Ticket to Ride with little kids
I’m talking about a game, Ticket to Ride, not an actual outing.
We call it the train game because, you know, it is all about trains! And when your kids can’t read yet, whatever is on the cover becomes the name of the game.
Officially, this game is for ages 8+ (now they actually have a kids version, this is a modification of the original). When we got it was my job as game-mom to find a way to play with (2,4,6 year old) kids. It actually was VERY EASY to modify
In ticket to ride, the main action is collecting cards of different colors that you use to make routes between cities, some routes are ‘any color’ (gray) or a specific color as shown on the map. There are points earned for completing routes and more points for bigger routes. There are also specific route cards (tickets) you are dealt like “NewYork to Seattle” that give you MORE points if you complete. This is a fun game for adults but for kids it has some really great skills that can be learned;
- color matching
- counting – both for how many cards you need in a route, and, in scoring
- minor geography – unlike Pandemic, these cities are pretty much where they should be so learning where NY and Seattle and Dallas are in the US is a good thing to get a head start on.
- Strategy/map reading – you need to plan your route, in an era of GPS I need ways to teach this.
- general sportsmanship, the game has a score and you need to be ok with that. <- some adults need lessons here too
My Theory on game modification;
- I want the kids to be able to play the ‘real’ version when they are able so I can’t change too many rules
- I want to keep the spirit of the game
- I want them to be able to play independently so I made two levels of modifications
Modification for ages 4-7 (before good reading skills)
- Each child gets a different coin (or other marker) that gets placed on the cities they are building routes between. yes, this eliminates the secrecy of what your route might be, but, see my next modification…
- Play open hand, show all the cards and be kind about placing routes
- That’s it, play as normal, kids are pretty good at turn taking and card collecting.
*Sometimes if attention is waning we just say we are playing ‘first to 100’ so in that case we get the points for route completing right away, or, we put a time limit and score at the end of 20 minutes.
I’ve found that other than reading level, games have age minimums based on ability to pay attention for any length of time, not intelligence for the game dynamic.
Modification for under 4 (but old enough not to eat the pieces)
- throw out the concept of special routes and just collect cards and connect cities. Still gets the color matching, card collecting, and fine motor coordination.
2. give them all the extra trains and let them make patterns on the table. You would be amazed how well they like that. They can also be ‘in charge’ of putting out the next card, or, you can give them the discards to shuffle until you need them again.
I believe in family games and time together and with just a few modifications most games can suit most little pre-readers. Now that the kids are older they are wicked good at this game and you might think I coddled them with kind playing, some innate competition gene is expressed as they cut off off each other and see the value of getting a contested section of track asap just like any adult. Give it a try with your younger kids!