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Board games can entertain, chase away cabin fever

Finding the right games for this setting can be a challenge for people of different interests and ages, but with careful selection and compromise, you can make these ideal family nights possible and even supplement education for younger family members.

When selecting the board games to bring home, the first thing to consider is the age level of players. Easy-to-swallow pieces could result in a less than positive experience than a board with big, easy-to-use parts might.

Ages 2-7

For children around the age of 2, basic games with simple designs such Candyland can reinforce lessons that the children are beginning to learn -- colors and counting -- and do so in a fun and safe environment.

Playing Memory is a fun way to spend time with children, but it can also play a part in helping them develop "short-term memory and concentration skills to use later in life," said Jill Kenyon, director of Colvill Family Education Center.

The basic skills that these simple games promote are supplemented with lessons in turn taking, patience and the understanding that it is all right to lose as well as win. This comes through positive reinforcement by the adult, said Kai Coyle, a teacher at Red Cottage Montessori.

Games such as Trouble, Hi Ho Cherry-O, and Chutes and Ladders also can reinforce skills like turn taking, counting spaces when moving to a different place on board, applying fine motor skills when moving pieces, the educators said.

Coyle said that when children are older and have mastered skills of color identification that Candyland may reinforce and the shape identification skills that play a part in Memory, children may lose interest in these more basic games. This is a time to start introducing them to new games.

"I always look for games that are going to stretch a child cognitively in ways that they've never been stressed before to keep them interested," Coyle said.

Ages 8-13

Consider different games that require thinking. Yahtzee, chess, checkers, Uno, Sequence for Kids and Blokus have easy concepts that the child can learn and then later develop the strategy behind the games.

Parents also can bring into the home games that reinforce the concepts children are learning in school.

Kenyon suggests if parents are looking for a good board game, talk to a child's teacher about what subjects the child may need assistance in and ask for recommendations of a quality game to reinforce these topics.

Some children have trouble developing vocabulary or spelling skills, so Bananagrams or Scrabble Junior might help reinforce those ideas. Card games like Math War or group games like Yahtzee can promote math skills.

Ages 14 and up

Once children get into high school, the idea of playing board games may not be as appealing to them, but Coyle said the conversations that take place while playing the board game can be more valuable than the game that facilitates family discussion. Cranium or Monopoly can provide the ground for healthy and positive conversations while lessons -- finance and math, data and facts, artistry and literacy -- are present as well.

Coyle recommends that parents introduce board games into a family at a young age. As children get older, especially for the ever-busy high school students, it is important to include them in selecting games. If they are excited about the game, then they will be more willing to play.