Guest Author - Lorel Shea
A gifted toddler or preschooler will often enjoy the thrill of competitive gaming years before her same age peers. She will pick up the rules quickly and even if she is not an early reader, she may be very good at remembering how to play such games as BINGO, Art Lotto, and Connect Four. Families who play board games regularly are often surprised to learn that their little one has been paying attention and is now demanding his turn! Other parents may not stop to consider that their bright or gifted child might be ready to try structured board games much earlier than the age recommended on the box. If he is hitting lots of developmental milestones early, there's a good chance that he will learn to follow directions without much difficulty.
BINGO and Art Lotto are basically matching games that require the players to identify and mark their cards appropriately. Even some one year olds can play, once they have the dexterity to manipulate the pieces. Connect Four is a three dimensional variation on tic tac toe. Two opponents try to put four of their checkers in a row, while preventing their adversary from doing the same. This game is very tactile and wonderful for kids who like to explore with their hands.
The classic board game Candyland is a favorite with young children, and gifted kids are no exception. The game is rated for ages three to six, but a gifted child may be able to play before turning two. Candyland involves choosing cards to move ahead to matching colored squares and special characters. There isn't any counting necessary. Parents may well recall their own childhood as they get stuck in Molasses Swamp!
A recent hit at our house is Cranium's Hullabaloo. Hullabaloo has a small portable speaker that plays music and asks the players to “move over to a square” or “crawl to a musical instrument”. The game is played by participants actually hopping, crawling, etc. from one small cloth mat to another. There are pictures of animals, instruments, foods, and the cranium characters, and these are in five different colors and several different shapes. Kids need to know basic shapes and colors, as well as names of animals and instruments, in order to take part. It's visual, auditory, and kinetic stimulation all packed into one amazing game. The speaker goes through several rounds of instructions before announcing, “Freeze! If you're standing on the spaghetti, you're a winner! Winner, do a funky dance!” This game is really fun for all ages, and highly recommended.
As for the junior versions of classic games such as Monopoly, I think in most cases, it's better to wait for the original. I've tried several junior games over the years, and always been disappointed. They don't seem to have much substance, and the fun factor is low. If a gifted child can play Monopoly at age five, why bother with the simplified edition? In our family, the kids usually play as part of a team until they are willing and able to play on their own. Before they are capable of adding up their earnings, they can roll dice and move a piece along a designated path as their contribution to the team.
Board games are great for family bonding, and they teach kids to play by the rules. Why not have some fun and introduce your little one to a game today?