I have a few younger nephews that enjoy playing board games. Some obey the rules and actually want to play the real game but some younger ones just want to play "their own game". I know that teaching a kid too young simply won't work but what age is the norm for converting the kids over?

Age = 3 Board games = candy land, hi ho cheerios, chutes and ladders, some little catch the fish game

  • Not really sure there's an answer for this - it depends on the game, the rules and the child. You may need to add some more information. Jan 2, 2017 at 15:49
  • I agree with @James Snell, we need more info. Also, I taught children who could not grasp the rules and enforcing the rules helped them to learn. Enforcing sounds so punitive though. We helped them with the rules. My Gran started playing Scrabble with me when I was six. She gave me a 100 points head start and helped me spell. Sometimes I won. I remember truly winning my first game -- around 11 or 12 and how proud my Gran was. I was thrilled.
    – WRX
    Jan 2, 2017 at 16:01
  • "Younger nephews", "younger ones" and "too young" meaning what age? 2? 12?
    – A E
    Jan 2, 2017 at 16:47
  • Also what board games? Some are way more difficult and complex than others. Chess or Snakes & Ladders?
    – A E
    Jan 2, 2017 at 16:55
  • Added some info. Hope that helps
    – Eric F
    Jan 2, 2017 at 18:53

3 Answers 3


Thanks for the added info!

You've selected great games for 3 year olds. I'd quietly point out that the rules of the game make it more fun to learn. I've found that really little guys like this feel like 'losers' and will do much to prevent being the loser. I am not about to suggest no competition. BTDT and it's not good. I used 1st Winner, 2nd Winner (and so on) and allowed each child to finish if they chose to.

Also in general, if you make a mistake like dropping something, break something by mistake or lose a game -- point it out. "Opps! Will someone help me clean up the mess I made?" or, "Oh well, good for you, your are the 1st Winner!" Laugh about it, don't be mad and model how you hope these children will learn to play. Being a 'good sport' and trying our best are learned.

  • Thanks for the info. I agree with what you have said but at what age do you think rule following should take place around? And what do you do when they don't want to follow the rules but would rather play their own made up game instead?
    – Eric F
    Jan 3, 2017 at 0:38
  • @Eric F Well I do not know the children, but 3 is early. They have to be mature enough to understand. I would say be gentle and insist on small differences. One step at a time.
    – WRX
    Jan 3, 2017 at 1:00

What a great opportunity to teach communication and compromise.

I would separate the kids into those who want to play by the rules and those who want to create their own game. Or play with official rules one time then made up rules next time. Who cares as long as everyone is having fun. I think saying "We will only ever play this game by the rules as written" is a great way to discourage creativity and turn kids off entirely.

  • What a nice idea! Welcome to the site. :) Jan 10, 2017 at 2:29

If you play a boardgame, or any game with them you should always enforce the rules. You can make then easier if you have the feeling, that some rules are to complicated or simply are bad rules all together, but do it under agreement of all that are participating. It is important that children learn early, that they have to cope with other people and that includes rules and agreements, and there is no age limit of this, even if the younger ones won't get it from the beginning, they will learn how this works relatively soon. And if you are not sure, if a game would be too complex for the smallest, you can look at the age recommendation and you can see within their reactions if they are overwhelmed by the game. In both cases, better don't play than play nonsense.

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