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Gaming and Kids

By Scott Berry

When most people think of gaming and kids, various computer and electronic games come to mind. They are fun and educational, but sometimes children need a break from the cyber world. Turning to classic board games is a great alternative while still providing enjoyment and learning. Chess is one of the first games many people think about. It’s true that chess is great for improving memory and stimulating both sides of the brain, but for younger kids, it’s often too complicated. Some kids find it boring.

The good news is that there are other alternatives that provide great educational benefits! Many of them come to us from ancient times. Here are a few games you may not even know about.

Nine Men Morris: This simple game has been around for a very long time. Historians have found the playing board design etched into ancient table tops, wooden serving trays, and even church pews. William Shakespeare alluded to this game in one of his popular plays. Nine Men Morris is a cross between checkers and tic-tac-toe. Some historians believe that it is the predecessor of chess. One of the benefits of this game is that children of all ages enjoy playing it. The rules are simple, and children can make the pieces and game board from easily found materials. For those who prefer a tech version, Nine Men Morris is available online.

Tafl: The influence of the Vikings is found all over Europe, and Tafl, or King’s Table, is a game left everywhere they traveled. In some ways, it’s very similar to modern-day checkers, but with a few interesting variations. Players employ several different strategies, and those new to Tafl will quickly recognize patterns of play (both good and not so good). As with Nine Men Morris, the rules are rather straightforward and easy to understand. The playing board is a little more complicated, but you can make the ‘men’ from common household items. It too is available online.

Circular Chess: For those who still think chess is the best board game for expanding the mind, a few games of Circular, or Byzantine Chess, may quickly change their minds. As the name implies, the game is played on a circular chess board. Most of the pieces are controlled the same as conventional chess. What’s different is that the players are able to move pieces forward and backward around the board. The circular design creates a totally different way of thinking about the game. If chess is your preference, you simply must play a few games of Circular Chess! The game board is a bit of a challenge to make, but you can turn it into a fun geometry and art project. You can take the playing pieces from any standard chess set.

While many youngsters enjoy playing games using computers, the benefits of these ancient board games are many. They present a nice break from electronic and computer games, and children can easily take them on vacations or trips across town to Grandma’s house. You can even combine them with some very interesting history projects. In addition to being educational, these ancient board games are a lot of fun!

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