Getting Schooled By Your Toddler in Board Games

Why do kids love Monopoly so much? Our blogger goes one-on-one with her toddler — and finds she’s no match for her pint-sized game player



Coraline loves games. We adopted our neighbor’s Candyland well before she was three, and I thought it would be a year or two before she could play. But she took right to it, playing by the rules and everything (of course, no game is without a tantrum or six... I mean, she is only three). When she broke her foot I got her a five dollar Go Fish game at the grocery store; she slept with it that night and for days insisted that everyone who set foot in the house play with her. People caught on to this trend and for Christmas she was supplied with a handsome selection of memory games and matching games and counting games. So I don’t know why I was so surprised that when she caught a glimpse of Monopoly in the downstairs closet, she insisted we play. I explained it was a grown-up game. She still wanted to play. I called the neighbor and asked if she wanted to play with us; she said she’d play anything but Monopoly. I passed the message to Coraline. Nope, had to be Monopoly. My child is nothing if not persistent.

I figured she’d probably be bored to tears and over it by the time I got it all set up, but no such luck. So we started... and she did awesome! As we were playing I started formulating this very blog in my head, anticipating us negotiating the trade of properties, and how her innocent three-year-old self would be so willing to make a deal — since hers is a world of sharing — and it would be this amazing example of how kids are by nature empathetic and cooperative and it’s society that makes us self-serving and greedy, yadda yadda yadda. But of course, we never got that far. As soon as she started to run out of money and was told she couldn’t buy Park Avenue, her three-year-old self threw a three-year-old tantrum and decided the game was over.

I’ve shared this story with a handful of people, and most of them have reported that their toddler also loves Monopoly. Which I don’t get. Most adults hate Monopoly. There are so many rules. Don’t toddlers hate rules? That’s the thing that surprises me most about Coraline’s love of games: she is a child who needs to do things in her own way, there’s no rule that can’t be rewritten in her mind. So why she is attracted to a super-structured game like Monopoly is puzzling to me. Maybe it’s just all the pieces. I know she loves tchotkes. So I did a little research to see if I can find why kids love the game so much, and instead found a great blog (ChildMind.org) that offers simplified rules to make grown-up games like Monopoly fun and easy for little kids. Changing the rules never even occurred to me. Which leads me to believe it may not have been her three-year-old self that interfered with the game as much as my rigid thirty-year-old self. #gettingschooledbyyourtoddleragain

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About This Blog

Shannon Gallagher

Shannon Gallagher
Rhinebeck, NY


Dutchess County native Shannon Gallagher is a contributing editor for Hudson Valley Magazine. An erstwhile thrill-seeker, these days she courts disaster of a different variety wrangling a spirited toddler, honing her vegan baking skills, and chasing the ever-elusive work-family balance. She teaches Pilates and does fascial bodywork, and lives in Rhinebeck with Coraline, a cat named Otie, and Sushi the Fish (named, of course, by the toddler).

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