Encouraging children to design their own board games and card games fosters imagination, creativity and and develops problem solving skills and resourcefulness. Once they have a solid idea for a game in terms of mechanics, a good working prototype makes the whole experience more memorable and fun. Creating a prototype that is functional and beautiful doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Simple craft supplies, found items, and re-purposed materials can make a child's ideas come to life. These practical ideas equip children to make their own customized game components with relative ease.
TRY USING PAINT CHIPS TO CREATE SPACES ON A GAME BOARD
Recycle paint sample chips by cutting them apart and using them to create a colorful winding path around a game board. They are easy to embellish with words or drawings and can be cut down to the desired size.
NEED SOME CUSTOM DICE? MAKE YOUR OWN!
Small, unfinished wooden cubes can be procured at any craft store in a variety of sizes. Sides can then be customized and designed using paint or markers.
A dice cube can be created by shaping and folding cardstock and then reinforced with tape or gluestick. See the template at right to pull off this trick, and adjust the size larger or smaller as desired.
MAKE YOUR OWN COLORFUL SPINNER
A square of cardboard divided into quadrants becomes a spinner with the addition of a hole in the center, an arrow cut from cardboard, and a metal paper fastener. Cover your arrow in contact paper or tape to make it more durable before attaching. A small paper hole punch can work well to create needed holes for attaching everything together.
GAME PIECES AND PAWNS DON'T HAVE TO BE BORING CHIPS
Make game pawns using photos, drawings or found images of animals or other characters clipped from old greeting cards or magazines. Paste onto cardstock, cut out around edges and laminate. Use binder clips with handles turned up to grasp bottoms and serve as bases. They will make your custom pawns stand straight up.
Save bottle caps and paint them with colorful designs using nail polish to create customized game pieces.
Sift through junk drawers for random trinkets, charms and little odds and ends that could be used as pawns or placeholders.
MAKE YOUR OWN DECK OF CARDS
Recycle/reuse an old deck of playing cards. Kids can cut and paste their own values/graphics right onto the cards. This will work for early testing of a design. As your child develops their idea, they may want to create something better. Blank, perforated card stock can be purchased from PlainCards and then printed on a home printer using a template. A third option would be to purchase plastic card sleeves, available at any hobby game shop or online. These can hold card stock or even paper that is unevenly cut and are easily shuffled and durable. It's also easy to swap out cards as the child develops and tweaks their game idea.
A STURDY GAME BOARD IS ESSENTIAL AND EASY
Pieces of foam core poster board can usually be found in the office supply aisle of any supermarket. Adults can help cut it down to desired size with an exacto knife or utility blade. Make a folding board by taping one side of two matching pieces of foam core board with duct tape.
Scrapbooking paper comes in lots of colors and patterns for virtually every topic and theme imaginable. Cut into strips and shapes to create borders and decorate the game board. Decoupage paper shapes to the board with a clear coating of Modge Podge to protect and ensure durability.
And, speaking of duct tape, have you seen the vast array of colors and patterns available these days? New craft trends have spurred a creative explosion of ways to use duct tape. Manufacturers have picked up on it and have been happy to oblige, expanding their product offerings to cover the rainbow of colors and patterns. It's a great tool to apply borders and other patterns, all while reinforcing the strength and durability of the board.
RECYCLE USED, INCOMPLETE BOARD GAMES
Scan thrift stores and tag sales for old board games that may be missing pieces but are still in decent condition. If the box is in good shape, it can be reused to store children's new game inventions. Customize it by decoupaging over the original graphics with papers and images for the new prototype. Repurpose odd leftover game pieces from other games to fit your new game system.
Lastly, many teacher supply stores and craft stores carry blank, plain white, board game components such as boards, cards, spinners and dice that can be purchased and decorated.
The sky is the limit with what you can do. We hope these ideas get you thinking about how you might help your children construct their own board games.
The 7th annual Young Inventor Challenge happens Saturday, November 17, 2012 at Chicago's Navy Pier. Click to learn more about rules and requirements of this national competition for young inventors of board games and card games.
Michelle Spelman is Editor and Inventor Relations Liaison for Chicago Toy & Game Group. She is a game inventor, and co-founder of Flying Pig Games LLC, creators of award-winning Jukem Football card game licensed by Haywire Group. She is also founder of Cincinnati Game & Toy Industry Professionals group, and is the Cincinnati Children’s Toy Examiner. An independent marketing consultant providing contract services, executive coaching and strategic direction, she’s in her sweet spot when she is working with companies focused on women and family-oriented products and services.
In the spirit of full disclosure, it is important to note that the author of this article did not receive any form of compensation or other incentive from any of the entities mentioned in this article in exchange for including them in the story. However, the Young Inventor Challenge is an annual event owned and managed by the Chicago Toy and Game Group, owner of this blog.