Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog about my experiences raising a gamer child.
Involving Yog in games has run hot and cold since we started trying to play games with her. She is very proud that she has her own games and dice. However, getting her to play a game is a whole different story. She has played a few rounds of Candy Land, a few hands of Uno, and a few games of Feed the Kitty, mostly I think to get us to leave her alone. Beyond that if we ask her to play a game we get a polite “No thank you”.
We figured that there was a chance that no matter what we did there would come a day when she had her own interests and may not want to play games with us. We just didn’t think that day would happen when she was four. Or, you know, before she even tried it. That’s the frustrating part about this age. Getting her to try something is half the battle. Once she does she often enjoys the new activity.
However, we don’t give up easily.
The trick is to figure out why she doesn’t want to play. She loves rolling dice. She loves teaching Feed The Kitty. She just doesn’t want to actually play. And we don’t know why. If we can figure out the why, then we can work with it. Unless the why is “I don’t like games”. Then we give her away and make a new kid.
Unfortunately , as verbal as Yog is, we have yet to discern why she doesn’t want to play. We’ve tried out-and-out asking her why she doesn’t want to play. We never get a real answer – she’s quite adept at not answering questions. I’m actually worried that I might be raising a future politician! We’re finding it hard to solve a problem we can’t define, which leaves us trying various methods to entice her to the table.
Tactic one – set up the game and deal her in. This is based on the theory that has worked with other activities in the past. She’ll tell us she has no interest in doing “x” activity, but as soon as one of us starts doing it, she’s muscling in. Of course in typical four-year old fashion, what worked two minutes ago won’t work now. This tactic resulted in cleaning up the game without playing. Very disappointing for us, and created more work with no fun.
Tactic two – my husband and I play the game and let her watch. The idea here is that maybe she’s afraid to lose. Yog is still in the “I win everything I do” mode of life. We were hoping that this would let her see that one of us wins and the other loses and that’s just part of the game. We figured if we modeled gracious winning and losing she’d be more apt to play, knowing that losing the game doesn’t diminish the fun of playing or who she is. She really loved this idea. I mean REALLY LOVED this idea. So much that she became a sideline cheerleader. If the dice weren’t being fair in her mind she scolded them for not being nice to whichever parent was lagging behind. While it was nice to have someone cheering me on as I rolled the Feed the Kitty dice, it would have been nicer to have her play. We’ve tried this tactic with several games to no avail. She liked being the cheerleader so much that she’s asked if we could play a game so she can watch.
Tactic three – Invite her to sit on my lap and roll dice for me while I play a game. She loves rolling dice. Maybe if she’s not the one actually playing the game, but doing the actions she enjoys it’ll eventually lead to her wanting to play on her own. The reaction? “No Thank you. Would you like some strawberry popcorn bubble gum milk? It has chocolate and peanut butter in it.” Boy I hope she takes up gaming long before the culinary arts.
Tactic four – Finally a minor success! This one is an amalgamation of tactics one and three. My husband has many solo games. He pulled out a solo game, started playing alone and when she showed interest in what he was doing he asked her
to help manage cards, roll dice and make choices. And she did! Somehow this was different to her than sitting with me playing on my team. Our best guess is that the two of them were playing against the game, not against another person. She has even moved on to playing with her own pawn from time to time!
We are now on the search for cooperative games that we can modify or age appropriate cooperative games so she can play with us. We’re hoping that team play will coax her to the game table more often. There are a few cooperative games in our closet, as they’ve been quite popular with our gaming group. However, most of them rely on complex card combinations and reading skills above Yog’s current ability.
The only other solution we have come up with came from one experience and is the hardest solution for us to implement. When we were at Dexcon she sat on the floor with a five-year old and happily played several rounds of Feed the Kitty with him. So maybe she only wants to game with people her own age. Which is fine, however, none of our friends live nearby or have children in the Yog’s age range. However, it is at least an avenue to pursue – finding children her age and starting a game time for them. She is now starting to develop true friendships at school. It may be time to use some of those friendships to set up play dates. Maybe then she’ll play more games and we’ll get the bonus of introducing another kid to our engaging hobby.
What kind of gamer kid do you have? A cheerleader like Yog? The boss who directs the entire game? The cooperative gamer? The competitive gamer? How do you encourage your little gamer? Let’s figure out how to get our kids to the game table together.
Until next month, Happy Gaming!