Board Games That Teaches Life Skills

Board Games That Teaches Life Skills

10 min read

Who says playing games is a waste of time?

Parents, do you feel that nowadays children need a lot more new-world life skills that are not explicitly taught in schools and tuition centres? If you do, I found the perfect hack to help cultivate these skills in a fun way: Board Games! 

I know what you’re thinking… sure or not? We are supposed to get our children to stop playing games leh, not encouraging them to play more. But trust me, there are some board games that can impart valuable skills to the kids! And instead of being cooped up in their rooms playing with their mobile phones, at least your children will be spending some quality time with the family while learning through play.  

Here are 4 life skills that you can strengthen in your children through board games:

Financial Literacy & Money Management

1. Monopoly

board games monopoly

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I think all of you have either played or at least heard about this game lah. Monopoly is—in my opinion—one of the best games to introduce your children to finance, money, and the importance of planning ahead. It also picks their brains when they are figuring out how to make their money work harder for them and which property to invest in. 

2. Game of Life

board games game of life

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The Game of Life takes players through the typical life milestones of an average person and teaches children what they can expect (starting a family, getting a job, buying a house, etc) in the future.

Since the objective of the game is to be the player with the most money, children will also be challenged to make wise financial choices in the game based on their assigned occupation and salary. This skill will come in useful when practising basic financial literacy and financial management in real life. Who knows? The game may even help your children plan early for retirement in the future.

3. Cashflow 101

board games cashflow 101

Image source: Cashflow 101

If you have already played the two classic games above, and want to take things a step further, you can try the relatively newer Cashflow 101, an investment game. 

In this game, players will learn basic financial strategies and accounting principles. They will also be introduced to investment and the concept of earning a passive income. I think this is an excellent game to help your children be exposed to long-term financial planning. This is especially since our education system does not really teach in-depth about financial literacy. It’s never too young for your children to start being smart about their money!

Critical Thinking

4. Guess Who

board games guess who

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One of my favourite games when I was young is Guess Who—you know, the board game with a lot of different people that you can flip over. I like it not because I keep winning hor, but because I love thinking of questions that can effectively help me eliminate as many characters as possible.

Playing Guess Who with your children can help train their critical thinking as they will need to infer and deduct to find out the identity of their opponent, based on the questions they asked. Since players only get one question each turn, it also trains them to think out of the box and come up with more effective questions to help narrow the opponent’s identity.

5. Mastermind

board games mastermind

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Mastermind is a 2-player game that challenges players to either create a difficult combination of code, or employ deductive reasoning to guess the combination set by their opponent as soon as possible.

Your children will learn how to tweak their gameplay strategies to make sure the opponent can’t guess the right combination throughout the game. It also ties in with a mathematics concept your children may have learnt in school: Permutation and Combination. 

6. Cluedo / Clue

board games cluedo

Cluedo is a multiplayer game where players strive to be the first to discover how a person died. Players have to guess the right combination of murderer, murder weapon, and murder room. Using their critical thinking skills, they can use their guesses wisely every turn to narrow down the correct combination in the end. Besides training these thinking skills, Cluedo is a fun game that lets your children discover their inner Sherlock Holmes.

7. Mysterium

board games mysterium

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If you like the concept of Cluedo but want to try something more new-age, you should definitely play Mysterium! Instead of all the players figuring out who killed one person, one of the players of Mysterium will be the person who got killed. He/she will play the role of a ghost who can only communicate with the other players through images, while the rest of the players try to guess who killed him/her.   

This game not only trains critical thinking skills by making connections with the limited information they have, it also pushes your children to think out of the box and translate from pictures to ideas, eventually expressing themselves through words. Plus, it’s always hilarious to see the “ghost” being frustrated when other players interpret the pictures wrongly.

Strategic Thinking & Planning

8. Chess

board games chess

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If you have watched The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, you would know that chess is an intellectual game. Although playing the game with your children might not turn them into Beth Harmon, it will definitely train their cognitive functions and strategic thinking. In fact, it will also help your children boost their planning skills and increase focus, which might help those struggling with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Chinese parents, you can also consider playing Chinese Chess (or 象棋) with your children. Although the gameplays are similar, I try to encourage Cathy and Bobby to play Chinese Chess instead so they can appreciate the Chinese culture more. If not, at least they will be able to recognise the Chinese characters on the pieces easier in the future!

9. Risk

board games risk

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When it comes to strategy board games, Risk is probably one of the top few games that come to mind. Simulating a World War scenario, the game gets players to try “conquering the world” with their army. This not only requires careful planning in where to deploy troops and which land to conquer first, but also gets players to plan in case their lands get attacked by other players.

If you have younger children below 10 years old and find Risk a little too complicated to teach, try Risk Junior instead! It adopts a simpler gameplay but retains the idea of strategising to win. The game also revolves around the concept of pirates finding treasure, so it’s a little less heavy than conquering the world lah.

10. Sushi Go

board games sushi go

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If anything, Sushi Go is the cutest game featuring very colourful and adorable characters with the theme of Japanese Food. In Sushi Go, players have to strategically decide which dishes they want for themselves, as well as how they can stop their opponents from gaining more points than them.

Consisting of at least 3 rounds per game, Sushi Go will help children plan long-term—beyond their current round—for the entire game, to make sure they are the ultimate winner. For the younger children, it also helps them identify and sort the same-patterned cards which also train their memory.

11. Shifting Stones

board games shifting stones

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If you like colourful games like Sushi Go, you can try Shifting Stones as well. In this game, players have to shift a wall of stones to create a pattern that coincides with the cards in their hands to gain points. 

Since each player only gets one turn before other players shift the stones, the game requires players to plan their strategy, even a few rounds ahead of their opponents. Players can also prevent others from gaining points by shifting the stones in a certain manner away from the pattern their opponents want.

Go beyond the classroom walls

Besides honing these 4 life skills, playing board games can help boost their emotional intelligence as well as they subconsciously get to practise interpersonal skills when interacting or negotiating with other players. 

Subtle life lessons such as dealing with defeat and losses in real life come into play too, should they lose the games. You can teach your children that life has its highs and lows. Sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose. Life will not be as smooth-sailing as they might think, and sometimes they may face circumstances that are not within their control.

Children can learn that sometimes no matter what decision they make, it may result in losses or bad consequences. They will have to decide when it is worth taking risk or a small loss in order to win the game in the long-term. If the risk doesn’t pay off, they will then need to move on quickly, learn from their mistakes, and strive to win in the next round.

When fighting losing battles (both in game and in real life), you can also seize the chance to remind your children that the most important thing is to never give up and keep fighting. Determination is key! And who knows? The tables might just be turned to be in their favour at the last minute.

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