Do You "Let Your Kids Win" When Playing Board Games ?

Updated on February 18, 2013
P.S. asks from Nashua, NH
36 answers

What do you think is the right strategy when playing games with kids, let them win, or not, or a mix of both ? Our son is 3 and I probably let him win fairly often, while my wife does not specifically try to let him win.

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So What Happened?

My wife has the amazing ability of keeping him interested in the game until the end. She just uses a constant frenetic energy; who goes next?, is it my turn?, is it your turn?, which piece is this?, where does that go ? He'll take that as a chance to try to play along with Mommy's rules, and he gets so excited that he's too wound up to care who wins or looses.

Me, I don't have that energy or patience so I let him make up his own rules as he goes along. Which usually results in him combining the rules for several games and toys into an entirely new mutant game. The most common result is that the Candyland game pieces take over the Lego castle or the Chutes and Ladders cards get piled on top of our cat.

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answers from Lansing on

I remember when we were younger my siblings and I would get so mad when we would lose against my dad. But he always said "When you beat me, you beat me" And when we did beat him, it felt soooo good.

I don't usually let my kids win. Only because I want to teach them how to be good sports about losing. Because we all have to lose at some point.

However, my dad, is the complete opposite with my kids. He lets them win/cheat every time. I guess that's what grandparents are for. :)

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

omg, no.
i just don't get that.
when my kids win, they have the unfiltered joy of knowing they actually won!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Nope. Most board games (like "Sorry", Chutes and Ladders, Candyland) include a certain level of chance. If we all follow the rules, SOMEONE will win. It might be them, it might be me. Part of the fun is not knowing WHO will roll the good numbers or draw the good card.

Winning anything should always be done when the rules are followed. And when they lose, that's an opportunity to help them learn to be resilient. Lessons on both sides.

C. Lee

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from Columbus on

No way. Fair is fair and he needs to learn that. I even do a little dance when he loses, just so he understands what gloating is.

(just kidding. I test the waters -- if he is in a mood where he can handle a little loss or being behind, I let him, but I also try to make sure he gets victories when he needs them. As he gets older and he can win fair and square, I do it less.)

By the way, I find it funny that people won't let their kids win because they want to teach them something. How about modeling how to lose gracefully? I don't mind letting my child win, feel good about that win, and see me accept "defeat" with grace and pride and good sportsmanship. Most adults can beat a child in just about any game -- why would anyone be so harsh as to do so every time they play? There are lessons to be learned in an easy win, too.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I always let all my kids win when they were little, like 2-4ys/o...and it was fine with my boys but when my youngest rolled around and I let her win she eventually turned into a monster "I'm winning, I'm're the loser, you're the loser" naturally I had to stop letting her win and crush her instead and bring her back down to earth! Nobody likes a poor sport or a poor winner/loser!

I think a mix of both is the right way to do it. They have to be taught how to win and how to lose.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Wichita Falls on

No, I play games that they are capable of winning (or losing) without my help. Learning to lose and to keep trying is an important part of growing up. So is learning to win well (no bragging or rubbing in the face of the loser).

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

No. I am way too competitive for that nonsense. ;)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

No. Sorry. I didn't "let" my kids win. It doesn't teach them anything to "always" win. They have to learn strategy, sportsmanship and dealing with "loss".

At 3 we played games like Crocodile Dentist, Jenga (yeah, it's a tad "older" than 3 - but it helps with their hand-eye coordination as well as cause-effect), cards, memory games..etc....we love TROUBLE and Chutes and Ladders.

Don't let him win. It's your job as a parent to guide him. How hurt do you think he's going to be when he finally learns you have been "throwing" the games in order to "let" him win?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Depends on the game. A game of chance, like Chutes & Ladders, or Candy Land? I don't let them win, since they have to realize that life is all about chances, and it isn't always going to go their way.

A game where I have an advantage, like in Memory? I will sometimes purposely choose the wrong tiles, since my brain is capable of doing more than theirs'. But, I only do this if one of them is starting to get really discouraged, so I might choose the wrong ones to show them that Mommy gets it wrong too, sometimes. I usually make it so that the ones I choose end up showing them a tile they'd been looking for, so they can get a pair and regain their confidence.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

When it is a new game, I help them out with strategy and good moves so that they can learn how to play. After they know how to play, it is every man for themselves and I play to win.

Kids should also learn the difference in games of pure chance (like Candyland) vs strategy. Explain it in terms your 3 year old can grasp, rather than cheating to lose.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I have 4 year old twins. We play some cooperative games so we can try to win as a team. In some of our other games, we just keep playing until everyone finishes. So in Candyland, whoever gets to the end may "win", but the rest of the players keep drawing cards and taking turns until they get to the end. Although, if it starts to take a long time, I may rig the deck by conveniently not shuffling back in the cards that might cause them to go backwards.

In general, I try to relax it back a bit and make it less competitive so there is a chance they can win on their own. But I think it's good for them to learn that they don't always win....with two, they can't always both win anyway.

We have a kiddie foosball table and one is more skilled than the other to the point where the more skilled one isn't always a good sport when he is winning or how he is playing. So sometimes I feel the need to try harder to win to give him a learning experience about losing and how his brother feels and such.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think a mix is nice. Letting them win all the time isn't good.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I don't need to let them win. I am terrible at games and they are good at games, so they win on their own! If I happen to win, then lucky me!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I did about half & half. I made sure they got to win sometimes, but it's important that they learn to be good sports when they lose as well.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

Not really win but I've helped by playing poorly at a game of strategy, it just seemed right to dumb down occasionally when they were small.

My husband and I are guilty of stacking the deck in Candyland a few times so my oldest (when she was three) would draw "Queen Frostine". She PLAYED to draw that card and the look of joy on her face was worth a little deception.

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answers from Milwaukee on

Under 5 I will most of the time, after 5 they can learn to deal LOL.

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answers from Topeka on

No the game needs to be played by the rules how else will they learn to lose or win & how to deal with it

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

At three, we started off with cooperative board games, which means we won or lost collectively. I can't tell you how glad I am to start with 'low emotional risk' activity.:)

Now Kiddo's five and still, we let him choose what he wants to play. Sometimes, it is the cooperative games, and sometimes not. I would say that on days which are feeling 'hard' for him, he usually self-governs and chooses the cooperative game. (This is very appropriate for five; one of the developmental traits of this age is not dealing well with competition, esp. losing, so I do keep this in mind.) Some days, I might not play as strategically as I usually do; sometimes its unavoidable (bingo and other games of chance) that I win. My husband does let our son win-- but usually it's a lightsaber 'duel' and not a game. I also modify some competitive games which are more difficult and make them cooperative so he can learn some of the strategies/thinking about a game before we make it competitive.

If you are looking for some great cooperative games which employ strategy and are more than just counting spaces, check out the Family Pastimes website. I've used these games with my son and preschoolers-- they are rather beloved, esp. Max and Granny's House.

For what it's worth, I am not against winning while playing with my son, however, I'm not in a hurry for him to learn competition, which is why the noncompetitive games are available. He's going to have plenty of it in life, has experienced it... I want to respect that learning losing/winning behaviors IS hard for kids this age, and respect his own personal development in this. As he chooses more competitive games, I know he's feeling more ready to deal with the emotions that come with losing.:)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tallahassee on

Generally speaking, no. My daughter is 6 and I'm trying to teach her to be a good sport. If I win a couple of times and she still hasn't won on her own, then I may let her win. I do this so she doesn't get discouraged and give up and also so I can model good behavior for her when I lose.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from El Paso on

I do a mix. I want her to have the success of winning, but I also want her to learn to lose graciously. We seem to be doing pretty well so far! :) (She's 4, we started playing the board games at around 3)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boise on

A little of both. Most of the time it would be played and who ever won: won. Sometimes I would let them win, why not? It's not hurting anyone, they are none the wiser and loosing all the time can get old. By about 5-6 that tends to stop, they are able to play most games better, and I see no reason to let them win.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I think it depends on the kid.
How does your son react when he loses?
Kids that throw a fit when they lose need to learn that no O. wins EVERY time.

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answers from Dallas on

At that age it's not such a big deal but then as months went along I never chose to lose a game. By the time he was 5 and they brought games to kindergarten on a special day, they had mastered fairness and taking turns and not gloating or turning over the game board because they lost. Many kids who had not had lots of experience with this were really upset. We also instituted the rule that if you won, you put the game up. It kind of blunts the gloating and is a salve for losing.
I have one super smart guy. By the time he was 8, I was fighting for my life to win in monopoly. It was about 50/50.

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answers from Kansas City on

i do a mixture of both, too. there are times that i lean one way or another, depending on where he's at (does he need a lesson in good sportsmanship, acting like a little booger lately? or have i been beating his tail in game after game and he needs a little pick-me-up?). when he was super little and we started playing those kinds of games, i would let him win, then pretty quickly he got to the point where if he didn't win- meltdown. that was the end of that.

i think what some of these "OMG NO!" moms need to realize is - we as parents aren't stupid - it is very very rare that any parent would let their kid win ALL the time - it becomes obvious very quickly that that strategy just spoils your child for losing, which he/she must eventually. and no, they don't feel betrayed or lose faith in you when they learn the "big secret" that you've been helping them win- you just don't let them win ALL the time until they are adults. it's just a gentle strategy to ease them into the world of win/lose and help them do it graciously. that's what it's all about. none of our kids are doomed to be selfish brats because we occasionally let them win. just my two cents.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Half and half. My son is 5 and a poor loser, even against WII so we are trying to teach him he can't win all the time. And how to handle himself when he does lose.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

At your son's age-yeah, I did. Not all the time but I did make sure they got to win. By about 5 I stopped this. Don't worry-my kids are older now and have in no way been damaged by this strategy. If anything they are much more gracious winners AND losers than most kids their ages. You never see a pout or a victory dance out of either one of them.

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answers from Atlanta on

I generally don't let them win. Most of the little kids games are luck, pick of a card, roll of a die, etc. and there's not really and advantage. On games that require a little more strategy, if they're about to make a questionable move I will say "Is there a better move to make?"

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answers from La Crosse on

Its about 50/50 one on one until they were about 8ish. Then it was fair game.

When its more than one kid playing with me I will try to let one of the kids win.. with out completely going out of my to loose.

Now if its the Wii against any of my kids, I will try my hardest to win because they are on it more than I am so they are better than I am. But sometimes they do go easy on me to let me win sometimes also. lol

So it evens itself out ;)


answers from Dallas on

We pretty much play fair and square all the time now that my twin boys are 7 1/2. Still have a little bit of sore loser mentality but with maturity hopefully that will pass. I will admit that one time I did help one of my boys beat the other. We had been playing Candy Land and it seemed like one of the boys had literally won the last five games. So on one game, the constant winner was nearly at the top ready to claim victory again. Without the boys noticing I did a little card arranging and on that kid's next turn he picked one of the picture cards that sent him all the way back to the bottom. It did give my second twin a chance to win :-) Sometimes, you just gotta do those kind of things!


answers from Santa Fe on

I do a mix bc some of the games are so easy I could easily win every time. So, I mix it up...50/50. If it is a game of chance I just play and we see how wins fair and square. This is with my 3 year old. With my 8 year old we always play fair and square and I don't try to win.


answers from Kalamazoo on

At that age I did a mix - tried to keep it about half and half.



answers from Louisville on

My mom used to let us win. We didn't catch on at the time, but we put it together later in life that she had gone rather easy on us. My father, on the other hand, takes no survivors when playing games. He doesn't "let" anyone win unless they simply outplay him. We used to play a word game called Boggle with him when my sister and I were respectively 10 and 8, and my father has a massive vocabulary. Even playing with us at that age, he didn't hold back. Incidentally, we picked up the word game vocabulary quickly, and it helped us develop good word game skills that we've only added to as we've gotten older.

I've adopted his technique when it comes to thinking games with my own children (strategy or educational games) because I think by showing them your best, you are giving them something to model (plus, those games are just more fun when everyone is really trying to compete). On games where there's mostly luck involved (Candyland, etc.) I admit, I've thrown the game in their favor at times because it isn't based on anything but luck. I further admit that when I am annoyed with their attitude while playing, I will not make any effort whatsoever into helping them win because, well, part of me takes perverse pleasure in silently sticking it to them (I don't rub it in) when they are being bad sports.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I do not play to win when I am playing with my child, but if I happen to than I try to teach the lesson 'you don't always win, but did you enjoy playing the game?'

I also encourage and help them to strategize their moves in games where strategy applies. I was always amazed how well my youngest will use strategy while my older one could careless. I guess it is her personality because she is not into games like my youngest is.



answers from Boston on

Love board games...when they were little we just had fun . Then little by little I bought the rules in. I let them win a lot. I did show them I could win too! My husband however NEVER let them win. He played like his life depended on it. I mean really how much fun can it be to beat a toddler or a little kid.



answers from Washington DC on

If it is a new game, I let them win the first game or two. Then I let the game fall where it will. If it is a game we have played before, I play the game and how it ends it ends.



answers from New York on

when they were little, 3 and 4 years old i let them win. afterwards we played fair. took forever for them to be ok with me winning and not cry afterwards. must say i enjoy it much better when it's fair game :)

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