Therapeutic Games to Play at Home

By Sarah Earles, MS, LPC, NCC | November 03, 2023 

Child and family therapists often play games with children in session. Play is a great way to engage children, help them feel comfortable, and provide opportunities to learn new skills. Caregivers and parents can also play games with children at home, however. See below for ideas of particular games that caregivers and parents might consider:

Blokus: Blokus is a game that can help teach growth mindset and perseverance. Rated for four players, ages seven and up, it is like Tetris on a board (Board Game Geek, n.d.). The complex nature of the board allows adults opportunities to assist children in seeing opportunities. The unique pieces also provide opportunities for creativity in making up new games. This is a second way that the game promotes collaboration.
Chutes and Ladders: An old classic, Chutes and Ladders can help children begin to link cause and effect. The game is rated for two to three players, ages three and up (Hasbro, n.d.). The game consists of spinning and then moving a set number of squares. Players land on a blank square, a ladder, or a chute. Drawn pictures with the ladders depict positive choices and their positive benefits (planting seeds and seeing flowers grow, for example), while chutes depict negative choices and their negative consequences (for example, riding a bicycle unsafely and getting injured). The game can also teach frustration tolerance and perseverance as game actions can become repetitive at times.
Hi Ho! Cherry-O: A basic counting game, Hi Ho! Cherry-O is for two to four players, ages three and up (Group Games 101, 2022). The game allows players to spin and fill their “baskets” with cherries. Menaces like the bird or dog can remove cherries, however. This provides opportunities to learn frustration tolerance and perseverance.
KerPlunk: The marble game KerPlunk can help reduce startle response. For two to four players, ages five and up, the game requires cooperation to place sticks into the game tower, and then frustration tolerance and patience while players remove sticks one by one, waiting for marbles to fall (Ultra Board Games, n.d.). The sound of marbles falling may surprise players, which gives adults opportunities to discuss with children the difference between surprise and fear (the latter of which is a response to danger). The marbles in this game are small and could be a choking hazard to children who place things in their mouths, however, so use with caution.
Sorry!: Sorry promotes patience and perseverance. The game is for two to four players, ages six and up (Board Games Galore, n.d.). The game provides opportunities to practice the TBRI concept of re-dos, both within the game, and with other players (Nuturing Change, 2021). Trouble is a very similar game.

Games are fun, but they can also be so much more than that! They can help build relationship (Creative Social Worker, 2023; Hill, 2019). They can help grow skills such as decision making, frustration tolerance, impulse control and problem solving. They provide opportunities for kids to show their skills and receive praise for those skills. Knowledge of how to play games can help kids make and keep new social connections. Communication is another important aspect of games and game play. All in all, games are a great resource, both for therapy, and for the home.

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Child and family therapists often play games with children in session. Play is a great way to engage children, help them feel comfortable, and provide opportunities to learn new skills. Caregivers and parents can also play games with children at home, however. See below for ideas of particular games that caregivers and parents might consider:

Blokus: Blokus is a game that can help teach growth mindset and perseverance. Rated for four players, ages seven and up, it is like Tetris on a board (Board Game Geek, n.d.). The complex nature of the board allows adults opportunities to assist children in seeing opportunities. The unique pieces also provide opportunities for creativity in making up new games. This is a second way that the game promotes collaboration.
Chutes and Ladders: An old classic, Chutes and Ladders can help children begin to link cause and effect. The game is rated for two to three players, ages three and up (Hasbro, n.d.). The game consists of spinning and then moving a set number of squares. Players land on a blank square, a ladder, or a chute. Drawn pictures with the ladders depict positive choices and their positive benefits (planting seeds and seeing flowers grow, for example), while chutes depict negative choices and their negative consequences (for example, riding a bicycle unsafely and getting injured). The game can also teach frustration tolerance and perseverance as game actions can become repetitive at times.
Hi Ho! Cherry-O: A basic counting game, Hi Ho! Cherry-O is for two to four players, ages three and up (Group Games 101, 2022). The game allows players to spin and fill their “baskets” with cherries. Menaces like the bird or dog can remove cherries, however. This provides opportunities to learn frustration tolerance and perseverance.
KerPlunk: The marble game KerPlunk can help reduce startle response. For two to four players, ages five and up, the game requires cooperation to place sticks into the game tower, and then frustration tolerance and patience while players remove sticks one by one, waiting for marbles to fall (Ultra Board Games, n.d.). The sound of marbles falling may surprise players, which gives adults opportunities to discuss with children the difference between surprise and fear (the latter of which is a response to danger). The marbles in this game are small and could be a choking hazard to children who place things in their mouths, however, so use with caution.
Sorry!: Sorry promotes patience and perseverance. The game is for two to four players, ages six and up (Board Games Galore, n.d.). The game provides opportunities to practice the TBRI concept of re-dos, both within the game, and with other players (Nuturing Change, 2021). Trouble is a very similar game.

Games are fun, but they can also be so much more than that! They can help build relationship (Creative Social Worker, 2023; Hill, 2019). They can help grow skills such as decision making, frustration tolerance, impulse control and problem solving. They provide opportunities for kids to show their skills and receive praise for those skills. Knowledge of how to play games can help kids make and keep new social connections. Communication is another important aspect of games and game play. All in all, games are a great resource, both for therapy, and for the home.

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References

Board Game Geek. (n.d.). Blokus. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2453/blokus

Creative Social Worker. (2023, May 19). Using games in therapy: A powerful tool for mental heath and emotional well-being. SWHelper. https://swhelper.org/2014/05/22/using-games-in-therapy/

 Group Games 101. (2022, December 2). How to play Hi-Ho! Cherry-O: Rules and gameplay instructions. https://groupgames101.com/hi-ho-cherry-o-rules/

Hasbro. (n.d.). Chutes and Ladders. https://shop.hasbro.com/en-us/product/chutes-and-ladders-game/1095F835-5056-9047-F548-2F4D0AEF4ACC

Hill, M.D. (2019). Using popular games therapeutically. Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy. https://societyforpsychotherapy.org/using-popular-games-therapeutically/

Nurturing Change. (2021, August 22). Correcting behavior through redos. https://nurturing-change.org/blog/f/correcting-behavior-through-redos

Ultra Board Games. (n.d.) Kerplunk. https://www.ultraboardgames.com/ker-plunk/game-rules.php

References

Board Game Geek. (n.d.). Blokus. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/ 2453/blokus

Creative Social Worker. (2023, May 19). Using games in therapy: A powerful tool for mental heath and emotional well-being. SWHelper. https://swhelper.org/2014/05/22/using-games-in-therapy/

Group Games 101. (2022, December 2). How to play Hi-Ho! Cherry-O: Rules and gameplay instructions. https://groupgames101.com/hi-ho-cherry-o-rules/

Hasbro. (n.d.). Chutes and Ladders. https://shop.hasbro.com/en-us/product/chutes-and-ladders-game/1095F835-5056-9047-F548-2F4D0AEF4ACC

Hill, M.D. (2019). Using popular games therapeutically. Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy. https://societyforpsychotherapy.org/using- popular-games-therapeutically/

Nurturing Change. (2021, August 22). Correcting behavior through redos. https://nurturing-change.org/blog/f/correcting-behavior-through-redos

Ultra Board Games. (n.d.) Kerplunk. https://www.ultraboardgames.com/ker-plunk/game-rules.php