21 May 2014

Tabletop Toddler

I kind of can't wait for my child to be old enough to play 'grown up' games with me. I have a small stack of 3+ player games and my wife and I are as yet unable to duplicate ourselfs, so it will fall to our daughter to fill in the gap (assuming she's willing).

But she's a good sport and likes doing just about anything with me anyway, so we've been playing games together for some time now. She received a game for kids for her second birthday five months ago: Sneaky, Snack Squirrel. Hearing her say it is one of the funniest things you'll hear that day. It comes out more like, "Keeky Quacky Quorl!" In any case it's a fun little game, well-designed by Educational Insights to teach kids things like turn-taking, colors, counting, even some fine motor skills. The box says 3 and older, but Nico has been able to play the thing for a few months now, albeit with some regular redirection. Toddlers, ironically, have about the same attention span as squirrels.



There are plenty of toddler moments when we play: she keeps on spinning the dial or just randomly grabs the little acorns or wants to play the "happy squirrel" action (where one player can steal an acorn from another) when she hasn't spun it. I try to keep her honest, as long as it doesn't become upsetting, and she always responds to my redirection. The one house rule we've applied is that the "wind" action only blows away one acorn instead of your whole stock. That would just be redundant, especially if you're two.

It's cute to see her determination as well; even when her mind has clearly moved on she often wants to play another game.

She also likes to roll dice, even if she doesn't understand the application. Let's face it, everyone likes to roll dice. So we sling some plain dice around from time to time, or play Story Cubes (I do most of the storytelling) until she's ready to do something else. I'm always on the lookout for new games to try with her, but the under-3 market for board games is understandably slim.

The whole 'screen culture' we are in gets a little disconcerting at times, so I'm glad to be in the practice of playing games in person, having broke my video gaming habit some time ago. Bringing friends over to play games with some regularity has been rewarding, if only to show my daughter just how good it is to sit around the table with friends, moving little pieces around, and enjoying one another's company. She seems to like game night as much as we do!

I've seen some really cool examples of what gaming can mean to a family, online and in person, and I hope to have a fraction of that with mine. There is so much to be learnt from the hobby. My only concern is becoming a game 'dope pusher' and driving her away, but I that kind paranoia seems to be latent in parents anway. Until then there are acorns to sneak.

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