Growing Up Gaming

By Eric, guest writer

[The following was written by Eric about 3 years ago, when his son was about 1 and ½]

I’m Eric, and this is Lucien:

Lucien, age 1 1/2.

Welcome to the very first installment of Growing Up Gaming. This column will last until Lucien grows up, or decides he doesn’t like games, and one of the topics I will be focusing on is ways to try to prevent that.

This is not a game review column. I already have one of those [in Game Trade Magazine, print version only- Jay’s note], and I don’t have any plans for it to go away anytime soon. While we will be discussing specific products here, it will be in the context of how Lucien responds to them, what he learns from them, and how well they survive toddler and childhood and grow with him. Periodically, we may revisit games from his past to see how they age after he’s grown a few years. We may also look at games that he has yet to look forward to. This column is for gamers who have, or who plan to have, children, and want to hear some of my thoughts on how to make our hobby theirs, why we might want to, and what they stand to gain from it. The only expertise I have on the subject is a small child and a lifelong love of hobby games of all kinds, so you can expect a good bit of trial and error. Hopefully, you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes.

Lucien’s first game is HABA’s Teddy’s Colors and Shapes, from its Baby’s First Games line. The game comes with four thick boards with punch-out shapes, wooden shapes in four colors that fit in the boards, and two large dice. Like all of Baby’s First Games, it comes with instructions for various modes of play…but we haven’t needed them yet. I don’t know when we will, and that’s alright.

At twenty months of age, Lucien isn’t ready to take turns rolling the dice, choosing a piece of the right color, and placing it into a spot, but he’s more than happy to play the game anyway. Every one of the Baby’s First Games allows for free play, and he is very excited to name shapes and colors, put them in the right spots in whatever order he likes, and practice rolling dice across the table. Taking components out and putting them away are also favorite activities. He has a spot in his play space where the game (and eventually his game shelf) lives, and it’s important to him that it goes back there when we’re done.

For now, and for him, the most important part of playing a game is establishing a sense of ownership in it for him. He knows that Daddy’s games are for Daddy, and having a game just for Lucien is very exciting. He can take it out by himself and ask to play, he can get used to the idea that games have pieces that all go together in the box, and that you use those pieces to play the game. We play for as long as he has fun with it, which is usually about 10-15 minutes, and then we make sure that he gets to help clean it up and put it away. I don’t pressure him into playing if he doesn’t want to, and he knows that we can’t play games all the time (a lesson of which I occasionally still need reminding). Before too long, we’ll start to introduce the dice, and the idea of taking turns.

Right now, my major goals for his gaming experience are to make sure he is having fun (of course), and that all the pieces go back in the box when we’re done. The dungeons and the dragons will be along soon enough. For now, he’s happy with blue squares and red triangles, and so am I.

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