Combat Boredom with Board Games

  • Published on August 14, 2020

Combat Boredom with Boardgames

ideas to keep the children learning at home


Note: This article was first written for and published at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community as part of a series supporting parents with children learning at home. The benefits of playing board games are the same whether played at home or at school. If you have older children or adults available to support children while they play, board games are an excellent activity for learning in groups across many areas of the curriculum.





One of the best ways to have fun while learning, or to learn while having fun, is by playing board games. Playing games together as a family helps to bond family relationships. Adjustments can be made to suit most numbers and ages and rules can be adapted to suit your purposes. While the main thing is to have fun together, there is a lot of learning going on too.

Social Skills

  • One of the greatest benefits of playing board games is the development of social skills.
  • Some of the social skills children learn include:
  • Getting along and taking turns
  • Playing fair — accept the roll (if dice are used) or draw (if cards are used) for example, and respond accordingly: don’t try to pretend it wasn’t a “proper” roll (e.g. dropped); or attempt to change the count by skipping or counting twice on a square.
  • Abiding by rules — all games have rules. For games to work, the rules need to be followed by everyone. That’s not to say that rules can’t be adjusted to suit the ages and abilities of the player, but there needs to be agreement, and it never works if someone just decides to change a rule mid-game to benefit themselves.
  • Resilience ­— stay strong and focused and don’t crumple with repeated setbacks: okay, so you’ve been swallowed by this same snake three times now; next time you just might overcome it.
  • Persistence — keep going: you might roll a succession of small numbers but each moves you closer to the goal.
  • Humour and fun — always look for the light side: it is just a game after all.
  • Being a gracious winner and loser — while winning usually feels good, it’s not the winning that matters, it’s how you play the game that matters most.

Other skills

Depending on the game you play, children may also be developing their skills with literacy and numeracy, or even adding to their store of general knowledge.

What games?

A plethora of games are available – new ones and old favourites. Games can often be picked up cheaply at second hand stores or dollar shops. They can also be home made. I have made some that can be downloaded and printed from my readilearn website for just a few dollars each. You can check them out here.

As a child I used to have fun making up games to play with my brothers and sisters. As a parent, I enjoyed making up games with my children. In fact, the Trick or Treat Halloween Game is based on one my daughter and I made together when she was about six or seven.

Why not encourage your children to make up their own games too, or make them up together?

Hundreds of different games of all varieties are available. Those listed below are just some of my favourites that are suitable for the 5 – 8 age group and older. I haven’t even touched on some of the more recent games, of which many more are produced each year.

Alongside some of the games, I’ve listed skills, in addition to the social skills noted above, that children may employ when playing the game.

Please let us know some of your favourite games in the comments.

No equipment necessary

Games like I spy, I’m thinking of or Guess my number require no equipment and can be played anywhere, anytime. These games, while not board games, are good for car trips or waiting times and are also great for combating boredom.

I spy can be played using a beginning letter, for example I spy something beginning with ‘t’; a colour, for example I spy something that is orange; or a shape, for example I spy something that is round like a circle; or by a use or feature, for example, I spy something that has legs.

In I’m thinking of one person decides on a secret person, animal or thing, for example an elephant. The other players ask questions to find out what the secret is. The questions can only be answered with yes or no, for example: Is it living? Does it live on the land? Can it fly?

In Guess my number players try to guess a secret number by asking questions. The questions may only be answered by yes or no, for example Is it bigger than, Is it smaller than, Is it odd? Is it even?

Pencil and paper

If you don’t have a board game handy, but you do have pencil and paper, you can play games like:

  • Noughts and crosses
  • Dots and dashes
  • Hangman
  • Word search (e.g. find all the little words you can using the letters in ‘ornithorhynchus’)

I don’t think any of these require an explanation. I’ve put them here mainly as a reminder. However, please let me know in the comments if you would like an explanation.

Board Games

  • Snakes and Ladders (subitising dots on the dice, counting by ones, one to one correspondence, recognising numbers to 100)
  • Ludo (subitising dots on the dice, counting by ones, one to one correspondence, strategy)
  • Chinese Checkers (strategy, planning ahead)
  • Draughts (strategy, planning ahead)
  • Scrabble (recognition of letters and words, spelling words, counting score)
  • *Cluedo (asking questions, recording pertinent information, deductive reasoning, problem solving, planning ahead)
  • Monopoly (subitising numbers on dice, counting by ones, counting money, reading, comparing amounts of money, following directions, planning, making decisions)
  • Connect 4 (strategy, planning ahead)
  • Pass the Pigs (counting, adding to 100, planning, strategy)
  • Yahtzee (chance, patterns of dice, counting, making decisions, strategy)

Card games

Card games are also fun; e.g.

Games with a regular pack of cards
  • Snap
  • Go Fish
  • Happy Families
  • Old Maid
  • Memory
  • Strip Jack Naked (also called Beggar my Neighbour)
  • Cheat

Once again, I don’t think these games require an explanation but please ask in the comments if you would like any additional information.

Games with their own sets of cards
  • UNO (matching colours and numbers, understanding special cards)
  • 5 Alive (adding numbers to total 21, understanding special cards)

Jigsaw puzzles

And of course, don’t forget the jigsaw puzzles which help children relate details to the big picture, examine details, and develop knowledge of space and shape awareness.

I hope my brief list has inspired you to open that cupboard and bring out all those old games gathering dust. I hope it has reminded you of fun you had playing games as a child, or, if you didn’t play as a child, bring out the child within to play now.

Adjustments to Cluedo

*I mentioned changing the rules to suit your players and situation. I thought I’d tell you some ways we changed the rules of Cluedo to suit us playing as an intergenerational family. All the players agreed to the changes, acknowledging that the changes would streamline the game and make it more enjoyable.

When we first introduced the game to the younger children, they played as partners alongside an adult so they could learn what was required and pick up some strategy hints for recording information.

We found it tedious having to roll the dice to move from room to room, only to be called back into another room and away from where we wanted to go. First, we eliminated use of the dice, agreeing that we could simply move to whichever room we wanted to be in. Eventually, we streamlined even further so that just the token player we were investigating and the weapon appeared in the room. This made it easy for everyone to see what was being asked and avoided having to repeat multiple times. It made no difference to the fairness or the outcome but the game moved more quickly and was more enjoyable.

Adjustments can be made to almost every game you play to make them more inclusive.

Every day is a good day for playing games, but they may be even more important during our days when outings are restricted.

I’m certain some of the superheroes in this video will be combating boredom with board games. You might even like to try something similar with your own class. Enjoy!

Remember to check out the complete readilearn collection of

over 400 teaching resources for the first three years of school
Resources beyond worksheets – lessons for teachers made by teachers.
Let readilearn lighten your workload.


Browse resources now

Or link directly to:

All readilearn games in the games tab

I spy, an interactive resources based on beginning sounds

A free jigsaw puzzle: Trees from My Backyard

Some 9 square puzzles, here, here and here.

board games help develop social and other skills

The information in this post is also available to download free here.

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    I think board games are fun for parents, too. I still love playing with my grown kids! Great way to connect game-playing with skills. This will be helpful for parents who will be home-schooling.

    I love playing with all the different generations too. I think parents who are teaching their children at home would do well to add a game or two into their daily program.

    Norah, your list of games was like revisiting my childhood and I realise I played many of these with my son when he was younger! 😀 At the time of playing you don’t appreciate all the added benefits which you mention so eloquently! First and foremost for me was the social occasion of all being together in one place, no rushing around for anything else. A great energy when all connect together with a game! During the past months quite a few of these games have made it out of the cupboards again and it’s been fun to start jigsaws once more!

    I’m pleased to hear you’ve found time again for games and jigsaws, Annika. Yes, I think fun and being together is the greatest benefit, but so much else is happening too. 🙂

    Great share Norah. Boardgames are the best. I loved them as a child, and still enjoy playing them. Besides that many games are actually good for the brain exercise, it does also teach about sportsmanship too. <3

    Thank you, Debby. Yes, you’ve noted quite a few of the benefits of games there. And all that while having fun. What a lot of positives.

    I so agree with the benefits of board/card games. On the farm, with no TV, we spent hours entertaining ourselves with games that gave us excellent skills that were used later in the adult world.

    I totally agree, Darlene. It’s difficult for our current children to imagine life without handheld devices, let alone television. Reading and games were great ways to spend our time.

    Great post Norah … even making up one’s own games. Noughts and crosses, pencil and paper, cards – And parents can play board games with their children. Scrabble … sharing thank you. Have a great weekend.

    Thanks so much, Susan. There’s no end to the fun with games, is there? Especially when you make them up for yourself.

    I remember this post, Norah. I have always considered board games to be an excellent way of entertaining kids. I used to do them with my boys when they were younger. I also think puzzles are great.

    Board and card games rule in our house as does hangman and noughts and crosses…our children loved them and so do our grandkids…Good share, Norah 🙂 x

    Playing games is such fun, Carol. I’m pleased to hear that you and your family still play together.

    It’s great to be able to continue the enjoyment throughout life, isn’t it? Children and grandchildren are a great reason (excuse) to stay young at heart.

    Absolutely, Norah and little Lily loves playinng games everytime she comes I try to have new one for us to play she just loves playing games especially against a timer and grandad but it helps her brain which is so quick now…

    The brains of the little ones and the older ones all benefit, Carol. 🙂

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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