Games on tablets and mobiles are often fun, easy to pull up, and don't require an opponent. But don't underestimate old-style board games – they provide an opportunity for interaction, which children tend to love.
Apps and computer games – are they any good?
Do you find it hard to decide which computer games and apps are really appropriate for a 3 or 4-year-old? It makes sense to play them together with your child initially, but to get an idea of the apps that are available, you can also search online for games for children and their age. There are some great parenting websites out there with tips on this kind of thing.
The age label on the game, e.g. 3+, doesn't necessarily mean the game is suitable for three-year-olds. All it means is that the game doesn't contain rape or sex.
The Bolibompa website features some nice, simple, fun games for kids – have a look there!
Games for very little ones often involve colouring in, doing puzzles or clicking on hidden objects. Many are available as free apps, while others cost a small amount to download.
There's almost too much fun to be had! Before you know it, your child's been glued to a tablet for far too long. Some researchers warn that sitting in front of a screen may be damaging to young children in various ways, and we still don't know much about how it affects their development.
Read more about how your baby's brain develops.
Interactive picture books are the simplest kind of app: children can visit an airport, for example, or choose from a selection of short films featuring animals.
Or how about a potty-training app (Gotta Go!) which lets your child feed a monster, help it to wipe itself and flush the toilet – through a maze of plumbing. Another maze-based game with a side of physical knowledge is Thinkrolls.
Young children often enjoy doing little “problem-solving projects”. There are simple games without speech or text, in which kids can feed a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly.
LetterSchool is a good starter game for learning letters and numbers.
There are also games to encourage friendship, in which animal friends have to work together.
Where possible, avoid games that count points or add time pressure unless your child specifically says they really enjoy them. At least at first, choose courses and games that allow your child to go or play as slowly as they want on different courses, without any “certificate”.
A great team – playing board games with a parent
When teaching your kid a board game or party game, it's easiest to let them play on the same “team” as an adult initially. This increases the chances that your child will understand, not only the point of getting points or winning, but also that it doesn't matter if you fail or lose a game.
If you're playing against a young kid, cheating is obviously allowed – provided it's in the right direction. Children don't enjoy playing if they never get to win.
Is your kid broken-hearted every time they lose? Playing games helps them learn that things don't always go the way we want them to, and setbacks or losses can be learning experiences – in the right amount.
Tips for party games
• The brain gym. Memory is a great kids' game which allows you to adjust the level of difficulty to perfection, starting with maybe three pairs and increasing as the child understands what's going on. It gradually gets trickier, and even you probably have to think hard. If you've laid out a lot of cards, winning requires a certain amount of luck, but it's excellent training for the memory.
• The classic. One board game, “Star of Africa”, is mostly a game of chance, but also requires strategic thinking – which African city does it make sense to visit next? As with Memory, the Go Fish card game involves the tension of turning over “secret” cards or images that may mean points – or losing the game.
• The knowledge game. “Se vad jag kan!“ (“See What I Know!”) is a knowledge game suitable for children aged 4 and up. It works well for kids who want to learn – and show off their knowledge. The frog hops forward and demands to know seasons, days of the week, colours and lots more.
• Charades. With the help of pictures, children can play charades long before they can read. And obviously you can make a bit of noise to make things even easier. Pictures are available to buy, but obviously you can also draw or cut out your own.
Free play – perhaps the most important game of all
Most games, whether played on a board or a computer, don't leave much room for the imagination to take flight. In our micromanaged daily routine, we risk leaving no room for free play, which is considered vital to the brain. Children never get bored of inventing their own games.
In the long run, constant access to entertainment and other stimuli may make them stressed or restless.
Some options if you want your child to play independently
A “treasure chest” full of building blocks, Duplo, LEGO, plastic animals or little cars. It makes sense to keep this in your child's room – or maybe a playbox in the kitchen, for when you're busy cooking and your child wants company while they play. Read about safe toys.
Dressing-up box! Nearly all children love dressing up in interesting clothes, masks and maybe a couple of wigs or hats. Record any “performances”; children are generally fascinated by looking at photos and film clips of themselves trying out different parts while looking completely different to their normal selves. Not to mention how delighted your kid will be when he or she gets to dress YOU in something unexpected.
For more tips on creative and inventive games for kids, go here.
Computer games, apps and board games for children
Here some tips on good apps and computer games, board games and party games for kids aged three and above.