Do your kids love playing games? Try letting them design one! This creative activity will help kids analyze the games they know and help them learn how to make a board game of their own.
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Are you a game loving family? We have a whole closet full of board games, and my oldest son (8) is always trying to hunt down someone–ANYONE–to play a game with him.
Recently, we took our love of gaming to the next level—we created our OWN games. It was so fun!
Today I’m sharing everything you need to know to guide your kids (or students) through the creative process of designing and making their own board games.
Use the printables included below to make it a thought-provoking and fun hands-on learning activity for older kids, or simplify the process for younger kids by using a free board game template.
My 8-year-old loved analyzing and designing his game, but my 5-year-old needed a simpler approach. So use what works for you! I’ve included notes on how to adapt this activity for different ages/attention spans below.
Tip: You may want to split this project up into several sessions done over several days so it’s not overwhelming.
Now, let’s make a board game!
First things first…
How to make your own board game
- A handful of board games to use for inspiration
- “What makes a game?” printables
- paper or poster board
- pencils, markers, etc.
- assorted craft supplies (stickers, clay, pipe cleaners, etc…use whatever you have on hand)
Step One: What makes a game fun?
Gather together a stack of your family’s favorite board games (leave card games and dice games out for this activity). Simple games work best. We used the following games in our analysis:
- Outfoxed: A cooperative whodunit game
- The Game of Life
- Busytown: Eye found it!
- Enchanted Forest
- Monopoly Junior
- Candy Land
- Chutes & Ladders
Discuss together that there are MANY different kinds of games, but many of them have certain things in common. Look at the games you’ve gathered, and answer the five questions on the “What makes a game?” graphic organizer sheet.
- What THEMES or SETTINGS do games have?
- town (Busytown, Life)
- forest/fairy tales (Enchanted Forest)
- house/mansion (Clue)
- Trains (Ticket to Ride)
- How do you WIN different games?
- get the most points (Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride)
- solve the mystery (Clue)
- reach the end first (Candyland, Chutes & Ladders)
- earn the most money (Monopoly)
- What do ALL board games have?
- a goal
- a board
- What do SOME board games have?
- a spinner
- What makes a game fun to YOU?
- My oldest son’s answer to this was interesting. He said, “LUCK, because then the adults don’t have the advantage over the kids.” Hmm, maybe I should let him win a little more often?
Step Two: Plan your own board game
Once you have explored the features of various games and discussed what makes a game fun to play, encourage your child to plan out their own game!
Use the “Design your own game” printable planning sheet to help your child think through all the things they need to decide for their game:
My oldest son decided to make his game a magic castle-themed game where players had to collect ingredients from around the castle to make magic potions (and earn points). The first person to earn 20 points by completing potions, wins!
My 6-year-old made a more traditional pathway-style board game with the theme of explorers in the jungle trying to find an ancient Incan temple. It even has sword-wielding skeletons who send you back to the start if you land on them!
Step 3: Sketch your board game design
I highly recommend having kids sketch out their plan for their game before you give them their final materials to make the game. This will give them a chance to finalize their ideas and it gives you a chance to ask questions and help them fill in any gaps in the plan.
Step 4: Make your game
Now all the planning is done, so it’s time to get out all the craft supplies and get building!
Because my oldest son’s idea was a little more complicated, he needed some help thinking through the details of the game and bringing it to life. But, really, it was such a fun project to do together and he was so proud of how it turned out!
Step 5: Play your new game!
This is the best part! If your kids are anything like mine, they will be thrilled to tell everyone about the game they made up ALL on their own (nevermind all the help and support you offered). Have a family game night, and take the opportunity to really celebrate their hard work and creativity!
Adapting this activity for younger kids:
For younger kids, you can skip the analysis in step one and just have a simple discussion of what things ALL board games have (players, a goal, spaces, etc.).
Then, you can give them a board game template so they don’t have to make their game from scratch. You can print a free blank board game template here.
Encourage them to decorate the board using a theme of their choice and color the spaces to make it bright and fun. Consider giving them stickers to help with the decoration.
If you use a blank template, you can make the game more interesting by helping your child create “action” spaces (move forward or back, lose a turn, etc) or shortcuts.
The sky is the limit! Just have fun!
Note: This was a “Make It Monday” activity for our “Summer Plan for Fun” (my quest to give summer a little structure and keep my kids involved in lots of hands-on, play-based learning).
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