What DO you give to the child who has everything? You give something of yourself. Make the child a gift. Make it special to the child by making it relevant to his or her life or likes.

      A child of two or three may not appreciate a gift which has been made and handed to the child but this same child may appreciate the making of the gift if the child is a part of the creating process. A child of four might, on the other hand, find the playing of a gift game the greater part of the gift. If you do make the game with the child's help, consider scheduling its construction so the game is completed before the special gift-giving day.

      Here are the tactics you'll want to know to make the most of your time. Make a personal commitment to play the game at least a few times with the child. Keep the game simple. Include in the game some things or ideas important to the child. Color, pictures, and texture enhance a game greatly.

      There are certain qualities a board game for a young child should have. If you choose to number spaces on a board, to reinforce the idea that numbers are sequential, let there be only one sequence of numbers to follow.

      The board on the left does not have the path clearly marked. The board on the right does. For a young child, I prefer the one on the right. For a slightly older child, one who is familiar or knowledgeable about numerals and numbers, I might consider using this forked board because the child might then be asked which path to follow.

      By creating more than one path to follow an interesting and often enjoyable addition to a playing board is made. Consider making one path substantially longer than another but with more interesting illustrations.

      The random number generator used can make or break a game. Dice (or for the younger child, a die) make a very adult and desirable number generator.

      One might also use a paper plate with a paper clip spinner attached by a brass fastener as a marvelous number generator. If you choose the latter, consider the spinners below.

      Some of these introduce the idea that events are not always fairly distributed--an important mathematical concept.

      The type of material used to create the board may make a difference to you or to the child. Typing paper is certainly a good choice. If duplicated, games may be played by a child once in a classroom and then kept as a souvenir.

      Oak tag and cardboard are good surfaces for drawing upon and stand up well with repeated use. Plastic wallpaper and window shades make very durable boards.

      The playing piece used to mark a player's location is also very important to the young child. Children are fascinated by small adult items such as thimbles, small keys, coins, erasers, and cuff links and by toys such as model cars.

      Illustrate your boards with adult-drawn pictures, child-drawn pictures, stickers or pictures cut from magazines.

      Be creative: enjoy making and playing with YOUR game.

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