Gameschooling with Very Young Gifted Children

Madison and I love to play board games.  When I discovered the concept of Gameschooling a while back, I knew it would fit into our homeschool really well.  

If you haven't heard of the concept of "gameschooling" yet, it is basically providing learning opportunities through game-play versus lectures or workbooks.  It's a great low-pressure, hands on, interactive way to learn a wide variety of concepts.  It works particularly well with kids who may have a bit of a perfectionist mindset to ease them into trying something new.  

Below is a variety of games we are currently playing.  A few are missing like My First Bananagrams and I see 20! but this is most of what we currently have that is appropriate for right now.

Games we are currently playing.  Top left down, then up from bottom right: Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, My First Carcassonne, Race to the Treasure, eeBoo Puzzle Pairs Rhyming Words, Rivers Roads & Rails, Caring Cats Kindness Around Town, Busytown Eye Found it!, Clue Junior, Guess Who?, Engineering Ants, Robot Turtles, Outfoxed!, Cat Crimes, Picnic Party, Leaping Frog Math, and Clumsy Thief Junior.
Games we are currently playing.  Top left down, then up from bottom right: Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, My First Carcassonne, Race to the Treasure, eeBoo Puzzle Pairs Rhyming Words, Rivers Roads & Rails, Caring Cats Kindness Around Town, Busytown Eye Found it!, Clue Junior, Guess Who?, Engineering Ants, Robot Turtles, Outfoxed!, Cat Crimes, Picnic Party, Leaping Frog Math, and Clumsy Thief Junior.  Longest caption ever?

Some of these games mostly target turn taking, cooperation, self-regulation skills and are generally just fun and simple games (Candy Land and Busytown, I'm looking at you).  Others target more specific skills like problem solving, coding, logic, strategy, cooperative, or critical thinking.  A few here target math skills like comparing quantities (Picnic Party), adding and subtracting (Leaping Frog Math), or numbers that add to 10 (Clumsy Thief Junior).


Outfoxed! Board game by Gamewright
Outfoxed! game by Gamewright

So, how do we make these work with a 3 year old, who wants to be intellectually challenged beyond twice her age...but still has the social, emotional, attention span (generally) and self regulation skills of a 3 year old?  Here are a few tips that have helped me:

1.  Choose games with a preferred interest involved. 

M is very into cats as a special interest.  I know that any game involving a cat is going to be a winner.  One of her strengths is problem solving and logic.  Cat Crimes says ages 8+ on the box.  Totally wasn't a problem for her to play, you know, minus the reading and all that.  Had it of been Bird Crimes...it would probably be a different story.  So, play to their interests!


Cat Crimes Logic Board Game by Thinkfun
Cat Crimes logic game by thinkfun

2.  Adapt the game!  

Who says you HAVE to follow the rules per the little piece of paper that came in the box?  You are allowed to change the rules to work for you!  Just make sure the changes you make are sensible and the game can still be played.  Some easy suggestions to dip your toes into the "not playing by the rules" game-play:
  • Use different dice.  Some of our math games add numbers further than we've really worked on.  Two 9 sided dice are rolled in one of our games, but we had really only done addition up to about 10.  With different dice, we can keep the numbers smaller.
  • Take out some of the pieces.  If there is something in the game that you haven't gone over (maybe certain vowel sounds or math facts).  Just set them aside, assuming it won't harm the intent of the game.  This won't work for every game, but if you think it will, just try it.  We do this with Rivers, Roads, & Rails when we do play competitively to make the game shorter.  Sometimes I will eliminate one third of the suspects from Outfoxed so the game is shorter too.
  • Add some movement to the game.  Assuming it won't be more distracting than beneficial.
  • Make competitive games cooperative.  If your little one is struggling to independently play the game, feel free to play cooperatively.  Meaning, sit with them and work it out together.  Especially for the more complex games.  I like to ask questions to help her come to the answer on her own like "do you see any cards that would fit here?" or working with her to count out a sum.  The point of gameschooling isn't winning or losing.  
Playing Roads, Rivers, & Rails cooperatively
Playing Roads, Rivers, and Rails by Ravensburger cooperatively.

3.  Provide extra help if needed.

As I said above, feel free to make competitive games more like a cooperative game where everyone works together.  M isn't fluently reading everything yet, so I have to read a lot of what the games say to make it work.  Totally acceptable way to play.  Sometimes we work through the problem together.  An example, for Cat Crimes, I will typically read off the clues from the card for each level.  She will manipulate the game pieces to match what I have just relayed.  Sometimes I have to repeat clues as the deductions occur, especially when they are interrelated.  Or for Caring Cats, we will look at the story cards together to determine what is happening and who needs help.

Caring Cat Kindness Around Town by Chuckles & Chalk

A few of our favorite to play lately that involve logic or STEM are Robot Turtles, OutfoxedCat Crimes, Clue Junior, Engineering Ants, Race to the Treasure, and the classic Guess Who.


Race to the Treasure Board Game by Peaceable Kingdom
Race to the Treasure by Peaceable Kingdom


Robot Turtles Coding Game for Kids by Thinkfun
Robot Turtles by Thinkfun


Hopefully I have been able to give you a few helpful hints to game play with your little one.  If you have any additional ideas, feel free to leave a comment, send me an email, or find me on Instagram (@littlegiftedschoolhouse).  I will add more blog posts about gameschooling when I get the chance.  Thanks for stopping by!

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