I have been working to set up a permanent board game playing area for the boys. A place where they can store and leave out any board games they are playing. Because they are playing them a lot and there is always one game on the go. Board games are perfect for the school holidays, weekends, rainy days, anytime really! However we have recently changed the type of board games we are playing.
We have converted to cooperative board games. Friday nights with pizza the boys would often get out some board games. Connect Four, Battleships, Twister. They are all fun games but I found the boys played with a bit of aggression, a lot of competitiveness and complaining about (usually my four year old) not following the rules or cheating. It often ended badly and everyone was left feeling a bit upset. I knew of cooperative board games but thought they might be too alternative and might not capture the attention of my children.
With cooperative board games there are no winners or losers. The players work together as a team to achieve a result. Players help each other to follow the rules as they are a team, not competitors - they support each other. It's a completely different atmosphere. If one person needs a few minutes to take a break then one player can keep on going. Cooperative games can also be played with just one player (with Gaia's Garden Caspar will often play alone). There is a lot more sharing, a lot more laughing. Some contentment at the end of the night that everyone has had a good time.
A game like the Hoot Owl Hoot is wonderful to play with Otis. It's perfect for his age group and he can follow the rules easily - so much so that he loves following the rules and will correct others if they have made an error. This game can also take only 10-15 minutes or you can play an extended version (with more owls) and have the game take longer. The aim is to get all the owls into the nest before the sun rises. This is absolutely the best board game I have found for children 3-4 years old.
The Yoga Garden Game is just a delight. Also good for the 3-4 year olds however they will need to play with someone older. And perfect for four and seven year old children to play with their mum. This is a good movement game! The children are learning yoga poses as they go. The illustrations on this one are so sweet.
Caspar loves Gaia's Garden and has taken in so much information about companion gardening. How fabulous is that - he is playing a board game yet learning about gardening. Otis can definitely play this one but will start drifting off after around 10 minutes. The aim is to plant the garden (using companion gardening) without the garden being eaten by insects and watch out for the predators. Gaia's Garden was designed right here in Queensland so it has earned a place on our shelves.
Cooperative games like these still have all the benefits of traditional board games. Lots of learning, following rules, counting, taking turns. Some with colour recognition, some planting knowledge, some yoga poses. With all of our cooperative games we have needed to read the instructions first - it usually takes five minutes or so before we work out how the game is played. But once everyone knows the rules they are all in! Don't you think this is a more Montessori way of playing?
(Pictured above; The Yoga Garden Game, Hoot Owl Hoot, The Secret Door and Gaia's Garden. Online in Australia Spiral Garden has Gaia's Garden, Hoot Owl Hoot and other cooperative games. For Small Hands (US) has a good selection too.)