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Playing Monopoly with the kiddos at home? Go to jail. Go directly to jail. “Good games keep players, however young, engaged — and you’re not engaged in Monopoly if you’re bankrupt,” writes FiveThirtyEight senior writer Oliver Roeder in his new piece, “Stop Playing Monopoly With Your Kids (and Play These Games Instead).”
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Based on data from gaming site Board Game Geek, Roeder identified the four most popular games out of the 2,849 recommended for children age 3 to 10 by user parents who weighed in on the site.
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Long-held favorites, including Candy Land and Monopoly, tanked, whereas relatively unknown diversions Coconuts, Mus, Hive Pocket, and Dixit scored 7 (indicating that the user considered the game “Good. Usually willing to play”) to 10 (the choice indicating that the user thought the game was “Outstanding. Always want to play, expect this will never change”).
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A primer: Coconuts is a dexterity game “based on the ‘Monkey King’ character from Chinese mythology,” per Board Game Geek. Mus is a traditional Spanish card game of betting. Hive Pocket is a two-player game of strategy with tiles. And Dixit is a multi-player game of storytelling.
“Good games…require meaningful action and decision-making — something lacking from Candy Land or Snakes and Ladders [the original version of Chutes and Ladders] — rather than merely blind luck,” sums up Roeder.
Board Game Geek’s news editor W. Eric Martin tells Yahoo Parenting he agrees that the new batch of games’ interactive qualities make them more enjoyable for kids and parents alike. “Most of modern games, you’re making meaningful decisions in a short amount of time where everyone is active,” he says.
Yet another argument as to what constitutes “good” in terms of games is what the activity teaches young players. The education gurus at Scholastic consider all board games beneficial for the opportunities they provide to practice social skills by sharing, waiting, taking turns, and honing eye-hand coordination, manual dexterity, letter recognition, and reading, not to mention skills like grouping and counting. “Board games can foster the ability to focus, and lengthen your child’s attention span by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game,” the editors share in an article on their website.
But for child development expert Dr. Alan Kazdin, it’s the pure act of playing together than matters most. “There’s no evidence for the benefit of one game over another,” the director of the Yale Parenting Center tells Yahoo Parenting. “Anything that families engage in together as a regular activity is beneficial for the child and for the family as a whole.”
Just watch your frustration level, mom and dad. “It’s parents’ behavior while playing games with their kids that matters most,” Kazdin says of the impact of all of these activities. “Kids will model what the parent does, and this plays out in board games in regards to handling disappointment, stress, taking turns.” In other words, don’t get so competitive that you’re swearing at your opponent — unless you want your kids to grow up doing the same.