Sneaking Some Learning into a Board Game

June 9, 2014

My 5-year-old loves to play the classic board game Chutes and Ladders. The numbered squares on the board make it an obvious way to work on math skills. However, it seems like every time I play it with her, I find another skill that can be addressed using this game.

chutes and ladders

Math Skills:

  • For preschool and early elementary age children, following the numbers in sequence on the board can be a challenge because of the way they zig-zag across the board. You can show your child how, after the number 10, the numbers start to repeat again, only this time with a 1 in the front. After 10 comes 11, 12, and so on.
  • For older elementary age children (about 2nd grade and up), you could challenge your child to use addition to figure out what square to go to next, rather than counting the squares. For example, if your child is on square 47 and spins a 5, she would need to add 47+ 5 to find what square to go to next.
  • Also for older elementary children, when they go down the slides, they could use subtraction to figure out how many spaces they had to go back. For example, if your child lands on square 87 and has to go down the slide to square 24, she would need to subtract 87 – 24 to find how many squares she went back.

Language Skills:

At the bottom of every ladder is a child doing something good, and at the top is the child earning some sort of reward. The top of each slide shows a child misbehaving, and the bottom shows the child earning a negative consequence. Here are a few language skills that can be targeted with these pictures when your child either has to go up the ladders or down the slides. The first one would be appropriate for children as young as three or four, while the rest are appropriate for older elementary age children.

  • Ask your child a “why” question corresponding to the picture at the end of the slide or ladder. Your child should be able to answer with the help of the picture at the beginning of the slide or ladder. (Why did the girl feel sick? Because she ate too many cookies.)
  • Have your child use the past tense to talk about the pictures. (She helped the dog.)
  • Have your child form a complex sentence by telling what happened to one of the children. (He mowed the lawn, so he got to go to the circus.)
  • Ask your child which picture is the cause and which picture is the effect. Cause and effect is a skill that frequently shows up on standardized tests. (Cause: He broke the window. Effect: He had to use the money from his piggy bank to pay for it.)

Social Skills:

As with any board game, your child will naturally practice these skills by playing with others:

  • Turn taking
  • Waiting patiently
  • Being a good sport (whether as the winner or the loser)

Board games are a great way to interact with your kids. Try out some of these ideas the next time you sit down for a family game night.