Game creation is an excellent way to teach children to create and solve problems on their own. When given the opportunity, they’ll use many learning elements, such as math, writing, reading, geography, and, sometimes, science, all without probing and pushing from parents and teachers. And making a game is simple, with very few supplies and a lot of rewards. It also offers the opportunity to cater to both competitive and cooperative learning.
On a Tuesday after a doctor’s appointment, rather than rushing the kids back to school, I gave them the option to stay home. “However,” I explained, “you’ll have a job to do. I expect you to work together to create a game for the family to play. I’d like you to create this game based on a favorite book.” As I pulled into the Target parking lot, asking what supplies they would need, we began brainstorming a list, which surprised me for being quite small. As it turned out, they had everything they needed at home, except the poster board. Of course, all moms know that we can’t leave Target with just poster board, but the boys were focused. They convinced me that they had so many games in mind that they’d need several pieces of poster board and 3×5 cards.
That afternoon I enjoyed true peace and quiet as they worked to create three board games and a card game. I overheard them discuss the need for exciting tasks, for punishment and reward, for good versus evil. In the game they created for the first year of Harry Potter, the players were rewarded for learning new spells by moving forward spaces but punished for being caught by Mr. Filch after curfew by going back. If they landed on two spots, the players would have to report to an extra loop area to fight a giant. I heard the kids’ debate strategy, discussed logic and time, and offered suggestions for wording. They worked together to make their game work. When it was time to play, they found LEGO mini-figures to act as their playing pieces. And we played. We played again and again, making changes as necessary to the game.
After a few rounds, one of the boys suggested a break from Harry Potter. It was time, he explained, to create game two: The Adventures of Tin Tin. Another action-packed British story, this one prompted the kids to recall favorite scenes they could work into a different board. This second game proved an opportunity for the boys to be more creative and challenging in their plans. In fact, once Tin Tin was complete, they explained that this game would be suggested for children ages 6 and up because the challenges were more difficult. Because we were all “of age,” we played for a bit, again using a die and LEGO mini-figures.
When at breaking time they picked up the 3×5 cards, they explained that it was time to create a game based on yet another story, but this time it would be a word game. Together they listed words found in Diary of a Wimpy Kid on their cards and began playing a game where they would retell the story by putting the words in the proper order. Next, they split the cards up and made up new stories.
Their final game of the day was a drawing game. The boys have really been enjoying Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants stories. Rather than a traditional board game, the boys split the poster board into sections and held drawing contests as they drew different scenes of the story.
Game creation continues to be a favorite pastime at our house. The kids love to share the stories they enjoy through the game, and I enjoy learning the stories and checking their comprehension through the summaries they offer as they create the games and the time we spend together creating and playing. Often, for Family Game Night, we have enough homemade games to select from that we don’t even plan to open the game closet.