This is a follow-up to Tip #31 that reminded parents to make some time to play board games this summer. In addition to playing board games, children can actually make their own board games, which promotes creativity and writing as well as a sense of pride and ownership (especially when others play it and enjoy it!). Help your child brainstorm ideas for his/her game, perhaps borrowing features/goals/themes from other games. Encourage game-making that incorporates some literacy — reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary. Further, add interest to game-making by helping kids to connect their game to topics/areas of personal interest (e.g., to the ocean for kids interested in oceanography, to a particular sport for kids who are hooked into sports, or to specific math concepts for a child who’s interested in more math this summer. There is even a great book called Journey to Gameland that gives step-by-step suggestions for how to turn a favorite book into a board game!
Kids can use materials at home to make their own game components. Or, they can order blank game board products from http://www.barebooks.com, which sells blank game boards, blank spinners, blank game cards, and blank money. Even better, you can order blank “game board kits”, which come with all of the above materials as well as player pawns, dice, and a timer. These materials are fantastic and help to make kids’ games look and feel like the real thing!
When kids are done making their board game, encourage them to write their own game instructions, just like all real games must have. Guide them so that their instructions contain the features and organization of real game instructions, including a statement of goal/objective, number of players, materials, and steps. Writing game instructions is actually a great way to promote summer writing because it is authentic — it has a real function and is for a real audience. Others actually have to read the instructions to learn how to play the game! Writing game instructions also gives kids practice writing procedural (how-to) texts that might help to improve their skills at writing other kinds of procedural texts (e.g., recipes, other types of instructions, science experiments).
In Our Family… Last summer, my then 6-year-old created his own board game called “Math Wiz” (see photo), which combined writing, creativity, and his interest in math. He actually made every component of the game down to the spinner. And he did quite a bit of writing in the process of making 75 game cards (many of which were dictated by him and typed by me). After completing his game and trying it out a few times with his family, he wrote his own instructions for play (see photo). It was so fun to watch all the good thinking and problem-solving that went into his making of the game, and even more fun to watch how proud he was of the final product. A year later, he still loves to take out his game to play with his family or even his friends. I think he loves the realness of the materials. And he clearly enjoys the sense of ownership. Apparently, Math Wiz 2 is coming in August. And his sister says she plans to create a game this summer that has a kids’ literature theme.
See if creating a game is something that interests your kids. If they’re into it, they’re likely to engage in some good thinking and good writing while hardly noticing all their hard work!