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Who says you have to play board games by the rules? Try these seven different ways to play Battleship.

7 Ways to Play the Game Battleship

My eight year old son has fallen in love with the game Battleship. We played it for math the other day, and have played it several times since. He’s been experimenting with strategy, and it’s so fun to watch!

A couple of the other kids want to play too, but they aren’t quite ready to understand the coordinate plane system. They struggled with getting the pegs in the right spot and figuring out where to put the red and white pegs.

So we started playing different ways. I’m discovering there’s way more to Battleship than first meets the eye.

You can use this game to work on fine motor skills, creativity, math, and more. Here’s eight different ways to play Battleship.

1. Making Letters

The pegs and grid in Battleship are awesome for practicing making letters. You can have your child:

  • Write his name
  • Make each letter individually, A-Z
  • Practice spelling words (if they’re short…)

Just hand your child one of the Battleship grids with several pegs. Then let them get busy making letters.

Here’s a name that one of my kids wrote–they decided to alternate red and white pegs to make each letter more distinct.

You can have your child make letters out of the Battleship pegs.

2. Pattern Play

There’s plenty of space on the Battleship grid to build a pattern. You can have young kids practice making a basic AB pattern (red, white, red, white) in rows. Older kids can create more complex patterns. Here are some ideas:

  • Alternate rows of red and white
  • Red, red, red, white, red, red, red, white
  • Diagonal patterns
  • Vertical patterns
  • White, white, red, red, white, white, red, red
  • Small letters repeating (hi hi hi hi hi)

You can have one child start a pattern and another continue it. Playing with patterns is great math practice!

3. Fine Motor Practice

For kids who need a little more practice with fine motor skills (but are old enough to not eat the pegs!), Battleship is the perfect peg board. You can either let your child put in pegs, or put them in and have your child take them out.

Since the pegs are small, it’ll really work those muscles!

Perhaps let your child try to beat the clock–put on a favorite song and see if she can pull all the pegs out before the end.

4. Ship Stories

My kids love playing with the ships and moving them around in the “water” of the board. Two of them will get together and sit for a long time arranging and telling stories about what each ship is doing.

They’ll use the pegs as people, and let them “steer” the ships around.

This is a great way to build creative writing skills!

5. Learning About the Different Ships

Perhaps it’s because my husband was in the Navy, but the kids are really interested in learning more about each ship. My husband explains what each ship is used for in the United States Navy, and then shares his own stories about his days on an aircraft carrier.

Even if you don’t have a sailor in your life, you can use the internet to discover more about each ships purpose. Let your child look up images of real life battleships, submarines, carriers, and all the other boats.

Talk about what’s on top of each ship. For instance, you can see the tower on the aircraft carrier, and the hatch on the submarine. You can discover what these are used for.

6. Coordinate Plane Practice

You can use Battleship to practice using the coordinate plane without actually playing a game. I’m doing this with my six-year-old to try and get her ready to play.

You’ll just need one board for this version. One person calls out a coordinate, and the other places a peg there.

Then switch.

You can add more directions as understanding increases:

“Place a red peg at B2, and a white one at J8.”

It’s a fun way to practice saying the letter first and then the number, and finding where the two intersect.

7. Counting Practice

Have your child put a peg in each hole on the bottom of the board. Then have them count how many pegs there are.

For beginning counters, they’ll just count each peg individually. Older ones can start to see strategies like:

  • Counting by tens
  • Multiplying

Do you have Battleship?

If you do, I encourage you to drag out your game and play one of these variations soon. They’re a lot of fun.

After all, getting more out of board games is a great way to ensure your collection doesn’t just sit and gather dust!

Do you play any other variations of this game? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Budget board games often rely on taking a large debt load to win. With a few simple modifications, these same games can be used to teach smarter money skills. Here's how to make it work.

How I Modify Budget Board Games to Teach Smarter Money Skills

Do you know what I don’t like about most budget board games? They almost all encourage racking up debt early on to have more cash later. As a family trying hard to get out of debt using Dave Ramsey principles, taking out loans isn’t a skill I want to pass onto my children.

So I change the rules a bit. I talk to the kids about dangers of debt while we play, and explain that we’re going to change the rules so they learn how to better manage their money. It’s an easy way to reinforce smart money skills.

Games I’ve Modified

Here are some of the games I’ve modified, to remove the debt part (yes, those are affiliate links–thanks for your support!):

Now these games might not all encourage going into debt, but the rules are designed so that players often need to take out bank loans to cover unexpected expenses.

5 Easy Ways to Modify Budget Board Games

To help teach smart money management to the kids, here are some specific ways I’ve changed the rules of game play. We mix and match depending on the game, but this will give you a general idea.

Encourage an Emergency Fund

You’ve got to have a small emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses! Otherwise, you’re going to run out of money and need a loan.

So when the banker passes out the initial money to start the game, I remind the kids to put some of their bills in an emergency fund. They decide how much to put in, and slide those bills into another pile.

As they’re buying properties or anything else, they don’t touch their emergency fund. It’s for when they run into unexpected expenses from a card or space on the board. If they have to spend money from this fund, I encourage them to put it back as soon as they can.

Analyzing Purchases and Deals

Not every deal is a great buy. If you go broke in the process, you have to ask yourself if it was really worth it.

So as each player has the opportunity to buy, I encourage them to look closely at their financial situation and make an educated decision. If you don’t know where you are financially, you probably shouldn’t be making big purchases!

Paying Back Debt ASAP

Sometimes a crisis arises, and you have to go into debt. When this happens, I talk to the kids about taking out as small a loan as possible, and aggressively paying it off.

It’s amazing how fast you can get out of debt in games if you put your energy into it.

After all, the goal of the games is to acquire actual money. If you have loans, that’s a big fat negative you have to subtract.

Encourage Giving

These games don’t have a giving component, which is something I want my kids to have. I want them to give generously, and help others out.

If I see that a player is going to have to go into debt, and I have enough to help, I pass them over some money as a gift. Not a loan that I expect to be paid back–I’d much rather they owe the bank than me…

No, I give the money as a gift, to help them out of a tight situation.

My kids are starting to do the same. And this attitude is coming out in real life as well. It’s been amazing to watch!

Play Longer

Some games, like Payday, can be extended in play. When you’re not taking out loans, you don’t get to take advantage of the deals often in the first month or two.

So we play a few months longer. Extending the game play lets the kids capitalize on their smart money decisions and end the game extremely wealthy. It takes time to see this strategy pay off, so if it’s possible we make it happen.

Money Management Is Essential

I’ve learned so many money management skills the hard way. I don’t want my kids to make my same mistakes.

So I take every opportunity I can to teach them a different way. One that doesn’t involve going into debt, but rather saving, working hard, and giving.

But, if they get used to going into debt in these budget board games, they might start thinking that loans are the fast way to money. That’s not an attitude I want to pass on. Thus, rule modification is important to me.

Budget board games often rely on taking a large debt load to win. With a few simple modifications, these same games can be used to teach smarter money skills. Here's how to make it work.

Have You Modified Rules to Teach Money Management?

I’d love to hear other ways you modify budget board games to make them more smart money management friendly. Please share your ideas in the comments!

Photo credit: Vitaly via Unsplash

Puzzles are more than just fun! Here are 10 benefits your kids will experience as they put the pieces together.

10 Benefits of Doing Puzzles for Kids

Do your kids enjoy puzzles? Mine do!

Much more than I do. I mean I’ll happily sit and do a 24 piece puzzle with one of my littles, but to sit and try and focus on 300, 500, or even bigger puzzles my older kids like is just not something I really enjoy.

Most of my kids though–they sit and puzzle for hours. My 6 year-old, 8 year-old, and 15 year-old enjoy working on them together. My husband eagerly joins them if he’s home. They all love the challenge.

Since we have a child with Pica, puzzles aren’t something that can just be done anywhere. So we have a piece of counter top that they can keep the puzzle on and move it around the house.

Sometimes they sit on a bed and work, other times the table. Then when they’re done working for that session, we set the whole board up high where no one can lose (or eat) a piece.

When my kids are working on a puzzle, they’re just having fun! But, they’re also working on 10 key skills. Let’s look at those now.

10 Benefits of Puzzles for Kids

1. Fine Motor Skills

From toddler puzzles with wooden handles to regular puzzles with tiny pieces, it takes dexterity to remove and add the pieces.

And, since there isn’t just a single piece, your children are getting repetition of the motion. That really offers development of fine motor skills.

2. Observation Skills

Do you know how many shades of red make up Mario’s outfit? Take a look at this picture. It’s one my 8-year-old son bought with his birthday money last year and still enjoys working:

Those subtle color differences are essential for actually getting the puzzle put together. You have to really look at the pieces and train your brain to pick out distinguishing features.

Observation skills are crucial throughout life.

3. Planning Skills

Just sitting down with 500 pieces can be overwhelming. That’s why my kids make a plan of attack when they’re putting together a puzzle.

Whether one person starts with the edges, or someone else tackles a prominent feature, they take a minute or two to plan. This planning stage is essential for being able to take what could be an overwhelming project and breaking it down into bite-sized chunks.

If you take little bites, it’s no longer as hard.

Puzzles offer a great way for kids to practice forming their own plans. They can use trial and error to determine what works best for them.

4. Spatial Sense


This is why I don’t enjoy puzzles.

I’m not a spatial person. It’s always been my lowest form of IQ.

Puzzles are all about building spatial awareness. You have to actually look at the pieces and try and see how the little parts fit together.

You have to notice the little gaps that scream, “You just shoved that piece in the wrong spot!” My kids are great at noticing that one when I help them put puzzles together.

“Mom! That piece doesn’t go there.”

Well, I thought it did. It sort of fit. You know, when I shoved it really hard! đŸ˜€

Actually, because of their ability to improve spatial sense, I should probably puzzle more…

5. No Screens Involved

My kids watch a fair amount of television. They’re on the computer. And iPad.

Screens are everywhere in today’s society!

So when I find an activity that they enjoy that doesn’t involve a screen, it’s always a good thing. I know that our brain responds differently to stimuli on and off the screen, so I like to encourage them to take a screen break and do something real.

Yes, there are puzzle packs you can buy for all the devices. I’ve bought a couple. The kids love them.

But, it’s not the same as actually putting together a real puzzle. So break out the boxes and get your kids unplugged for a while with the real deal.

6. Being Able to See How Little Things Fit Within the Big Picture

I’m sure there’s a fancy, academic word for this concept, but I don’t know what it is! Puzzles really help kids stand back and look at the big picture.

They have to know what the end goal is. My kids usually leave the box top, with the completed picture, out where they can see it.

Then, they pull a piece from the board and look carefully at the box. They’re trying to see where that little piece fits in the bigger picture.

They know that all the pieces go together, but they have to use this skill to get everything in the right spot.

7. Social Skills

When you work on a puzzle with someone else, you have to have at least a bit of communication. Whether it’s, “Hey, you do this part and I’ll do this one” or even just shooting the breeze while working, puzzling together builds social skills.

They’re also a good way to teach little ones not to run over and grab a piece of the puzzle and shove it down the table crack.

See–good social skills for every age! đŸ˜€

8. Organization

Keeping track of all those pieces can be difficult without any form of organization. Your kids will have to make some simple organizational decisions, such as:

  • To dump the pieces or not to dump?
  • Sorting by color
  • Should I sort edge pieces?
  • To turn everything the right way first

There’s not just a single way to do a puzzle. But no matter how they tackle it, your child will be subconsciously organizing while they play.

And no, those organizational skills may not magically transfer themselves to your child’s clothing drawers and closet (how sad!), but they are building an essential framework. So I have hope that someday their closets and drawers will be in better shape!

9. Working on a Task Over Multiple Work Sessions

Unless you’re dedicating hours to the task, many of these larger puzzles aren’t going to be completed in a single session.

That means your kids are learning how to stop working and come back to it again later.

Being able to walk away and then jump back in later is an important skill. Can you see the real life benefit of this one?

But, some kids don’t handle it as well, and might need a bit of your guidance. You might start with working on a hard area of the puzzle for a bit and then taking a break to an easier section.

That’ll be a good practice opportunity to change focus.

10. Trial and Error

Once you’ve figured out how to organize the puzzle pieces, and are actively working on the puzzle, your child will have to compare pieces.

They might have three or four that they’ve determined through observation and spatial awareness will fit. So now it’s time for some trial and error. Your child might pick the wrong piece at first.

And that’s okay! They’re learning to keep trying. To keep solving the problem.

Trial and error is a math skill I was taught back in pre-algebra. It works on puzzling too!

What Other Skills Have Your Kids Practiced with Puzzles?

I know kids practice more than 10 skills doing puzzles. These ten are mostly soft skills, which are important in the world of STEM education.

Which other ones can you add to the list?




These childhood boardgames are a blast from the past! See what 5 games from my childhood I love playing today with my kids.

5 Games from My Childhood I Love Playing with My Kids

My love of games started early! During family get togethers we’d bring out the board games and have lots of fun.

If games were allowed during free time at school, I always tried to join in. They’re just fun!

So as my little kids get older and start understanding strategy better, it’s been a blast introducing them to some of my childhood favorites. Here are five that I still love! And yes, the links are affiliate links! You’ve been notified! đŸ˜€


I’ll always remember playing this game at my aunt and uncle’s after eating Thanksgiving dinner, or Easter dinner, or a just because dinner. It was our go-to game.

Though game time with my extended family have slowed, I’ll always treasure those memories. Of course, many of the best games involved cheating or catching cheaters. So many good times!

The goal of Pictionary is simple. Draw a picture of the word you draw and have your partner guess what you drew before the time runs out.

To keep it simple, I let my early readers pick any word on the card that they can read. If they can’t read any, they can switch cards.

Soon we’ll be able to play by all the rules, but until then it’s a fun way to introduce it!


Stratego was one of the most popular games during my middle school years. I spent many hours with friends during lunch trying to capture the flag.

My oldest and I have been playing this one for years. But we recently introduced it to two of the younger kids. It’s fun to have tournaments–one person plays the winner from the first game, and then the final person plays the winner of the second.

The toddlers sit on the table and play with the pieces that have been captured.

To win the game, you have to use your pieces strategically to avoid mines, and find where your opponent hid their flag piece. I’m not very good–I usually end up with no moveable pieces left.

But, I still enjoy playing. You don’t have to win to have fun playing games!


Another middle school classic, I added this game to our collection this Christmas. I hadn’t played in years, but it all came back to me!

I found the “classic” version of Mastermind at Target, and it even looked just like I remembered.

This game is pure logic. One player sets up a secret code of four colored pegs on one end of the board. The other player tries to match the code.

The guesser sets up a code and the CodeMaster uses black and white pegs to show success. A black peg means there is a peg that’s the right color, in the right position. A white peg means there’s a peg that’s the right color but in the wrong spot.

You aren’t told which colors are which, so you have to use some of your turns to gather that information.

Well, when I explain it like that, this game sounds boring, but it’s not! Here’s my eight year old getting set up for his turn as CodeMaster.


This game is perhaps my ultimate favorite from childhood. I wasn’t able to play too often because my family didn’t love it as much as I did, but that just made it even more special when I did get to play!
Trying to keep track of who, where, and what provided great critical thinking practice. Of course, I didn’t think of that back then, I just enjoyed solving a mystery. Just like I enjoyed reading Encyclopedia Brown books!

I don’t like Clue Jr. very much, so I’m excited my kids can now play Clue with me!


Another one we used to play with the extended family, this is one of the few board games my mom actually liked playing.

The reader of each round draws a word. These words aren’t your normal board game words. I think the creators just randomly opened dictionary pages and selected the most obscure words they could think of!

Crazy words are in Balderdash!

Once the word is read, everyone else has to write a definition of what the word could mean. While they’re working on that, the reader writes the real definition.

After everyone has submitted their definition, the reader reads everything aloud. Players take turns guessing what the real definition is. You get points for other people guessing your definition.

This is a good game to introduce once some basic dictionary skills are understood. That way dictionary definitions are a little more natural.

What were your favorite games from childhood?

I’d love you to share in the comments.

Photo credit: Maarten van den Heuvel via Unsplash


Telestrations is a fun family game! Here are some easy adaptations to allow early readers and writers to play too.

Adapting Telestrations for Early Readers & Writers

I recently picked up the game Telestrations at Goodwill. Thankfully, all the pieces were there, and it was ready to play.

For this game, you start with a word and draw it in your sketch book. Then the next person looks at what you drew, and writes down what they think you drew. You continue taking turns guessing and drawing, passing the sketch book to the left each time.

Here’s what it looks like (affiliate link…):

It’s a fun game, but does require a bit of adaptation to play with younger children. Here’s how I make it work for my family.

The Youngest Is Teamed Up

When my four-year-old wants to play, she and I team up. I tackle the reading and writing, and let her do the drawing. That’s her favorite part.

I also pass the two toddlers each a dry erase marker and a sketch book. That keeps them entertained while the rest of us play!

Pick Any Word on the Card

The original rules in Telestrations call for rolling the die to see which number word on the card you draw. This causes a problem when you’re playing with early readers. They might not be able to read that particular word.

Here's how we adapt the rules of Telestrations to make it accessible to early readers and writers. So we allow each player to pick any word, from either side of his or her card. If a young reader can’t read any of the words, we let them draw again.

Everyone loves being able to pick the word. My teenager likes it, because she can pick something she actually would like to draw. The early readers like it because they get to be in control of deciding which word they can read. It’s a win win!

Use Invented Spelling

When my younger players write down what they think someone else wrote, they aren’t allowed to ask anyone how to spell a word. They have to say the word, and just do the best they can.

This keeps the game going more smoothly, and makes them practice listening to each letter. It’s a fun way to practice!

You Can Ask for Reading Help

Because of the invented spelling, we’ve had a few instances where we just can’t figure out what was written. There are also cases when an older player wrote something as a guess that an early reader can’t read.

So when we play, you can ask the person sitting next to you to help you read. You just have to ask politely and not shout.

We Don’t Keep Score

There are directions for scoring in Telestrations, but we don’t worry about keeping score. Right now, we’re playing for fun. We typically play two or three rounds and call it good. It’s fun for everyone, even without a “winner!”

We All Share

Once we reach the end of a round, everyone takes turns sharing the pages in their sketchbooks. This lets everyone practice their speaking skills, and we all get a good laugh out of the way the word changed through words and pictures.

Have You Played Telestrations?

I love board games, and I was happy to add this one to our collection. It’s one we’ll get a lot of use out of. Have you ever played this one? I’d love to hear your family rules and adaptations in the comments.