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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

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! 😀


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.



Are you looking for board games for preschoolers that won't drive you bonkers? Here are seven that you'll actually enjoy pulling off the shelf.

7 Board Games for Preschoolers You’ll Actually Enjoy

I’ve written about board games before. I LOVE games!

Playing games as a family allows you to spend fun time together. You get to practice important
Communication, collaboration, and critical thinking are examples of soft skills. Those skills will be used in the future, no matter what field your child goes into. They are important life skills.

Board games naturally help children practice these soft skills. Your child learns to wait patiently for her next turn. She gets to talk about the game, listen to the rules, and practice communication skills. House rules (if you have them) teach your child to think outside the box and use creativity.

Are you starting to understand why I love integrating games into our learning so much?

I used to think I’d have to wait until my kids were older to actually enjoy playing games with them. But, I’m learning that there are plenty of games that everyone can play. This post is dedicated to games for preschoolers.

But, you’ll notice a few classic preschool games missing. You won’t find Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, or Hi-Ho Cherry-O on this list. I tend to find those games too boring. They might engage a three year old for a while, but if mommy gets bored playing it won’t get off the shelf very often.

Here are some of our favorites for the three to five year old crew that won’t bore older siblings or parents as quickly. By the way–yes, those are affiliate links! Thanks for your support.

#1. Richard Scarry Airport Game

This game will keep your little one moving during play! It’s perfect for active little preschoolers. You set up the game by spreading four destination mats around your room. If you want to encourage more movement, you could even spread them out across the whole house.

To play, one player rolls the dice and sees how many passengers and stops are needed. Then, the player sets off to pick up passengers and take them where they need to go. The planes are fun, and motivating for my crew.

#2 Spot-It!

Spot-It is simple to learn, but fun to play. Because of it’s compact size, it’s perfect for slipping in the diaper bag or even your purse for fun on the go.

You can play several different variations of the game, so be sure to read the directions and decide on one version before you jump into game play.

I love that this plays quickly. Each round takes just a couple of minutes.

The object is simple—to match an item from one card to an item on another. Every card has exactly one item in common with every other card in the deck. You just have to use the power of observation to figure out what that item is.

There are multiple versions of Spot-It available, but each one plays the same. Once you know the rules you can play with any deck. We have the original Spot-It, an alphabet one, and a Disney Planes deck. My kids seriously wouldn’t mind if I picked up a few more—they’re that fun!

#3 Racoon Rumpus

Ellie got this game for Christmas last year, and it’s a lot of fun! Your goal is to collect outfits for your racoon. To make this happen, you have to roll the die.

Then you pick an outfit that matches the color shown. You can find community helper outfits, sports outfits, and more. There’s plenty to pick from.

But, it is possible to lose your clothes. Then your racoon will be down to his underwear!

My preschoolers are definitely into the potty jokes, so having underwear in a game makes it a hoot!

#4 Uno Moo

Uno Moo is a cute game that plays very similar to the original Uno you might know and love. I like the sturdy carrying case that houses everything. It’s definitely better than a cardboard box!

The game pieces are shaped like animals. You’ll find pigs, chickens, sheep, and skunks. Each animal has four pieces, one of each color. The skunks mean you skip the next player.

Your goal is to get all of your pieces into the barn by matching either by color or animal type. When you’re down to one piece, you yell, “Uno Moo!” If you forget you could be asked to draw more pieces.

#5 Count Your Chickens

It’s time for a collaborative game! These help children learn collaboration. They teach that not everything is a competition, and that there is a definite benefit to working with others toward a common goal.

I don’t mind competitive games where there’s a definite winner. In fact, most of the games we play result in a winner.

But, I see the value in working together so we play a few collaborative games as well!

The goal of Count Your Chickens is to reunite the baby chicks with Mother Hen. Since we have chicks running around currently, it’s a great time of year to play!

On your turn, you spin the spinner, then move the correct number of spaces. You get to collect that number of chicks and get them back to the mama.

When as a team, you return all the chicks, you win!

#6 Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Game

Do you love Mo Willems books as much as I do? If you’ve never read them, you’re definitely missing out. This game brings that loveable pigeon to life in a new way.

The goal?

Keep the pigeon from driving the bus by keeping him away from your bus.

You will have to use a bit of strategy, because when the pigeon lands on the same space as your bus you have to return to start. On your turn you can decide to move the pigeon towards other busses, into wide open spaces, or away from your bus. It’s up to you.

Learning strategy helps your preschooler look at the big picture and think ahead a little bit. Planning is important!

#7 Tell Me a Story

I’ve written about this one before! Here’s the post that tells you how we use this game to enhance literacy. This is my go-to birthday present for young kids. It’s well made and contains endless fun.

The goal of the game is simple. Use the cards to tell a story.

There are characters and settings to guide you along the way. Story telling is an amazing skill to practice, and this game makes it fun!

Where Are the Games of Chance?

Many of the classic board games for preschoolers are purely based on chance. You had to draw the right color at the right time. You had to roll the right number to avoid going down the slide.
It took luck to be a winner in most of those games.

The games I shared above, aren’t solely about luck. Of course every game has an element of chance, but these games allow for strategy, for critical thinking, and for the player to actually feel like they have a sense of control.

Traditional board games for preschoolers drive me crazy! But I love playing games, so scouted around to find the best ones for young kids.

What Board Games for Preschoolers Do You Love?

These are our favorite board games for preschoolers. I’d love for you to share yours in the comments section below!

You don't have to play Monopoly by the rules. Here are 5 learning activities with this classic game.

5 Learning Activities with Monopoly


This game takes FOREVER when played correctly. But, it’s the perfect learning manipulative for these five activities.

These tweaks also allow you to “play” the game with younger kids. Which is a bonus!

1. Buying Property & Houses Card Game

Monopoly has all of that beautiful money, just waiting to be used! It’s the perfect tool for teaching kids all about money.

We organize the money into the plastic holder that comes with the game. Then, we shuffle all the property cards and pile them face down.

On each person’s turn, she draws a card and locates that property on the board. Then, she reads the price, and counts out how much money it is.

She takes the money out of the bank and puts it in front of her. Kind of backwards shopping I know, but it’s been a fun way to play!

Then, whenever it’s their turn again, players can buy houses for $100. They use the money in front of them to buy those.

They don’t need a Monopoly to buy a house, and houses can go on any property they own.

2. Story Telling

We use the pieces in Monopoly as key items in a story. This one is simple. We put all of those pieces in a hat or bowl.

One player draws out three. Then, they have to tell a story using all three pieces. The kids usually use the actual pieces as props, helping to act the story out.

When one person’s story is done, we put all the pieces back in and another person draws.

3. Go Around the Board

We use the dice and practice counting for this activity. Everyone picks a piece and places it on Go. Then, we take turns rolling the dice, adding how many dots in all, and moving our piece that number.

I usually set a limit–we’ll go around the board three times or something. Some of my younger kids would play this version for a long time!

4. Majorly Modified Monopoly

To make the game simpler, we remove the money. On your turn, you roll the dice. If you land on a property, you get to find the card and keep it.

If you land on another square, you have to sing the ABC song, Touch your toes 10 times, or do any other random activity that the person who goes after you decides.

This version keeps us laughing!

5. Money Sort

We shuffle up the money, and divvy it out. Everyone gets a stack of random money.

The first person to sort their money by denomination wins!

Then, we practice counting by each number. It’s fun skip counting practice!

Have you played other games with Monopoly?

I’d love for you to share your tweaks. It’s the perfect game for all sorts of learning fun!