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Looking for a family activity to encourage your kid’s imagination? Invite them to help you design and make a board game. It’s creative, fun, and practically free.
Have you ever heard that creative hum? The noise of children totally engrossed in open-ended creative activities?
I love that sound! My boys and their friends invented lots of imaginary worlds and created their own games. I still remember the hours of laughter, concentrated play, and discussion as they set out the rules and constructed their games.
This is the best kind of play.
Are you looking for a way to encourage that creative hum? Do you want a free activity that will engage the imagination?
Why not invite your children to design and make a board game? This is something I have done with many children. It’s a fun activity and seems to appeal to all age groups. Most children enjoy board games, but there is something special about creating one of your own.
It’s a fun family activity and it’s practically free!
How to Make A Board Game
Note: These steps are not linear. They are numbered, but you will find yourself moving through them back and forth as you create your own game.
As you go through the steps, I encourage you to take a step back and follow your children’s lead. By all means ask questions and provide help as needed, but offer space for your children’s imagination to take flight.
1. Choose a theme
Decide on a theme for the game. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
- Adventure (jungle adventure, pirate adventure, space, explorers, deep sea ….)
- Family life and activities
- A movie
- A book (Narnia stories, Harry Potter, Fancy Nancy, Pete the Cat…..)
- Landmarks in your town
Take a look at the board games you already own for inspiration. Could you adapt one of them?
2. Make your board
There are two options
- Draw your own board game on cardboard or Bristol board
- Print out a board template.
Tim’s Printables has a nice selection of templates. Choose black and white or color.
The National Museum of Australia has two templates.
A simple roll the dice game for young children. Download here.
A more complex game board for older children. You make game cards to place in the middle of the board. Download here.
3. Make your game pieces
Make game pieces from small objects you find around the house such as Lego men, small plastic figures/animals, buttons, coins, shells or rocks.
Or make your own. Here are some simple ideas.
Kid’s Activities have instructions for making personalized game pieces. Adapt this idea by drawing (or gluing a picture) onto some card stock. Cut out and mount on a bulldog clip.
Me and My Inkings has instructions for making games pieces out of clay
4. Add some rewards and challenges that fit with your theme.
Print them straight on the board or create game cards. Index cards cut in half are just the right size for game cards. For example
- The dog ate your homework. Go back 2 spaces.
- You won Canadian Idol!! Earn 2 tokens.
- Meet a monkey who steals your watch! Go back five spaces
- Hold your tongue and say the alphabet.
- Darn you forgot your lunch. Lose a turn.
- Make a funny face.
Encourage creativity and humor!
5. Decide how you want to move the pieces.
Will you draw cards, use a spinner, or throw dice? Will you use a combination of these methods? You could even make your own specialized dice or spinner.
6. Decide on the basic rules.
These will probably change as you play the game, but it’s good to have a starting point.
7. Play the game.
You may have to make adjustments and tweak the rules as you go along. The main thing is to have fun!
Need more Inspiration and help?
Helen Neale at Kiddy charts describes how her daughter created their own monopoly game, based on their hometown
Amanda and Kelly, from the National Museum of Australia, demonstrate how to make a board game using the simple game template featured above.
If you are like me and want your kids to engage in open-ended inventive play, try making your own board game. It’s cheap, it’s fun, and it will provide an opportunity for your kids to amaze you with their creativity. Who knows maybe you’ll come up with a real winner!
Have you ever made your own board game?