even so, I’m often the “not right now” mom. Sometimes by the end of the evening, I have so few brain cells left! That’s one of the reasons we’ve latched onto “family games”. I think I can strategize at about an 8-year-old level after the sun goes down!

    P.S. Thanks so much for sharing our board gaming suggestions. 😀

    1. Reply


      Oh yes, it can be hard to play board games when we’re tired. At the end of the day, I have so few brain cells left too! Sometimes instead of taking an active role in a game, I volunteer to read out the questions (Trivial Pursuit) or be in charge of the money (Monopoly) or keep score for other games. This seems to work too.

      It was a pleasure sharing your board game suggestions. Thank you so much for writing this series of posts. I’m sure it took you a long time to gather all the info and links and put them into such attractive posts.

  4. Reply

    Oh Sue, how wonderful not to be competitive 🙂 We don’t have even one person in our family who is not competitive, and I think I might be one of the worst! I never throw a tantrum when I don’t win, so I guess that’s something! I have to admit, the fun for me is in the competition, and I think if I’m honest I’d miss that – but I have to say, your family’s take on game playing sounds delightful and very unlike the dog-eat-dog games we play! (though we do have a lot of fun playing them!)

  5. Reply


    I know how you feel about competitiveness. I sometimes throw a tantrum on the inside when I lose. I’ve been known to say, “I’m never playing that stupid game again!” Terrible, I know. How did I get such non-competitive daughters? Maybe competitiveness is good when we’re challenging ourselves. It spurs us on to bigger and greater things. I just need to know when to pull back and pay more attention to others, helping them and including them so everyone has fun.

  6. Reply

    My sister and I love playing games with friends. We play board games like 7 Wonders and Dominion and card games like Spades. With our mom, we like to play word games like Boggle and Bananagrams. I play chess with my dad. Our family has friends that we play games with as well, normally Anomia and Salad Bowl (Salad Bowl is an absolutely wonderful game and all it requires is paper and something to write with!) We play by the rules almost all the time, but sometimes we play around to make things more complicated, or just to try something new out. We play competitively but we’re very friendly about it.

    1. Reply


      So many games! I haven’t heard of most of them. I shall have to do some googling. Thank you for sharing. I suspect we’re going to be learning how to play some new games very soon!

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