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Game on! Board games in early childhood.

Updated: Jul 4, 2019

Do you remember playing games and board games as a kid?

I fondly remember playing them with my children at home for hours on end 20 or so years ago. Recently I have gotten out my old games and searched the early childhood setting for theirs. I have dusted them off and as a result, they are getting played. The children are excited to try them and hungry for new ones.

So, I started to look for some new games to purchase and what I found interesting is that there haven’t been that many new games. There are plenty of online games using technology but these are usually for an individual or group. I am not a fan of screen time in an early childhood setting.

Why games? There are so many benefits to playing games from memory, language to turn taking.

They may seem old school but I also find that as a teacher they show me children’s dispositions and how they see themselves. They give an opportunity to be part of the group but also to stand out or be a winner. When I asked teachers on This is why I teach - early childhood for game recommendations I was blown away as there were many I had not heard of and now I have a few games to check out.

I was lucky to be approached by Matt who has a new game called Toppletree that was created by a New Zealander who offered to send me the game try it out. I was keen to do so and when I got it, I was excited to set up some invitations to play (link to my fb post). I started with invitations as the game as it is for 2- 4 players aged four and up and I was working with 2.5-3 year olds. The game was different to the others we had been playing like recent games On the Hunt for Dinos and Gruffalo memory game and oldies but goodies Greedy gorilla and Shopping List.

I like that it was different and included fine motor skills and dexterity without being cheesy.

The children enjoyed making the trees and collaborating with each other to build the branches. I let them do this how they wanted and then the next day when I put it out, I sat and asked if they could build the tree using only one hand. This was more of a challenge and I like d that this could be added for those who had accomplished the building of a tree with ease the day before.

Another teacher was working with four-year olds in a Reggio based setting and group work was a common occurrence so I shared to game with her. The children in her setting were introduced to the game and Charlotte read the rules. The one rule that had the most attention during the game was that you could only use one hand. She said “they liked the challenge of doing it one handed, they were reminding each other when the other hand would sneak in”. She liked how it provided different challenges in different ways for the children “For some it was about just getting it onto the tree, for others it was about the strategy and trying to win. And the suspense of whether it would topple or not”. Because it was played as a game, she also thought it was a “good lesson in not always winning!”.

The game has an element of chance as well as skill so it means that different children can win. Some games have less chance in them and this makes it less likely that winning and losing will be shared or experienced.

Charlotte did say that she was a bit skeptical at first as she is not a huge fan of plastic but she was pleasantly surprised! She felt it provided a really good challenge of their dexterity and co-ordination skills.

We both agree that the game Toppletree is great for different ages and stages because there’s learning in it for all. It requires skill and strengthens fine motor skills and dexterity. It can be used collaboratively as an invitation or as a game giving opportunities to use communication and show perseverance. It has an element of chance that means different children can win and lose.

We both agree that Toppletree would be a great addition to you early childhood settings game collection.

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