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How to choose board games for an after school care program

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When I was a program director for the Y, I was fortunate enough to have a boss that gave me a monthly budget for buying supplies for my program. This allowed me to shop at garage sales and thrift stores for toys, craft supplies and games to play. After school programs go through a lot of board games because the pieces get lost when they are not put back in the box.

I used three rules for selecting board games:

  • Don't buy games that have a million little pieces.
  • Look for games that reinforce what the children are learning in school.
  • Look for games that can be played in less than half an hour.

Using these rules, games like Monopoly, Life and Battleship are poor choices for a group program. They have a million little pieces and take a long time to play. Better choices include games like Sorry, that teaches the children to read and follow instructions, Yahtzee, which makes the children make a decision and practice addition, and Scrabble or Boggle that make the children practice spelling and vocabulary.

If the games played in the after school program reinforce what the children are learning in school, they will be better students, even when they lie about not having any homework. If quiet time involves fun activities that function like homework, and review the same information, it is almost the same as doing homework.

Games that require making a decision will also help the children in a variety of ways. Studies have shown that most inmates make poor choices. (Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne) Making choices is also an antidote for peer pressure, a key component in finishing a college degree, an important part of getting married to the right person, and a lot of other situations that every human being must face. Decision making skills can only be learned by following an example and practice. Board games can take the place of this type of role model because a poor choice will make the child lose the game.

When a program director makes good choices about what games to buy, he or she is offering the students much more than just something to pass the time.

©Paula Hrbacek All rights reserved. Please link to this article instead of reposting it. For reprint rights use the contact form at



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