I've been playing with my 5 year old and teaching her how to play board games (chess, checkers, go, etc) and card games.

To make the study consistent we play 30 minutes every day. But I was wondering - should we perhaps stick to one game first so she could focus better and learn how to play that one game , and only after she is fairly good with the first game, then proceed with the next one, then next one, etc.

Or varying the games is more beneficial?

2 Answers 2


Board and card games are a great activity idea. I think that 5 is old enough to be able to handle moderately complicated rules, but (more importantly) old enough to keep track of what rules apply to which game. Indeed, the variation of many new games probably helps memory and strategy skills, since she has to keep things straight!

The trick is to balance the new information against making things too repetitive. Too many new games at once is confusing for anybody; playing chess (fairly complex) for many days in a row to practice could potentially get boring and frustrating (I hated chess as a child!). I don't think there is any firm guideline that would really work, just keep an eye on how well she's understanding things and how much fun she seems to be having.

(As a side note: in my experience, when a five-year-old starts to cheat or simply ignore rules, she's bored or frustrated. That's a good sign it's time to switch games...)

  • thanks for the side note. i am using the same approach too and it works great for me. i usually teach a complex games first - chess, etc and at the and of the play sessions we switch to "easier" games. BUT i was thinking - is there a benefit of playing TOO MANY (10+) games during the week or it is better to concetrate on just 2 or 3.
    – user413
    Mar 29, 2013 at 0:49
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    I think I understand your approach a little better :) I'd guess 10+ would probably be pushing her limits, although it would be interesting to see how well she coped with it. I'd probably go with 4-5.
    – Acire
    Mar 29, 2013 at 1:03
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    This is a pretty good answer, but I'm not sure I agree with the statement that "When a five-year-old starts to cheat or simply ignore rules, she's bored or frustrated. That's a good sign it's time to switch games...)" While that may be the case, five-year-olds are fairly notorious for pushing boundaries as well as being self-centered to the point that they think they should be able to change the rules as they see fit. It may be time to change games, but it may be time for a quick discussion on sportsmanship.
    – Kevin
    Apr 1, 2013 at 13:57
  • That is a good point, Kevin, and I appreciate the extra detail and recommendation. I threw the last sentence in there without much thought -- my kids' cheating was often correlated with boredom, but it certainly wasn't the only cause, and regardless of source it shouldn't be ignored :-)
    – Acire
    Apr 1, 2013 at 14:02
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    Kevin, thanks for the point re: "pushing the boundaries and chagining the rules as they see fit." According to Erikson [link]en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… 5yr is the age where it is important to let the kid to develop initiative. I am trying to use that cheating as a creativity device and let her to invent her own rules for her own game. e.g. when she is bored with the checkers - she invent her own "checkers" and then she teaches me back she is focused as never.
    – user413
    Apr 2, 2013 at 15:18

There are several reasons to think that the best thing you can do for your kids is indeed to switch the games constantly:

  1. First, real life consists of constant changes of rules: driving rules, office rules, family rules, school rules, romantic relationship rules, sports rules, etc. So it is realistic to expect people to change the rules they are playing by constantly.

  2. The prefrontal cortex, associated to self-control, can be trained by asking your brain to change the rules by which it works: for example, if you play a game of rule changing "say red when I say green", and then "say green when I say green", you are training your kids control of their own mind. Observe how kids' teachers, especially coaches, start sessions by playing these games to get kids into self-control, coach obedience mode: they will say run to the wall if I say "one two three, run, sir!" but don't run if I say "one, two, three, run!"...

  3. Generally, you want to train your child to be able to quickly get a sense for the rules of any game. That type of 'neuroplasticity" should in principle help them adapt to many challenges.

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