To Lose or Not to Lose? Board Game Strategies for Playing with Kids

Dice and board game pieces in a big pile

Guest Post from Ellen Notbolm, author of Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew

Playing board games is a great way to have fun and bond as a family. But any game begs the question: do you let your kids win so they feel good about themselves and stay interested, or do you play fair—and win sometimes—at the risk of discouraging them?

Before you stack the deck for the next round of Candyland, keep reading for some helpful pointers below:

Choose The Game Wisely

First, understand that if the game is appropriate developmentally, the child should naturally win some of the time. If she doesn’t, chose a simpler game.

Also, look for cooperative games, where everyone wins or loses (typing “cooperative game” in your web browser will give you plenty of options) or games that incorporate luck so that each player has an equal chance of winning.

And make sure the games are fun no matter who wins or loses—if your kids are having a good time, it won’t matter as much who scores the most points.

Level the Playing Field

A few simple strategies will ensure your little one can compete, even in a mixed group.

Consider playing in teams, so that young kids can benefit from the advice of an older player, especially for games that might be the next step up developmentally.

This will also help soften a loss, as role models can demonstrate good sportsmanship whether they win or lose.

If you’re playing a game that involves some skills that your child is still working on, go ahead and give him a handicap or a head start, but be upfront about it. Say, “I’ve played this game many times, but you’re just learning it. Why don’t you take an extra card to start?”

After you’ve accounted for any imbalance in skill level, let yourself win!

Teach Them How to Deal

Remember that losing—or winning—gracefully is something that may need to be trained.

Be a model for good behavior (“Good game!” and “Thanks for playing with me!” are a great place to start), and always emphasize that spending time with friends and family is its own reward.

And finally, don’t feel like you have to finish every game you start. If your child isn’t having fun, there’s no reason to push it—pack it up and move on to something else.

Final Thoughts from Amy

We are so grateful for Ellen’s wisdom in this classic parenting debacle.

If you ever struggle with the backtalk or sibling rivalry that seems to be fueled by family game time, trust me, you aren’t alone.

I’ve helped thousands of families find peace in their homes so they can actually enjoy this special time together.

If you’re tired of your home feeling like a battlefield, I’d love for you to join me for a FREE ONLINE CLASS.

In one hour, I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen—no nagging, yelling, or reminding required!

As always, I’m wishing you all the best on your parenting journey and I’m here if you ever need anything!

Title image: Diane C Macdonald/Shutterstock

About the Author

Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk co-authored 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s, 2nd edition (2010, Future Horizons) and Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew (now available in an updated and expanded edition.)

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