Sep 05, 2018

Every child loves to learn and play a new game. But sometimes, it’s hard to teach it. When you’re trying to explain a new game or activity to your child, but you do it in a slapdash and confusing way, everyone gets frustrated, and it sucks the fun out of the game before you’ve even started!

I remember as a child getting so excited when my parents or teachers picked out a new game for us to try. But my sustained excitement for the game and the fun I had playing it were directly proportional to how well it was taught. And if you’re trying to get your kids to play a new game for educational purposes, it’s essential that you get the instructions down pat. Without it, confusion, frustration, and a lack of enjoyment reign. That’s no good for quality family time.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. As someone who’s made a living designing and teaching people how to play games and have fun while learning them, I’ve figured out the formula for how to explain any new game or activity.

If you’re ever at a loss for how to translate game instructions to a new learner, these 6 steps to teach any game will make it easy for you. Even better, you can use these steps for other activities, too. Maybe you want to teach your child a new sport. Or if you’re responsible for training new employees at your job, keep these simple steps in mind. They’ll help you break down any instructions or rules, so the listener can quickly understand what you mean. Check ‘em out below!

Step 1: Set it up, and Explain the Objective

Before you begin teaching the game, make sure you have it set up first. That way, players can see the pieces, board, or the cards.

The first thing you want to tell the players is the object of the game, or how to win. So, for a game like Monopoly, the objective or goal is to bankrupt your opponents. For Poker, the purpose of the game is to capture the pot with a higher hand than the opponent. And for the RoosterFin game Monkeys Up, the objective is to get the highest score by flipping, stealing, and switching monkeys.

Please keep in mind when you explain the objective, to keep it short, and simple. You don’t want to use this step to reveal the winning strategy, because too many instructions and rules will confuse your child or make their eyes glaze over. Just keep it to the winning condition or object of the game. One sentence will do for this step.

Usually, though, your kids will automatically start brainstorming ideas for a winning strategy once you tell them the objective and show them the game’s set-up.

Step 2: Quickly Explain How to Achieve the Winning Objective

For this step, be careful not to disclose the winning strategy. You want to get your kids to think independently about this. Once you tell them the winning objective or goal of the game, they’ll naturally want to know how to achieve that.

So, using our example with Monopoly from above, you’d say something like, “You bankrupt your opponent by owning a set of properties that charge a high fee for landing on them.”

As you can see, this is, again, a straightforward sentence. Try not to get too overly specific because you’ll run the risk of confusing your child.

Also, notice how explaining the winning objective doesn’t get too far into strategies for how to win. This is something you want to encourage your child to figure out themselves. It will help them develop and sharpen their critical thinking skills and boost their self-esteem.

Step 3: Take a Mock Turn

Instead of using words to confuse or bore your listeners, show them how it’s done. In this step, take a mock turn so they can see exactly how the game is played. I’d also encourage you to have everyone take a mock turn before you start keeping score. This way, your kids can ask questions, and you can clear up any confusion before the game begins. Also, if you give your kids a chance to ask questions in a low-pressure environment, they’ll be a lot less anxious and feel much more confident when you do start keeping score, which brings me to my next point.

Step 4: Fill in the Gaps

This is when you want to let them know about any special conditions or parameters for playing the game. For example, if you’re teaching your child a card game where a particular card is wild, let them know now before you officially begin playing. Or if you’re playing Poker and the aces are considered low in a straight, this is the part where you’d mention it.

Step 5: Let Everyone Know the End-game Conditions

Some games require certain conditions to be met before the match can officially end. For example, in the game Monopoly, it stops as soon as someone flips over the table.

Angry Hulk is frustrated by game

Just kidding.

Games like Poker require one person to win the entire pot. So even if you play with three people and only one person goes out, the game continues until one person ends up with all of the chips. Before you officially start the game, make sure everyone understands what the end-game conditions are.

Step 6: Ready, Set, Go!

Step 6 is when you play! You might’ve missed some things, and that’s all right. Just quickly explain to them as the game goes on. Remember to keep everything short and simple, and don’t go over obscure, or rare conditions before you start playing. Once the game begins, and a situation like that arises, then it’s best to explain it to avoid confusion.

So, what do you think? Are these steps helpful for you? What kind of things have you done to make learning a new game quick and easy? Let us know in the comments!

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