Diary of a 5 year old gamer girl and how Mice and Mystics saved the day!
Yannick Deplaedt
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Nagoya
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[UPDATE] Lana now turned 6. Her condition seems to have definitely disappeared. We keep playing games almost everyday and she really enjoys using both languages now that she recovered enough self confidence to consider herself bilingual. It is time to update this geeklist and add some of the games I forgot to mention. You'll notice that, except for Mice and Mystics, all the games she plays are kids games. I don't think she should play games for older kids. So all the games she plays, with friends or with us, are tailored for her age. Please, if you think you could give me some advice about games we should try, don't hesitate to message me or add it in the comments section. [/UPDATE]

Board games are a big part of our family's daily life. It all started suddenly thanks to a friend who made us discover what is now our greatest family hobby. I discovered board games when my daughter, who is now 5 year old, was less than 2 and since then, we kept playing once or twice a week. We first thought it was a nice way to spend the evening having fun while still having the opportunity to communicate.

My little girl started playing, mostly with me, when she was 3. A lot of Haba games, as well as Drei Magier and Selecta.

Lots of gamers focus on games for grown ups and I wanted to make a geeklist about my daughter's gaming habit. I was first inspired by this thread

There is something I need to tell about my sweet daughter. When she turned 3, my wife and I decided to send her to France (she went along with my wife) because I wanted her to be able to speak French, my native language, as much as she can speak Japanese, her mother's native language. She spent two months and a half, going to school like a normal French kid. But, from the first day to the end of her stay, even if she was already able to speak the language, she stopped talking at school.

She would talk a lot at home, for sure, really incredibly improving her French language skills, but when she would arrive at school every morning, she would just become mute and just keep to herself, as if she was in a shell. It didn't really interfere with her having good relationships with other kids but everybody, her teacher, the staff at school, and the other kids parents were really worrying a lot.

After two months and a half, my wife and Lana came back to Japan. We thought the issue would solve by itself, considering being in a non-Japanese environment was where the issue lied, but she continued not to say a single word at school for almost two years.

I read all the books available about "selective mutism", most of the books telling the parents what strategies they should use to help the child speak again. Nothing really worked. At least, that's what we thought. This "trouble" is really tricky to handle and I had quite given up on finding a solution, until recently, when the situation suddenly changed.

During all these months, we kept playing games. There's one game that changed her dramatically. It might sound strange but I really think Mice and Mystics helped her build the self confidence she needed to overcome her "shyness".

I won't start this geek list with Mice and Mystics, though. She didn't start playing this one at 3!! She was 4 and a half when we first played the game and, of course, she was not really "playing" (she was DEEPLY listening to the story and moving pieces around, rolling dice, but all the strategic stuff, and discrete "I want my child to win this scenario" cheating, I handled). Let's be serious. I used the game to help her, and winning every time was a part of it. But, as I wrote earlier, I'll talk about Mice and Mystics when time is due. And cheating is bad!!! Unless it's for your children's sake

I think we were very lucky to see her "selective mutism" go away that fast. Some parents struggle for years and years and it's something you think about all day long. The hardest thing is not to show your daily anguish... and it's not easy.

First, let's start with the games she played when she was 2 and a half, up to 3. I will add a game a day. I plan on keeping this geek list going as long as possible.
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1. Board Game: Orchard [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:3160]
Yannick Deplaedt
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This game!!

It was the first one we opened for Christmas when she was just before 3. At first, the crow was really scary to her, and to try to charm the scary beast, she would give him some of the fruits she gathered.

We often won the game but it didn't really matter, since, in the end, the crow was always receiving a lot of fruits. The components are just wonderful, as well as the fruits shapes and the way the board is designed. I think that's one of these games I could offer to people with young kids over and over, without worrying it might not be liked.

We keep playing this one from time to time. The crow is not scary anymore. It's more of an old friend of hers and she keeps the good relationship by still giving him half of her fruits.

I don't! I'd rather keep all the fruits for myself and not share with anyone, devil

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2. Board Game: Hopple-Popple [Average Rating:5.46 Unranked]
Yannick Deplaedt
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Hummm, not the best children game out there but my daughter just loved it. Here is a picture that shows what it looks like when you play the game :


Quote:
All players are dealt a sheet depicting a farm. The farm shows the outlines of eight animals (2 cats, 2 ducks, 2 rabbits and 2 roosters).
Goal is to be the first to collect the 8 animals in your farm. The roll of a colored die shows which kind of animal you may take into your farm (if there is still a place for it). First player to collect all of his animals wins.


That's certainly a cute game and what's not to like... I mean, little wooden animals waiting to be caught and put down on a board in your farm. It was fun to play for Lana, but it's not a game the adults can enjoy as much as their children, like the two games I introduced before.

Anyway, she still remembers it but accepted to give it to a younger kid a few months ago.
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3. Board Game: Avanti mare! [Average Rating:5.68 Overall Rank:11780]
Yannick Deplaedt
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This one is one we still play often. Since Lana knows her grand-father is a fisherman, and that she loves him a lot, she always want to be the two meeples (green and red) in the boat. So... her mother and I always end up being the endangered fishes. Fortunately enough, we often manage to have at least one of our fishes fleeing away from the fishermen.

We really have fun with this one. It completely luck driven and all you have to do is roll the dice. But, what makes it nice, is the way the boat gets closer to the fishes. You have to remove one by one pieces from the board. We have a Ravensburger version of this game, and even if I really love Selecta, the small box and the components in the new version are nicer and more colorful.

That's a really good game I would recommend to every parent with children from 3 to 6-7.

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4. Board Game: Hit the Throttle! [Average Rating:6.14 Overall Rank:9521]
Yannick Deplaedt
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Gib Gummi! We first tried Monza, but she was too young at 4 to really understand how to use wisely the colors she rolled on the dice. She seemed to really dig the "car race" theme, tough, so I spent a few hours on the wide and dark Internet until I found something close enough to Monza but easier. And Gib Gummi popped out.

Every player gets a card representing his two cars. On every turn, everyone roll three dice, choose one and make the car of the corresponding color move one space toward the arrival spot. Then, you roll the two dice left and choose another color and repeat with the last die, but this time you have to move the car of the corresponding color.

What's nice about the game is the good balance between luck and strategy. With a 4 year old, no need to say that we were just playing with the luck part. But it was a lot of fun.

We don't play this one so much now but Monza kind of replaced it.
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5. Board Game: Monza [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:1877]
Yannick Deplaedt
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Nagoya
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This one should be considered a masterpiece. Not only are the components and the theme nice and fun for kids, it also helps them learn how to use efficiently colors in a sequence that will bring their car the furthest possible.

The first games we played, my daughter was making mistakes. After pointing them out with a little devilish smile on my face, she started spending more time before choosing which die use first.

That's one of the games we played a lot when she was 5. Now, she doesn't play it so much but still has fun when I pull the box out of the shelves for a nostalgic time of gaming.

This game should definitely be in every kids games collection.
 
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6. Board Game: Animal Upon Animal [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:728] [Average Rating:6.87 Unranked]
Yannick Deplaedt
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Another classic! I know. But have you ever played a balance game with a 3 year old? That's like the funniest experience you can have with a game. Everything becomes so silly!

First, Lana loved all the funny and adorable wood animals. The vivid colors is also what makes this game a great success. Learning the names of the animals, discovering their shape, and hearing your father making weird noises with his mouth, while trying to put the animal in any order...

We later tried the Big Adventure version when she was 5 but it was too difficult and darker (volcanoes everywhere!!), so we just gave it away to another older kid among our friends'.

We still play this one sometimes, and now Lana tries to make the most unbalanced balance of animals, if that makes any sense. And, of course, she still loves to make all the pieces fall on one another. It's a big part of the fun! Everybody needs to have this one in his game collection. As with Monza, that's one of these games everyone needs to play at least once in a lifetime.

It teaches balance and fun through failing! All the animals have a shape that lets you think so much engineering has been put into this game. I don't know exactly how the designers managed to reach such a great result but it looks like every piece of the game can be stacked perfectly on top of another one.

When the animals fall down, everybody around the table is having so much fun and I never saw anyone not react to the falling of the animal pyramid with laughter. Every time everything falls apart, it's a laughing therapy for two.

A great addition to our collection a few years ago, my daughter keeps asking to play this one a regular basis.
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