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In Praise of Board Games


"Why aren't the computers working?" asked a 10-year-old boy.  "Because we have board games available for the next hour," I replied.  "That's not fair," said the child, walking away sulking.  But a few moments later I found him concentrating intently on a chess match with a friend (or enemy—I'm not sure which).

The next time we had "no-computer/board game time" I was amazed at the reaction from our regulars.   When asked the same question and replying with the standard answer, I heard an exuberant "Ooh! We can play board games now? "

As a parent and I stood by immensely enjoying the scene, many of the round tables in our children's room were filled with enthusiastic children negotiating the rules and execution of Jenga, Sorry!, Trouble, and more.  Uno is always popular.  There were complex chess matches going on.  Girls and boys played together (in contrast to computer games, which are usually gender-segregated).  One very considerate boy expressed concern about the noise that the falling wooden blocks of Jenga would make and requested a blanket to cover the table! As more children arrived, they joined in with jigsaw puzzles (Biram loves the puzzle map of the U.S.)  Parents and children played Connect Four together.  Even when the computer black-out time ended, some children remained engrossed in their non-digital games.

Technology may have changed by leaps and bounds, but people haven't.  Sometimes simple things are still best.

Many NYPL branches have set aside board game times for all ages.  The 115th Street Library conducts game time twice a week; Wednesdays and Fridays from 3 - 4 p.m.  No computers allowed during this time!  Check our website for other times and places.

Check out some great titles for game ideas, rules, and simple board games or pencil and paper games you can create yourself. Here are just a few: 

Math Games & Activities From Around the WorldMath Games and Activities from Around the World by Claudia Zaslavsky contains many ideas for easy-to make games which will teach and reinforce math skills while you have loads of fun!

The Games Book by Huw Davies  will introduce you to new games or remind you of the rules of old standards.

Unplugged Play has hundreds of great ideas for parents or anyone who spends time with children, from toddlers to teens. 


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Yesterday I taught two of our "regulars", 7 year old Sere and 10 year old Fatima to play Anagrams (Bananagrams is the commercial version), a word game my friend taught me years ago, which she played as a child. It's fun, exciting, competitive and educational, and can be played with from 2 to many more players. It's great for children and adults (just change the minimum number of letters required for words made). These two took to it immediately! Great fun for library staff and patrons alike!

Now add an adult version

Carcassonne, Powergrid, Underground Railroad, Pandemic on and on.

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