10 Board Games that Teach Dubious Life Lessons to our Children

boardgameBoard games. Love them or hate them, as parents, we all end up playing them at some point with our children. Little sweet voices say, “Mom, do you want to play a game?” And I try my best to make a little time to do so. I’ll usually try to suggest a more educational game, or one that lets me sit in the comfortable chair with my feet propped up. But usually I end up playing a game I’d not choose myself. And I wondered recently, what are my kids learning from the games we play? Like it or not, our children are always learning… always. Their brains are little sponges soaking up knowledge and life lessons in all activities. Here’s just 10 games and what they may (or may not) be learning when we play.



Game of Life by Milton Bradley

Wow. Can I say how much the underlying message of the Game of Life bothers me? You wind your way from young adulthood, through a twisting path that eventually leads you to retirement. In order to win the game, you have to the best jobs, get married, have kids, and retire with the most money.

Every time my kids (or their friends) play they want to win, so naturally, they celebrate getting the most lucrative job, Lawyer (with unlimited raises) and try their best to bypass good, decent jobs like Teacher (which has a salary cap). Not to mention they absolutely never go the career-only path (hairstylist, mechanic, etc) because of the lower salaries. It’s a subtle message, for sure, but I believe it conditions kids to a fashion that certain jobs are more worthy than others, and that the people who hold those jobs are winners, while the lower-wage jobs are perhaps not.

And everyone has to get married. It’s not even a choice. There’s a big ole stop sign that makes you marry. Granted, the wedding presents are out of this world (last time we played, I got $10k from each player). I wonder how that makes long-term single people feel playing the game. Or do they even bother? Maybe they don’t because only people with children have to actually play this game, as I can’t imagine a group of adults actually choosing to playing this tedious game.

And then, you may or may not have kids (it’s left to chance, much like real life), but darn, if kids aren’t an advantage in the game. First, you get crazy ridiculous money from each player when you land on a child space in the game. Despite the enormous cost to raising children, if you actually do get lucky enough to load up the Life minivan it helps you win, as you get cash at the end for each child. I suppose the game makers didn’t want to include spaces in the game where you land on it and lose most of your salary over time to diapers, the massive quantities of food children consume, sports fees, birthday parties, schooling, college funds, doctor visits, and everything else parents actually spend for 18 years straight.



Monopoly by Hasbro

Okay, now this one. Sorry, but I think my bleeding heart might be influencing me, but Monopoly teaches unfettered capitalism and in the words of a popular 80’s movie that “Greed is Good.” Seriously, the entire purpose of the game is buying real estate with the objective that whoever bankrupts their friends and family wins. Laugh manically as your friends land on your slum-town on Baltic Avenue and you slowly bleed them of money. Heaven help them if you own higher rent properties. Send them to jail and don’t even give them a payday. Whatever you have to do to win.

And seriously, there should be an addition to the game, kinda like a game master those fantasy role-playing games have. The Game master should be called Real Estate Broker. They would collect all the commissions from each real estate sale. They’d be the the real winner of the game.

Nevertheless, this game celebrates rich real estate magnets who build hotels and enjoy driving the little guy out of town. Maybe it’s just practice for running for President.



Risk by Hasbro

Next on on my list of twisted and terrible board games we give to children is Risk, where we teach them the industrial military complex is mightier than diplomacy, and that Global World Domination is the only true path to victory. War is good!

Where are the Diplomacy games? Where are the games that teach our kids that peace in our time is a good thing? Okay, I’m taking this too seriously, probably, but have you ever had to play the same game of Risk for several days straight with a child (no one finishes this game in one sitting)? I’d gladly broker a peace treaty and end it all after night three of rolling dice and watching my little plastic military lose roll and after roll.



Chutes & Ladders by Milton Bradley

By this point, you are thinking I’m a nutter. What in the heck can be wrong with Chutes & Ladders? Did you ever notice that a lot of the things that make you lose position in the game are childhood accidents? I don’t think the child with the baseball through the window was being malicious. A girl is carrying dishes, drops them and is punished by a long slide backward.

Yeah a few of the kids, I’m looking at you Cookie Jar girl, are purposefully being naughty, but Baseball boy and Dishes girl. Dang. That’s just rough. Aren’t we told as parents to correct bad behavior, not punish them for childish accidents? Seriously, I can relate to Dishes girl as an adult.

And look at what the kids are getting into that penalize them? Perhaps if they had better adult supervision? Nah…



Candy Land by Hasbro

Okay, this is a stretch, but this game is a Registered Dietitians nightmare. Seriously, the only terrible thing about this game is it encourages lots of candy eating and candy hoarding, ignores peanut allergies, encourages consuming Red Dye 40, and people live in gingerbread houses. Have you ever had to actually make a gingerbread house?! Not to mention the nightmares children might have about sinking into the chocolate lake and being eaten by Gloppy, the beast who lives within. candyland gloppy

Sugar, childhood obesity, and dental issues will abound. But it’s all good. Who wouldn’t want to load up on candy? Our kids do it twice a year – Easter and Halloween.



Sorry by Hasbro

In Sorry (and the similar game Trouble), you have to get your little pieces around the board, in a safe landing place before everyone else. The best way to ensure that you win and no one else does, is to purposefully move your pieces and ensure they land on a spot someone else already occupies.

And then, when they are right there, spaces away from their safe place, with victory in reach, you send them back to the start and say, “Sorry.”*

Moral of the story – Be a jerk to someone and just say “Sorry.” It’s all good, especially if you win.

(*possibly based on real events I’m still smarting over)


Apples to Apples

Apples to Apple by Mattel

In Apples to Apples, players rotate as the judge and the remaining players match cards to make a funny or clever phrase or answer to a question. The judge then picks her favorite and the clever player is awarded points.

Really, let’s just call this game with it is – it’s a underhanded people-pleaser exercise. Players, especially if you know the person, inwardly think, “How can I best get this person to like my answer.” Sure, you might have the one-off secure and overly confident person that answers without the incentive of winning, but since we are conditioned to playing games to win, the rest of us are nurturing our little insecure, people-pleasing self, overthinking our answers and stressing out when no one laughs.

Wait, is that just me?

And then, it’s just a gateway game, a transition to Cards to Against Humanity, which is just the NSFW adult version of this game. And we all know that’s a “party game for horrible people.” It says so right on the box! Not that I’ve ever played. Certainly not… No, not me.


hungry hungry hippo

Hungry, Hungry Hippos by Hasbro

Along with the dietary issues of Candy Land, we now have to worry about the message of Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Binge eating anyone? Wolfing down your food? The one who eats the most wins? Let’s just call it what is really is – Eating Disorder Hippos.

Or are they being starved by some cruel zoo owner that only feeds them for sport? Tinfoil hat time!

Confession: I really  don’t like this game just because it gives me a headache from all the noise.



Fibber by Spinmaster Games

I found some real irony in playing this game with my children. One of my children sometimes has problems with the truth. We’ve had to correct this child after numerous incidents of silly, childhood dishonesty. As a mother, it concerns me. What relationship with the truth does this child of mine have? Am I doing a good job of instilling in this little person why honesty matters?

So, I say, kids, don’t lie to me. It’s wrong. No one trusts or likes to be around dishonest people. Now, let’s sit down and play a game. How about Fibber?

In this game, you win and gain distinct advantage by being the best liar. The directions instruct you on how to bluff your opponents. Sure, if you are caught, you have to wear incredibly uncomfortable glasses and your nose grows. So, I suppose there is consequence.

And it’s a gateway game to Poker. Just saying. I wouldn’t actually admit to all of my children being taught to play poker already and my youngest is only six years old. Heh, maybe they’ll get good at the bluffing thing after all, win a few World Series of Poker bracelets and support ole’ mom and dad with their winnings when we’re old. Certainly don’t see that option in the game of Life, now do you?!



Uno by Mattel

And finally, Uno. Surely, you say, “What is wrong with such a fun card game? It’s probably my own personal beef with this game, but I was taught growing up it was okay to cheat by the adults in my life. Certain adults – and I’m looking at you Stewart family – obviously thought it was okay to hide a card under a leg or drop one under the table when no one was looking. But I was looking. I saw… Cheating! In a game! With children! Between this and the Chewy Chunks of Chocolate incident of Scattergories, it’s a wonder I’d even play games with you again.


And there you have it. Dubious life lessons our kids learn from games. I’ve ruined board games for you all or either you think I’m incredibly crazy.

What board games do you like to play with your kids or with other adults? I’d love to hear your feedback!