Welcome to Cthulhu Mom Games – a blog dedicated to my experiences as a gamer mom.
This month is the first article on how to take games from your closet (or easy to procure games) and modify them to make them young child friendly. These will often be much shorter articles, but hopefully the usefulness of the content will make up for the brevity.
Game adaptation is something we have only recently begun to do, so we don’t have solutions for every game in our closet. And, to be honest, there are plenty of games that just can’t be modified. However, if you have a favorite game you would like to share with your young child and can’t figure out how to make it work, post it in the comments. Or if you have a modification you would like me to share, let me know, we’ll talk it over, and I’ll do my best to write a future article on that game.
This month’s game is UNO. This is a popular game played by many people who don’t consider themselves gamers. It’s a fairly simple game, but can be long. For a child who has not developed reading skills or the ability to deal with changing rules yet, it can be confusing. There are many different versions of the game now, some with rules variations, but I’m only going to talk about the original game.
If you need a full rules refresher or want to read up on the game before purchasing – look here.
The game is marketed as being for ages 7 and up, but with the modifications we were playing with Yog before she was three.
To make UNO young child friendly we removed all of the Reverse, Wild, Draw Two, and Skip Cards. The game then plays as normal. Each player gets a hand of seven cards and the top card of the draw deck is flipped over. From there each player takes a turn playing a card from her hand that matches the number or color on the top of the discard deck. If the player doesn’t have a match in her hand, she draws a card and play moves to the next player.
Here is where “know your child” comes into play. We play until one player has emptied her hand, omitting the normal “Uno” rule (when you have one card in your hand you say “Uno” or have to draw two cards if someone catches you). This would be the first rule I would add back into the mix. As your child gains reading skills and gaming readiness, start adding the other action cards back into the deck. I would add the cards one rule at a time, giving the child time to acclimate to the new rule. I realize this might throw off the game balance, but I feel it’s worth it to take your time introducing the new rules. With the trimmed down deck the game plays rather quickly so depending on the interest level of your child you may find yourself playing several hands in a sitting. The final modification to game play is that we don’t play to a score of 500. The game is over when the hand is over. The winner is the first person to empty their hand. When your child is ready for a longer game you can add this component back in and when it’s time to start working on math skills your child can be the score keeper.
I love this game because we were playing it by age 3, mostly because it took us that long to think of it (when you haven’t played a game in a while you can forget you have it!). However, this can be played with a much younger child as it’s based on matching what she already sees, no need to be able to identify the color or number. When you’re ready, it’s great for reinforcing color and number learning. You could even play with open hands so you can help each other.
I also love how easy and inexpensive it is to get a copy of this game. Most people have a copy and if not, most major box stores carry it. Since you won’t be breaking the bank to buy a new deck if needed, it’s not a big deal if the cards get bent in the learning process. That can be a teaching moment too – why not to bend the cards.
UNO falls into a category I call social games. They typically have easy strategy and quick, easy turns. They allow for a conversation to bloom around the game. This aspect of the game makes it suitable for the potential starts and stops that occur with young gamers.
I hope you find this modification helpful!