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January 25, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Blog

Let’s face it. Losing is the pits. Whether it’s money, or sports, or a game, it doesn’t feel that great. However, losing is a fact of life. And really, in all the things that we can lose, losing a board game, is the easiest kind of losing there is. It’s relatively short, unless you’re playing Monopoly. You’re not losing money, which is a good thing. And often, as in a strategy game like Chess, you are learning something.

Girls playing Connect 4

Those are all well and good, but not much help when your child is throwing a fit because they just lost a game of Chutes and Ladders or Candyland. It’s embarrassing. It’s not fun to play with a sore loser. So, what’s a parent to do?


In our day and age of cell phones and video games, board games are such a great way for kids to have one on one time with parents, siblings or friends. It is worth continuing to play with kids who hate to lose. It’s the one area, where the more they play, they have a better shot at winning, but they are also getting more practice at losing.


I play a lot of games with kindergarten and 1st graders. The difference is I am playing in the classroom where kids are often on their “best behavior”. That said, losing is still a huge issue. For first time gamers, I always pick short games. I explain that this is a really short game and you win a bunch and you lose a bunch, but you learn something everytime. Goblet Jr. is a great first game to start with.


If your child likes art, try to go with a game that has some aspect of that in the game. Blokus is a great first game for art lovers because kids can also use it as an art activity after they are done playing the game. If your child will only play with legos, look for something that has building in it like Rhumbus or Blokus 3D. Lego has come out with a bunch of board games. The trick is to let the child build the game and then get them to play the game for awhile after they build it.

Children playing Go


If you would like to introduce a new short game, go to a special place like Starbucks or Dairy Queen. Have a special treat. Then play a new game for 15 minutes. Make it a special time between the two of you. I met one mom who bought a dinosaur chess set because her son loved dinosaurs. She and her son went every Saturday morning to a local coffee shop and played chess. Pairing hot chocolate, dinosaur chess pieces and one-on-one parent time makes losing a whole lot easier. Three strong emotional pluses will hopefully outweigh a short emotional minus.


Some kids will instinctively keep score, but when your kids are young, try not to make a big deal of it. Open the game and get rid of the score pad if you have a sore loser. It slows down the game anyway. Keep things moving. Have the game be more about the interaction between the players than the score.


If possible, try to pair a sore loser with a calmer player. In classroom play, I’ve seen miraculous moments where a child who can hardly sit still will pull out a game and play with a calmer classmate with only laughter and quiet interaction between them for 15 minutes. Often a girl and a boy seem to work better than two girls or two boys.

Playing Sequence for Kids


To be fun, games don’t have to be played to their end. In fact, it’s often better if kids are left wanting more. Set a timer for 10 minutes if you know your child has a 15 minute attention span. Tell your child you are only going to play for 10 minutes and then you are going to go outside for a walk. Start the game and when the timer goes off, stop where you are. Clean up. Go outside for a great walk. Do the “game over dance” around the house.


I work with a number of kids and teach a lot of games, so if you have favorites, I would love to hear them. I am especially interested in games that teach logic or spatial concepts. The favorites I’ve recommended are easy to learn, short and strengthen either logic or spatial skills. If you’d like some recommendations on short, easy games, these are some of my favorites. Most importantly: Just play a game. Start today.

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