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Board Game Resurgence Seen From Classrooms to Living Rooms

September 30, 2010 07:00 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Many people are rediscovering the benefits of board games, while teachers are incorporating board games into lesson plans.

Players Crave Human Interaction

In Cincinnati, a family-owned business called YottaQuest exemplifies the growing trend of board games. According to Cheri Lawson for NPR, YottaQuest is a “family-owned game shop” that has seen a 25 percent increase in business each year since it opened in 2004. “Even during the recession,” Lawson writes, “sales are up 40 percent compared to last year.”

But the recession may actually be what has caused such a spike in board games’ popularity. Jim Silver, the editor of, which provides consumer information on toys and videos, tells Lawson that the economy is among the “main reasons” that board games are doing so well. Consumers appreciate that board games can be played again and again, and usually only cost about $20 or less.

The human interaction required of board games also draws consumers. According to Lawson, “In this era of computers and online networking, some people who play together become addicted to human contact.” 

Board Games and the Economy

The link between board games and economic hard times is nothing new, according to Kim Thai. In an article for Fortune magazine, Thai suggests “board games have always fared well in recessions.” For instance, Parcheesi was "all the rage" during World War I and Monopoly was popular during the Great Depression.

The types of games have changed, however. The best-selling game of 2008 was Settlers of Catan, a high-adrenalin game that features a “race to build cities.” The 2009 “craze” was a game called Wits and Wagers, involving “fast-paced trivia and gambling,” according to Thai. Such “hobby games” can be expensive, and are often sold only “in niche toy stores or online,” gaining popularity through recommendations from friends and fellow gamers. 

Board Games in the Classroom

Teachers across the U.S. have also been rediscovering the benefits of using board games in school. According to Mari-Jane Williams for The Washington Post, board games have long “been known to help children with social interaction, taking turns and learning to follow rules and to win and lose gracefully.”

Lesson plans for preschoolers and “early elementary school” students are especially conducive to board games. For example, an inexpensive game like Uno can be a tool for teaching “number and color recognition, sorting skills and strategic thinking,” Williams writes.

Other teachers cite Trouble and Chutes and Ladders as favorite games to use in classroom lessons, claiming students “develop more-sophisticated thinking skills” by playing games. Carnegie Mellon University affirmed these notions with a 2007 study that showed improved performance on “numerical tasks” by low-income preschoolers who played “a board game with numbers, such as Chutes and Ladders.”

Furthermore, board games entice students. “Fun is a motivator," says Vena Long, University of Tennessee professor of mathematics education. She notes that board games make math more fun for students and teachers, even though the subject is typically unpopular, according to Nancy Twigg for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Twigg also provides a sidebar listing board games and how each can be used as a teaching and learning tool.  

Discovering Unique Board Games for Students

At University Lower School, an elementary school in Davie, Fla., a program called Mind Lab Educational Board Game series is being hailed for sharpening students’ ability to think critically. Mind Lab was started in Israel in 1994, and schools all over the world take part, according to Julie Landry Laviolette for The Miami Herald.

In Davie, first-, second- and third-grade students in the program come together every week for 40- to 50-minute game sessions. They play games “from different parts of the world, like Abalone from France and Quarto from Spain,” and a game from Colombia called Chifoumi, Laviolette reports.

ReadWriteThink posted a lesson plan in which students create board games based on novels they’ve read. Lesson standards, necessary resources, preparation advice and an instructional plan are provided. 

Board Games with Scott is a blog all about board games, with reviews, video segments and thoughtful advice from Scott Nicholson, an associate professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. Nicholson covers a variety of games, including games for families, strategic games, two-player games and more. 

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