Game recommendations for a Monopoly-obsessed 5 year-old
February 2, 2011 8:21 PM   Subscribe

What games, puzzles, and activities would you recommend for my almost 5 year-old son who is currently obsessed with Monopoly (real life version) and Plants vs Zombies (iOS)?

He learned to play Monopoly about six weeks ago. Since then he's probably logged 100 hundred hours playing with his parents, baby sitters, and even his stuffed animals. (Yes, he gets up in the morning before his parents are awake and plays Monopoly against his stuffed animals.)

He has all the prices of everything memorized. It's been great for his math skills (450 x 3? No problem.). He understands the strategy and the relative values of different property sets, etc, etc, etc.

Plants vs Zombies is a little different. He only gets to play that about 30 to 60 minutes a week. But he loves it and talks about it way too much, often to people who have no idea what he's talking about. As with Monopoly, he is very focused on the details --- comparing the details of one Zombie to another, trying to remember whether a certain plant appears in a certain level, etc.

Prior to these two games he went through a long obsession with mazes: doing them, even doing his best to create them himself, and talking about them a lot.

We'd like to encourage him in developing the strengths he's showing in understanding these games, and also help him diversify his interests (not to mention his topics of conversation). Cooperative games, games he can play with other people, and games/activities he can engage in by himself are all welcome.

Any suggestions?

I should add that we do lots of other activities with him: lots of reading (about to start on the third book in the Doctor Dolittle series), etc. But these games have captured his imagination in a way that other activities haven't.
posted by alms to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
See how far he gets with Machinarium. Our five and a half year old loves it, though I still need to work most of the puzzles for her.
posted by flabdablet at 8:29 PM on February 2, 2011

you're 5yo does big-number multiplication? wtf. time for chess or go
posted by H. Roark at 8:36 PM on February 2, 2011

(Yes, he gets up in the morning before his parents are awake and plays Monopoly against his stuffed animals.)

First, your son is awesome.

Secondly, Settlers of Catan is good fit for him. It presents both a spatial (like mazes) and resource (like Monopoly) challenges, and if he's into trading in Monopoly, its relevance is even more obvious in Settlers. It may also teach him about probability.

Carcassonne (the board game on iOS) is another good bet. In that game, you try to shape terrain to your advantage, and the game does not have two many rules. It's fun to play against people, but the computer players in the iOS version are not bad at all.

Going old school, Tetris is probably a game he'll enjoy playing by himself.

Even older school, he might like Go. It can be a really deep game, but it has few rules, and it's not necessary to know every implication of every move in order to enjoy it.

I think he might also enjoy Scrabble, which will help him identify words, but I think the game is more about positioning and math than it is about knowing words.

Apples to Apples Junior might help him read and learn the meanings of words, and perhaps see social dynamics in action.
posted by ignignokt at 8:37 PM on February 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's aimed at people older than your son, but if he's that good with math and strategy, maybe try Settlers of Catan? It involves trading, mapping, building, and so on.
posted by torticat at 8:39 PM on February 2, 2011

The same girl who likes Machinarium also quite enjoys chess. I spot her a queen. She's beaten me once already.
posted by flabdablet at 8:51 PM on February 2, 2011

I'd suggest Ticket to Ride. Also, check out Games With Hayden. He is a little older but you should find something. He seems to really enjoy Small World.
posted by backwards guitar at 8:56 PM on February 2, 2011

Do you think he would enjoy any of the games on the Lego site? My son likes Junkbot. (You build little structures that help a friendly trash-eating robot pass safely through factories). Also, for the spatial reasoning required by mazes combined with appealing bright playing pieces, Blokus.
posted by Francolin at 9:12 PM on February 2, 2011

For a quicker Monopoly you can try Monopoly Deal which embraces the strategy aspects of Monopoly but is a) faster paced and b) more energetic than Monopoly. In the same vein, Scrabble Slam is a ton of fun as well - making and modifying four-letter words as fast as possible!

My friends (early- to mid-twenties) love these games, Monopoly, Catan (with expansion packs), Risk (might be a bit much for a kid!), and Boggle. And my personal favourite is crib: my mom and I played when I was a kid and although the math might be a bit easy for your son (adding to 15/31, making runs, etc) it was a great one-on-one activity and fun to play. Also, if he liked mazes you son might like puzzles! Big ones with cool pictures and the right number of pieces might be great.
posted by hepta at 9:12 PM on February 2, 2011

A couple of other iOS games he might enjoy:

- Trainyard. A track-laying puzzle game that might appeal to a child who likes building mazes. Gets very hard towards the end but there should be lots of fun for your son before that point, or you could work on the hard puzzles together.

- Helsing's Fire. If the default 'normal' setting is too hard, there's also an 'easy' setting.

- Mystery Mania. A cute adventure/puzzle game aimed at kids. Fairly short though.

- Pocket Frogs. Since your son seems very detail-orientated, perhaps he'd like an app where you breed and collect frogs? They don't die or get hungry, so there's no problem playing once a week.

- Poker Quest. There's some light gambling with fake coins (which you may consider unsuitable) but it's basically dice poker with an Ancient Egyptian theme. Good for learning odds and probability. Do you keep the two kings or try to roll for a straight?
posted by Georgina at 9:47 PM on February 2, 2011

Yeah, totally Carcassonne. I have 6 and 10 y/o relatives who can just about grasp the rules after watching me play so it sounds like your 5 y/o would get it. It has pretty simple rules but a lot deeper strategy than Monopoly or PvZ so should a) give him a lot of entertainment, and b) even provide you with an entertaining game to play against him (or just amongst yourselves, it really is a good game). Plenty of maths in there too if you're doing the scoring manually, and there's elements of planning ahead, memory (remembering what tiles are left), and strategising about which place to go would give you the most points overall.

The iPhone version (maybe available on the Mac AppStore now?) is good to start off with since it stops you from placing tiles in the wrong places and does the scoring for you, but once he has the hang of it, the physical game is not too pricey (about £15 in the UK) so he can play with his stuff animals. Plus there are a TON of addition expansions (which each introduce new tiles and a couple of extra rules) you can get him for birthdays, etc.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:32 AM on February 3, 2011

Blokus would, I think, be perfect. He can play it alone, play it with one or two or three other people, and it's easy to learn but full of complexities.

I also think Ticket to Ride would be fun for him, as noted above.

Both these games are good for kids and adults, and for them to play together.

Also, don't underestimate straight up card games - I'm sure I learned Euchre at that age, and Pinochle not much later.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:13 AM on February 3, 2011

posted by ghharr at 6:19 AM on February 3, 2011

Seconding the votes for Go, Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne.

You've got iOS now, but if you ever consider buying a video game console, your kid would LOVE LOVE LOVE the Lego games (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter). They are all cooperative puzzle-solving games that adults love just as much as kids. Really, really great.

Also, since your kid is so advanced with the math, might be time to get him the Scrabble app for the iPad and see if you can foster a similar geniusness with words.
posted by jbickers at 8:18 AM on February 3, 2011

He might enjoy Khet, a strategy game that is essentially chess... with lasers!
posted by goo at 8:21 AM on February 3, 2011

posted by mkultra at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2011

Harry Potter Lego is available for iOS, and it is indeed awesome, but I gather you're trying to limit the amount of screen time if he can only play plants v. zombies for 60 minutes a week. If you're willing to consider other iOS games, angry birds and world of goo are also recommended.

Also, there's one called strategery that is kind of addictive.

And what about the old classic, mastermind - it requires another person, obviously, but might be fun.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:44 AM on February 3, 2011

The behaviors you are describing are traits that engineers/scientists have. You might think outside the realm of games and look for books/movies/magazines that have detailed drawings of the inner workings of things or classifications of groups of things. There was a question not too long ago about a boy looking for end of world scenarios, and a lot of the answers had David MacAulay books and other engineering type stuff - not all of it was end of the world related.
posted by CathyG at 9:01 AM on February 3, 2011

Yay, Bananagrams!!!! My daughter got it for Christmas and we have played multiple games every day since.

Everyone gets their own set of Scrabble-like letter tiles and starts putting them together to make intersecting words, rearranging tiles whenever you like; the game ends when all the extra tiles are drawn and used. Since each player is doing it themself, people with unequal vocabularies can compete. (My 11-y.o. daughter called herself The Queen Of The Three-Letter Word a few nights ago.) I have also played a kind of solitaire, drawing out one or two tiles at a time and just making words.

It's awesome, and will help your (also awesome) son's recall and vocabulary.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2011

I don't know if you're willing to get a Nintendo DS, but the Professor Layton series of games sounds like they're what you're looking for.
posted by parilous at 1:31 PM on February 3, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you, these all sound like great suggestions. Games with Hayden also looks like a great fun resource for learning about more games.
posted by alms at 8:47 PM on February 3, 2011

Boring in theory, fairly entertaining in practice, he might like Acquire, which was re-issued recently. It has a lot of the numbery-tradey aspects of Monopoly. I would think it beyond the capabilities or interest of most 5 year olds, but yours seems smart enough and into this sort of thing enough that it might be a good fit.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:53 AM on February 5, 2011

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