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No Batteries Required: Old School Games that Help Children Learn

Updated on January 2, 2013
Still one of the best all-time games for improving word formation and spelling skills
Still one of the best all-time games for improving word formation and spelling skills

Back in the old days, games didn’t require batteries, televisions, game controllers, or game systems to play. You simply opened the box, arranged the cards or set up the board, read the directions, and played. You didn’t need to worry if the batteries would work or not, whether you had an Internet connection or not, or if the disk or cartridge—or the game system itself—had a glitch or not.

Many old school games still exist—for a reason. Though they don’t have all the bells, whistles, graphics, and sound effects of today’s electronic games, they still teach children vital lessons and skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

Card games

Most simple card games reinforce what children are learning in school. Go Fish improves memory, matching, and listening skills. Crazy 8's and Uno help children match colors and numbers. Rummy requires children to add five’s, ten’s, and fifteen’s and keep the overall score, create sequences, and pay attention to what other players have laid down. Solitaire not only keeps children out of their parents’ way, but it teaches them to alternate colors and numbers and increase their patience, the game’s original name. Hearts is a good way to introduce children to the concept of “trumps,” a skill that will serve them well when they learn how to play Rook and any form of Spades.

Once children learn these simple card games, expand their horizons. Rack-O, a game of luck and skill, helps children arrange cards from lowest to highest and encourages them to make educated guesses in order to complete their racks. Mille Bornes teaches children French words and phrases, all the dangers of taking a road trip, and staying at or under the speed limit to have a safer trip. Quiddler improves a child's spelling and word formation skills immeasurably, and Phase 10, Sequence, and Skip-Bo expand their sequencing skills.

Board games

After your children (and you, too) become bored with Chutes and Ladders and Candyland, begin introducing them to board games that require more skill and increase their knowledge of the world. Once they’ve mastered Monopoly Junior, introduce them to Monopoly, where they will learn to do what you do daily: count money, pay bills, avoid bankruptcy, pay taxes, fuss about property values, and bargain and negotiate with the bank. Then introduce The Game of Life to expose them the choices they will one day make: whether to start a family or not; whether to buy life, car, or house insurance or not; whether to switch or stay with the same vocation; whether to play the stock market or not.

Once they’ve played and mastered strategy games like Battleship and Stratego, introduce Risk, a game that teaches a fair amount of geography, and the concepts of permutations, ratios, and odds. After they tire of checkers, Chinese checkers, and backgammon, supply them with Parcheesi, Aggravation, Othello, Trouble, and Sorry! While these games involve a fair amount of luck, they also require strategic maneuvering—and backstabbing—to insure a greater chance for victory.

Once you have tired of playing Guess Who? for the fifteenth time, unpack Clue to start them on the way to using inductive and deductive reasoning to solve problems. And when your children begin to memorize the cards in Stare Junior, provide them with Stare to expand their knowledge of art and graphic design and further improve their memory.

Some of the most effective board games ever created involve the formation of words. Scrabble Jr. could be the beginning of your children’s lifelong love of words. Once they have mastered Scrabble Jr., introduce Scrabble in all its many and various forms. Then offer Boggle, Up Words, Last Word, and Word on the Street, games that require word formation and spelling skills and will enhance their love of words.

Card and board games ultimately bring families closer together, and some games are better than others for building family unity and filling your home with laughter. Games like Apples to Apples and Who Knew? reveal what your children are thinking, and what they’re thinking is often quite amazing. Pictionary, Cranium, and Cadoo encourage your budding artists to bloom. Guesstures, Rollick, and Quelf inspire the actor or actress inside your child. Even charades, that time-honored game of silence in action, can unify a family and fill an otherwise dull evening of watching television or surfing the Internet with memories that will last a lifetime.

Every card and board game you play with your children helps you know them better, lets them know you better, and reinforces skills they will need for life. The old adage that “the family that plays together, stays together” is and has always been true. Make sure you and your children start playing card and board games together early in their lives so you can help them thrive in the real game of life.


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    • multiculturalsoul profile imageAUTHOR

      JJ Murray 

      5 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      Oops, I hit the post button twice above. Quelf is drama, education, skill, and humor rolled into one game. (I sound like an advertisement). We "learned" it as we played, and that was half the fun. We played four times, and it was even great to come in last (I did three times). The game won many awards; wish I had found it sooner.

    • profile image

      Brenda Durham 

      5 years ago

      Quelf sounds interesting.

    • multiculturalsoul profile imageAUTHOR

      JJ Murray 

      5 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      We played a new board game last night--wow! It's called Quelf, and it's sure to be a family favorite. I have never laughed so hard with (and at) my family. An inventive game that requires and rewards creativity. Thanks for stopping by, sarahshuihan!

    • sarahshuihan profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Love this! I think people should do some of these games at least once a week, once a day is ideal! I think people forget how important it is to exercise the mind :)

    • multiculturalsoul profile imageAUTHOR

      JJ Murray 

      5 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      Some of the "new school" board games we own (I won't name them) are either too complicated to play (six pages of directions!) or are based too much on luck/fate. I appreciate games where skill--and skills--matter. Thanks for commenting!

    • Charlu profile image


      5 years ago from Florida

      I LOVE this hub and the fact you pointed out all the knowledge our children, (us too of course) could gain from going back to the basics. I have played so many of these card and board games with everyone from friends to grandparents. Thanks for posting the link on my question. Voted all the good ups.

    • Francesca27 profile image


      5 years ago from Hub Page

      I just love Board Games, you are right, they do not require batteries.

    • multiculturalsoul profile imageAUTHOR

      JJ Murray 

      5 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

      You are right about the quote, of course, and there's truth to both. In Canada we had a generator we ran about an hour a day. We couldn't have played ANY "new school" games. On rainy days and at night, we played games, worked puzzles, and read books. I know I learned a few thousand new words from losing to my mother in Scrabble. There's nothing like the good old days, huh?

    • profile image

      Brenda Durham 

      5 years ago

      Awesome! I believe you. Our family used to do everything from making our own Christmas tree garland from paper rings to working puzzles on snowy days to playing Chinese Checkers, Checkers, Chess, and Scrabble (our favorite and the game that Mom usually beat us at more often than not!) I also used to enjoy finishing a puzzle and then gluing it to make a picture from it to hang on the wall. I wasn't the best at card games, but my brothers used to play those a lot; but I do still like Rummy and UNO.

      I absolutely love this hub! Brings back memories that last, and activity that lasts. One of my brothers and I, to this day, play word games over the phone regularly; our current one is finding how many words we can find within another word (anagrams etc.). I sent him a dictionary that's the same printing as mine for Christmas, and he loves it; that way our little "contests" are fair! haha. And like you said, the hands-on approach is better; at least we like it better than using the internet!

      "Old school", yes! The "new" school just doesn't cut it without the "old school" basis.

      I always thought the quote was "The family that prays together, stays together"! But I like the "play" together quote too; it works. (We still pray together too!) ha.


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