Home Education Magazine
September-October 2004 - Articles and Columns
Homespun Games: Play by Your Own Rules - Dianne Wilton
Bring out your favorite board game---Pictionary, Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders, Aggravation! You already have fun playing it. Now it can be the stimulus for an even greater learning experience. Imagine your whole family gathered together around the kitchen table, laughing and sharing as you redesign that game to make it truly yours. You will be creating your own version to reflect your interests and to include the skills that are important to you.
We were enjoying a book about the Amazon when we decided to make a colorful jungle version of Snakes and Ladders, with vines for shortcuts and roots for hazards. If we land on the end of a vine, we swing ahead, but if our move ends at the top of a root, we follow the root back a few spaces. Instead of dice, we labeled the sides of origami cubes with any numbers from 1-9 to toss for multiplication (wood blocks work well, too). To keep the game going as long as possible, we decided our moves would just be the last digit of our answer when we multiplied the two cubes together (7 x 6 = 42, so the move is 2 spaces). Later, we included the option of calculating our best move, choosing whether to add, subtract or multiply. Lots of math, but the challenge of logical thinking is fun. We also decided to include chance spaces on the board, sending a player to a stack of jungle question cards for a bonus move. Returning to our book, we each found and wrote several questions for the pile, including the page numbers for the answers so they can be checked easily. Swinging Along the Amazon, full of our own ideas, is better than the original!
Maybe your game will be a ride down the Nile, or a flight to the moon. The skills of your game could include arithmetic, or building stories based on whatever research cards come up, or even spelling when that just has to be done. You can make it whatever you want!
Another of our favorite creations is Flea Market Ventures, a version of Monopoly but based on a much smaller wallet-size.
We got out the old game as a reminder of how it worked, and gathered pencils, felt pens, scissors and glue sticks. We opened a blank file folder and drew our own version of the familiar Monopoly neighborhood, bordered with colorful stands and tables. Some of the tables were given question marks. Landing on one of those squares became an opportunity to pick a "Chance" card, giving us a windfall or a surprise expense. ("You had some old stamps and one turned out to be worth a whole dollar" or "You suddenly remembered your friend's birthday and you want to buy him a baseball card for 75 cents.) Another space on the board was labeled "Allowance" where we would receive $2.00 each time we passed. Then we cut out catalog pictures, from snowboards to popcorn cookers, and labeled them with garage-sale prices. These are kept in a small zip-lock plastic bag so that we can place them randomly along the tables each time we play.
The traditional game of Monopoly has play money but because we've recently started credit union accounts, we use a debit-credit accounting sheet. We each start with $20.00 in our balance and our objective is to be the first player to reach $60.00. We take turns tossing our homemade dice to move around the board, buying objects and recording the debits or credits, always keeping a running balance. When a player purchases a flea market treasure, he places a colored disk on the table where he bought it to show that object is his. If another player lands on that spot, he must rent the object from the owner at 10% of the cost. Younger players might prefer a constant amount for rent. You might want to use fractions.
Flea Market Ventures and Swinging Along the Amazon are fun to play, but they were even more fun to make! Your family can be game-designers, too. Bring out a game your family is already familiar with and have fun piggy-backing onto it. Make the game reflect your own interests, and brainstorm ideas as you play with "what-if" scenarios. Include incentives or problems, as well as skills and luck. Develop rules that work for your family and be ready to adapt them as you play. A game can only grow! Have fun creating your games, and enjoy the learning that you may not even notice happening.
So what is next on your game table? Instead of moving marbles in Aggravation, your team of pirates may be collecting golden spelling words as they try to reach the treasure chest first.
© 2004 Dianne Wilton
September-October 2004 - Articles and Columns
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