Jessica's Picks: Mermaid Island, a cooperative board game

Fri, 05/25/2012 - 2:09pm -- Jessica Baudin-...

Playing board games with young can be challenging. Many children have difficulty waiting for their turn, may have trouble playing games independently if the rules are too complex, and naturally want to win. Losing can lead pouting, crying, or anger. This is amplified when playing with a sibling or peer who may not be a "gracious" winner. I have often found Bria and Malia in a full on catfight due to a "disagreement" over a board game. 

But board games have so many benefits for children! Alvin Rosenfeld explains in his article, The Benefits of Board Games,:

"Games don't need to be overtly academic to be educational. Just by virtue of playing them, board games can teach important social skills, such as communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying interaction with others. Board games can foster the ability to focus, and lengthen your child's attention span by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game."

Keeping these benefits in mind, finding a great board game that children and adults can enjoy together is worthwhile endeavor. Luckily for us, Bria received the cooperative board game Mermaid Island for her birthday. How is a cooperative game different from most of the other children's board games on the market? 

While playing Mermaid Island, all players are working together towards the common goal of helping all the mermaids swim to Mermaid Island before the Sea Witch. While every player gets their own turn each round, in order to win, players must make strategic decisions that benefit the overall game play. This keeps the focus on playing together rather than competing and having fun! This creates a non-stressful play environment free of fighting and tears. 

I have sat down and played Mermaid Island with Bria and Malia many times over the last few weeks. One of the great thing about this game is your game play will be different every time (which is a blessing for parents, like myself, who quickly tire of the monotony of games like Hungry Hippos).  Because we are not competing against each other, the girls and I have many conversations for each players turn about what the best move might be.

It has been wonderful to see Bria pointing out potential pros and cons to each move, not just for a single turn but predicting potential outcomes a few moves away. Even Malia has surprised me with her ability to weigh the consequences of each move, although at age 3 she is still much more conservative with her approach, whereas Bria is willing to take bigger risks in her game play. 

That's another thing I appreciate about this cooperative game. Because we all win or lose together, the emphasis on the outcome of the game is a lot less important than enjoying the game play, therefore, you feel more willing to take risks. The girls have become much more creative in their approach to problem solving as they play and it warms my heart to see them working together as a team. I have also noticed the language and tone of voice they use with each other is much more positive while playing this game than other games that have a definite winner and loser. As I continue to try and instill them with the value of kindness, this game fits well into my overall parenting goals

If you are looking for a board game for your children I'd definitely recommend picking up Mermaid Island! If your child is not into mermaids, take a look at the other cooperative games put out by Peaceable Kingdom.