PBS Parents Adventures in Learning Book Boardgame Activity 2

I think we can all agree that great books are great and that a great board game is nearly as great as a great book. This crafty (and pretty great) activity will have you and your kids turning a favorite book into a brand new board game with a whole lot of artistic family fun. Along the way, your kids will get to spend more quality time making deep dives into the book, thinking critically about scene construction, character development and story arc, reinforcing the love of reading and the literary skills you are already instilling in them.

What You’ll Need

  • Shrinky Dink Sheets
  • Crayons or Colored Pencils
  • Marker
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Index Cards
  • Scissors
  • Glue or Tape
  • Two Big, Equal-Sized Pieces of Plain Brown Cardboard
  • Construction Paper
  • Colorful Duct Tape, Glitter or Any Other Fanciful Bits to Adorn the Board Game Box
  • Notebook
  • Pencil
  • A Shirt Box
  • A Favorite Book
PBS Parents Adventures in Learning Book Boardgame Activity 3

How To Turn A Book Into A Board Game

First things first, your child needs to pick a book to turn into a board game. Ideally, they’d choose a volume with a fair number of characters, plot points, pets, locations, etc. from which the board game’s questions will be culled. A favorite book series, one with recurring characters, like Christopher Healy’s remarkably clever Hero’s Guide trilogy or Sara Pennypacker’s charming Clementine series, would also make a super fun board game, especially if their siblings have read those books too.

Once a book or book series has been chosen, it’s time to develop the questions and answers for the playing cards that will move the action forward on the game board. To avoid repeating questions during a single game, you will want to have at least 1 card per space on the board. For example, our game below with 35 spaces from start to finish should have had a minimum of 35 question cards created — it didn’t though, so we ended up having to reshuffle the deck and ask some of the questions twice.

Put your little reader to work with a pencil and a notebook to generate a lot of questions based on what happens in the book. These can be true/false, multiple choice, (very) short essay or any other kind of question your child would like to have asked during game play.

PBS Parents Adventures in Learning Book Boardgame Activity 1

Once they’ve filled up a notebook page or two with challenging questions and answers, your child should begin writing them individually on index cards, the backs of which can be decorated with scenes or characters from the book if you choose. Simply draw and/or color 2-6 scenes or characters on a plain sheet of paper and make photocopies of that. Cut out the scenes and glue or tape them onto the back of the index cards to make the board game look more ‘professional’ (although this step is 100% optional)

Now it’s time to construct the game board! Stack your two pieces of cardboard in a neat pile and use duct tape to secure one side tightly so that the two pieces will then open as one larger piece. Next, glue colorful pieces of construction paper to the cardboard game board and use a marker to make a path for the game pieces to travel from a starting point to a finish line. At this point your child can decide if they want special spots on the board to ‘lose a turn’,  ‘jump ahead of a nearest opponent’s game piece’ or a similar movement not dictated by answering trivia questions from the book. Draw something special in those spots (for example, we used a lightening bolt and a horse’s head because they have meaning in the book we used, Sarah, Plain & Tall). The rest of the game board can be decorated with clip art and or drawings that make sense with the theme(s) of your chosen book.

Okay, it’s Shrinky Dink and hot glue time! Ask your child to decide on the maximum number of players that will be able to play their game, and to think of which characters or items from the book they’d like to use as game pieces. For Sarah, Plain & Tall my youngest wanted farm animals but if making a board game from the Hero’s Guide trilogy, for example, the 4 princes charming would make perfect game pieces. Now, help your kiddo draw and color those characters, animals or items on the Shrinky Dink paper, remembering to start big because they will shrink (of course). Now draw and color the same number of circles. These will serve as the game piece platforms. Follow the instructions for baking and once done, shrunken, and cooled, hot glue the game pieces to the round platforms!

If you’d like to make a box to put the game board, trivia cards and pieces in for safe storage, a typical shirt box should be the perfect size. My little girl used even more colorful duct tape, construction paper and regular tape to decorate the game box, and colored pencils and markers to design the logo to give it ‘shelf appeal’!

*We made our own die but I’d recommend borrowing a die or set of dice from another of your board game as our cardboard version didn’t roll very well after questions were answered correctly.

Congratulations! You and your child have turned a favorite book into a board game! Now, gather the family and have fun playing the game together!

About Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle is an at-home dad who writes humorously about parenting and All Things Childhood on his site Out With The Kids. He is married to an adorable redheaded gal and has two lovely little ladies 12 and under who provide him with countless hours of humorous in-home entertainment, and who get to hear, see, and play with more cool stuff than you can possibly imagine.

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