This week in homeschooling: tabletop games.

Monday

Settlers of Catan. My oldest daughter (just turned six) and I played an abbreviated game of Catan.

The rules:

  • First to six points wins
  • No desert / robber
  • Re-roll if you get a seven
  • Cards held face up

That’s it. Although we have Catan Jr, this was her first real game of Catan. She managed her hand and decided (with a little help) when and where to build settlements and cities and when to buy development cards. I let her win a close one (6-5). Adult games are a lot more fun for adults, and with a little rule simplication, can be played easily by kids as well.

Skills: Resource allocation, card recognition, decision making

Tuesday

Ticket to Ride Märklin.

The rules:

  • Tickets held face up
  • One ticket at a time
  • Completed tickets are scored immediately
  • First to 100 wins
  • No passengers

TTR is a great introduction to Euro-style tabletop games. I simplified our game by ignoring the passenger rule, but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about having to work with a map of Germany. If you’re planning on playing with kids—or just don’t feel like learning the names of German cities—get the original, U.S. version.

Scorekeeping in TTR is perfect for practicing basic addition. A scoring path runs around the outside of the board and a marker is used to keep track. Track segments require translation via an on-board key (for exmaple, a track requiring four pieces scores seven points) and tickets are in the single digits to low double digits.

Skills: map reading, simple addition, color/symbol recognition

Yesterday

Rummy.

Rummy was one of my favorite games to play with my grandparents growing up. If you haven’t played before, it’s a simple matching / sequencing game using a single deck of playing cards. It can be picked up in a few minutes by an adult.

The rules:

  • Cards held face up (relax this rule with experience)
  • Number cards (and aces when played low) are worth 5 not face value

Aside from holding the cards face up, this game doesn’t need much simplication. After a few hands, you’ll probably even be able to let everyone keep their cards hidden to make the game play as intended. Rummy is another excellent game for practicing basic math—in this case, counting by 5‘s and 10’s in both directions (anyone still holding cards when the turn ends must subtract those points from his or her score).

Skills: Counting by 5’s and 10’s, card recall, card recognition, pattern matching

Today

Chess.

By far the most difficult of the games we played this week, chess is still something that can be learned by a child. Compared with many of the Euro-games we play with friends on a regular basis, in fact, it’s downright simple. There are no cards to read, no rulebooks to consult. Each piece has a designated behavior with very few exceptions. The only challenge for Abby turned out to be the intracies of attacking and moving with pawns.

The rules:

  • No special rules

An adult versus a six-year-old is hardly a fair fight, but if you can de-emphasize the winning and losing and focus on learning the rules rather than high-level strategy, it can still be a lot of fun.

Skills: pattern recognition, behavior recall, coordinated movement

Tomorrow

Robot Turtles.

We backed Robot Turtles when it was a Kickstarter, but it’s been a while since we’ve sat down to play. Unlike the rest of the games we’ve played this week, this one is actually designed to be played by kids. There are suggestions right in the rule book for which rules to include for varying age levels.

Skills: decision making, planning, obstacle avoidance

Tabletop games make a lot of sense as teaching tools, especially for us. Our oldest daughter has seen us playing Dominion, Catan, Terra Mystica, and dozens of other games for years. One-on-one attention plus the chance to play adult games is a powerful motivator.

I have more to say about homeschooling, but it will have to wait for another time. For now, please take a look at the Homeschooling Resources page I’ve put together. (Work in progress.)