Sometimes, the daily grind of life can leave you feeling disconnected as a family. It’s cold outside. The kids are bored. It would be so easy to turn on the TV, but more screen time can make you feel even more disconnected as a family. Chances are, there is a simple solution to this dilemma on the bottom shelf of the closet. Today’s child has experience with complex digital media and games with lots of bells and whistles. Surprisingly, they still love playing simple board games and card games. These games are comforting to young children. Think of them as the mashed potatoes and mac 'n' cheese of games! And sometimes a big helping of mac 'n' cheese is just what your family needs!

Along with being fun and comforting, here are just a few of the things that children of all ages learn while playing board games:

Taking turns: This is one of the first things you learn when playing games. There are times when you get to act, and times when you wait. Drawing cards, moving pieces around on the board, grabbing the dice — these are things you shouldn’t be doing unless it’s your turn. Playing games teaches kids that there are appropriate times for everything, and this will extend outside of games to real life.

Being a good sport: Playing competitive games with your kids lets you model how to be gracious, whether you win or lose. They’ll come to see that what you love is the play, not just the win.

Board games enhance creativity and self-confidence: Playing board games is a perfect opportunity for a child to develop a sense of mastery and expertise. Becoming an expert Uno player can be especially helpful for children who are not as interested in physical games.


Choosing the right game at every age

When the rules are too complicated or the game takes too long, it is not fun for young children. Preschoolers need very simple matching games that progress quickly. One adult and one child is ideal when children are first learning to play board games.

As children approach 5, they have more sophisticated thinking skills and can begin to incorporate and exercise their number, letter and word knowledge in literacy-based games. They have the patience to wait their turn, and are better able to control their impulses and remember that it’s “only a game”!

Here are some suggestions of games old and new that are great for children ages 4-6:

The classic children’s board games: Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Hi Ho Cherry –O. These require simple turn-taking, matching, counting and no skill or strategy. Children spin a spinner or draw a card to move their marker.

Dominoes, ages 5 and up: Start by just matching tiles. The practice with numbers and pattern is great. Then learn some of the more challenging versions of this classic game.

First card games: Uno and Go Fish (ages 5 and up). The boxes say these classic card games are for ages 6 and up, but they are mostly matching games, and preschoolers love matching games!

Here are some new and recommended games for young children that parents will have fun playing, too!

Sleeping Queens (ages 5 and up): A fun card game with simple rules and a bit of strategy! You can play a whole game in about 10 minutes, so it’s perfect for getting in a dose of family connection before bedtime.

Ticket to Ride (ages 4 and up): If you have a preschooler, you may want to start out with the kids’ version of this game, Ticket to Ride First Journey. But it won’t take long until you’re ready to move up to the regular version.

Zingo Zingo: This matching game is like bingo with a bit of a competitive twist. But what keeps it interesting for older kids and adults is the competitive twist — you have to be the first one to notice a match and snag it before someone else does.

Whatever game you choose, it will require family members to sit down and interact with each other — which is increasingly important in a world where we spend much of our time in separate rooms, on our own electronic devices. Rich conversation, laughter and making memories are wonderful fringe benefits of board games. Before you know it, you will all be playing outside again, so take advantage of these cold winter afternoons and take a trip to Candy Land!

Elizabeth Stilwell is the director of operations at ABC Cayuga's Play Space. For more information, visit or, or visit the Play Space at 63 Genesee St., Auburn.