What To Do When… You want to teach your child how to play games with rules

Family playing a tabletop falling-block game

Interactive board and card games are the best options when you want to play a game with your preschool child; they support the development of reading, communication, and mathematical skills. However, sometimes it’s easier or more convenient to play a digital game with your child, such as on a phone or tablet.

Regardless of the type of game, it’s a great opportunity to build your child’s interactive and social emotional skills. Young children love rules! You can talk with them about the rules of the game, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what is happening.

Play the game alongside your child and ask what they think about it. 

  • “What makes this game fun?”
  • “Did you learn something new from playing it?”
  • “Why did you pick the red piece?”

Talk about the rules and why they exist. 

  • “You wanted a two, but rolled a four. How does that make you feel?”
  • “This game only gives you two chances to get the right answer! That makes me feel frustrated.”
  • “Why do you think the game makes us take turns? What if I went twice in a row?”

Address the emotions of winning and losing

  • “I was really sad when I lost that game.”
  • “How did it feel when you got that answer correct?”
  • “What do you wish I had said to you when you lost that game?”


Elofsson, J., Gustafson, S., Samuelsson, J., & Träff, U. (2016). Playing number board games supports 5-year-old children’s early mathematical development. The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 43, 134-147. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmathb.2016.07.003

Parlatan, M.E. & Sığırtmaç, A.D. (2021). Preschool children’s behaviours in competitive games: are these games really harmful to social-emotional development?, Early Child Development and Care, https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2021.1990910

Umida, R. & Dilroz, B. (2022). Didactic games used to develop the speech of children in preschool organizations. European Journal of Medicine and Practice, 2(1), 45-47. http://www.innovatus.es/index.php/ejmmp/issue/view/6