Ask Maxwell: What About Old Fashioned Board Games with Kids?

published Mar 21, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Maxwell Ryan
This is the living room in our old place on Lafayette Street. You can see the permanent placement for the game board. That's important. Always having it out, makes it easy to play in the moment. We lived here for two and half years, when Ursula was 7-9 years old. This is where the chess and checkers began.

I know you’ve suggested things for kids to do indoors, but what about board games? Is that too old fashioned?


Dear Isabel,

I love your question and it brought up something I hadn’t thought about in years, which is that I remember my brother and I getting so excited when our dad played chess and Othello with us – so much so, in fact – that I did the same with my daughter on many week nights before bed and it was a lovely moment of the day. But let me tell you the details.

Young children LOVE to do things with their parents, but it can be challenging to respond to all their requests all the time, especially when they are bored and hang on our coat tails – so to speak. This was turned around by my dad, who bought a chess board and put it in the living room. When we wanted to do something with him, he’d invite us to learn chess and then we’d play and play and play. If kids are not too young – say in the 7-12 range – introducing them PERSONALLY to a classic game like chess, checkers, or backgammon (there are many others) is a great way to draw them in, engage them in something challenging, and shift the energy from you being asked to entertain them to really entertaining one another. With our father we started with chess and then graduated to Othello (which came out in the 70’s).

When my daughter entered elementary school and she was no longer a baby, I could feel the need to connect with her, but I wanted to move it to an area where we could both engage, learn, challenge one another and also have fun. I bought a nice wooden chess board and put it in the living room (just like my dad) and had a box of chess and checkers pieces always ready. Many evenings after dinner there’d be this down time before bed and I’d casually say, “Hey, want to play chess? I bet you can’t beat me.” and the game was on. I didn’t know how to play very well, but we both learned and she eventually got better than me (we eventually also had to buy a chess clock as the games would go on forever – and this also heightened the drama).

Our game playing evening ritual happened mainly in the winter and ran on for about five years until she became a very different animal – a teenager – and also had much more homework. BUT we still play on occasion and it’s always a nice place to go back to.

So, I want to heartily recommend classic board games to add to your parenting arsenal as we all need all the good tools we can get.

Try it and let me know how it goes!

Best, M

PS. And you never know… our Head of Engineering at Apartment Therapy’s son has become so good at chess that he now goes to tournaments all over the country. 🙂

Credit: Maxwell Ryan
A close up of our nice wooden board. As Ursula got older we gravitated to checkers for the speed and aggressiveness of it - chess games sometimes went on for an hour! Checkers is actually a very interesting game that never gets old.

Top 10 Most Popular Questions & Answers This Week
(I keep changing this each week based on your clicks)

Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

Cubby. Real solutions for unreal times.

Join us for a weekly dose of fresh, modern ideas for life at home with your kids.