Learning by Design – Tools and Games for Ages 6-8


At this age range, children have passed through many of the developmental milestones necessary to be fully independent (they can dress, eat, and bathe themselves without assistance).  They are able to participate in most perennial favorites found in many retail stores.  Such games have a mass appeal and cover the base mechanics found in more complex games found in hobby shops.  The games that kids start to play more often have a higher level of abstraction so that the skills rewarded in game play become the focus.  Games of this type include Sorry! and Parcheesi/Ludo alongside Trouble and the like.

This age group also sees kids play games that have systems of multiple moving parts (checkers, chess and Stratego) and those that require multi-dimensional thought (Battleship and Connect Four).  One of the things to note is that kids at this age start to specialize in game play that interests them the most.  Thematically, games also start to diversify, some enter the territory of gendered roles.  Such games have biological motivations informing their design, but the predominant motive is social constructs of gender identity.  Kids should be encouraged to play whatever games they want, effectively ignoring such messaging unless it makes them uncomfortable.

In regards to games this age group should be able to play and design, they are still at the stage of replicating some of their favorite games.  That said, this age group also sees kids experimenting with rules by adding new twists on their favorite games (e.g. freeze tag) and adding new rules that make games more challenging without losing the original game in the process.  The mastery of the previous level and the mechanics tested and mastered at this age gives a larger body of experiences and source material for the designer to draw from.  As such, the designer can begin to experiment with concepts not yet fully grasped to fully learn them.  Tools include the following:

  • Multiple pieces in play per side.
  • Pieces may have their own rules for movement as with chess.
  • Rules are still linear procedures, but allow for freedom of exploration and variation.

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