The Game of LIFE Is A Teaching Moment For Parents

My kids and husband preparing to play LIFE

Winter Break started so, we decided to do what we enjoy doing the most together as a family ... playing board games.  So to start the break off in the right direction, we asked my daughter what she wanted to play first.  "LIFE!" she squealed from the top of her lungs.

So, LIFE it was.

The thing I enjoy about playing this game with my kids, is that we always have those "life" discussions.

Such things as "But what if I don't want to get married?" or "I don't want to be a teacher!" and even better yet, "Why do I get paid so little?" I have to laugh at some of the questions, but in all honesty, I really enjoy the questions my children ask us because it opens us up to discussions that might have otherwise been left unanswered.

I never played many board games with my parents, they were both working adults, my father being military, and my mother trying to raise the four of us while holding a job herself. I grew up faster than most kids because I was the oldest and took a lot of responsibility, but as I look back, I wish I had more time with them because there are so many things in life, even as an adult, that when my own children ask, I have to think about because I was never taught.

When we start off on the path of LIFE, we are introduced to education and given an opportunity to take the college road or begin life immediately.

For myself and my husband in the REAL world, we both began life immediately before going to college, so we never force our children to do a path WE feel we would like to see them take, but in the board game, all three of my kids take the college path first without hesitation. One thing we learned during the paths we take, is that my husband took the path of life right away while the rest of us went off to college, but he still landed a higher paying job (selected at random from the card pile). This fueled the discussion about "why would I go to college?" A GREAT question too. We discussed how experience is also a great way to get a good paying job because much like college, experience is an education tool as well. We also discussed the type of jobs that require or do not require college or extended learning.

The next section brings us into marriage life.

Do we land on that spot where we elope or do we skip over marriage and move on? The first question was "what is elope?"  Although it's an odd word to use because a majority of people do not "elope" per sae, it still brings the value of marriage and goals into play.

When I explained that elope meant to run off and secretly get married without your parents consent, my daughter asked "Why would you want to do that?" This of course, lead us to the conversation that sometimes parents don't always agree with who you love and because good parents don't want to see their children with someone who might hurt them, people might run off to get married when you're old enough to make your own decisions. She then asked, "But what if I want a big wedding with all the pretty decorations?" and I replied "Then you might want to make sure your father and I like the person you marry or you'll have to take out a loan!"

Of course the conversation went a little deeper into the marital issues when you get to choose the color peg (pink for female and blue for male) you want to marry.

The discussion of man and woman, gay and lesbian laid out on the table. My kids are old enough to understand diversity now and we have many wonderfully intelligent and caring gay and lesbian friends and family members, so for the fun of it I placed a pink peg into the car next to me when I landed on the marriage spot. My kids didn't even question this behavior and that's when I knew I had raised them to be open minded.

As we continued the coarse of life, we came to the section where we had children.

My husband ended up with four kids and my daughter had none. This struck the question of "Do you have to have kids when you get married?" and we talked about how some people want to have children, but for various health reasons, they can't or that other adults may have kids and they really didn't plan to. The question "Where do babies come from?" never even came up, as my kids are pretty hooked on the idea that they magically appear in the belly and are somehow popped out of the butt, so I leave it at that for now!

Towards the end we get to select re-training our current career and getting a pay raise, or going back to college (or finally going to college) for a new career.

My oldest son will always go back to college if he is not getting the highest paid career card in the game, so he's all about money. My middle son will usually be content with what he has and continue on the path of life with a pay raise. My daughter will have to ask us three or four times what we think before she makes a decision, and she usually ends up going back to college just because. This section usually sparks a discussion of how could one go back to college for a career change and then end up getting paid less? This is when we re-open the discussion about how experience in a career can get you paid just as much, if not more, than someone straight out of college.

Alas we reach our final destination of the retirement homes.

We wrap up the game discussing which retirement home we would retire to, home for the rich or home for the comfortable. My oldest son finishes first and takes the rich retirement home, of course, but his life cards are still open for taking from the rest of us whom have not completed the path yet. He looses his life cards, which equal wealth in investment at the end of the game. The rest of us decide to live comfortably with what we currently have, securing our life cards, even if we are not rich. This opens up the conversation about how being rich is not always the best path to take in life, but being happy and comfortable is.

All in all, the game of LIFE is one my favorites to play with the family.

It sparks questions and conversation while offering an hour of social connection in a fun setting. After our game and discussions, I feel pretty good about how I raised my children and how they will follow their own path of Life.

Some fun facts about the board game of LIFE

  • Originally created in honor of the Milton Bradley Company’s 100th anniversary.
  • THE GAME OF LIFE stands as part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institute.
  • The highest sum of money that a player can earn is $3,115,000, which is taking into account that the player lands on all of the spaces that give money and that the player has the highest salary amount.
  • There are 26 Pink pegs and 26 Blue pegs.
  • In Japan, THE GAME OF LIFE, known as Jinsei, has been the country’s most popular board game for more than 40 years.
  • THE GAME OF LIFE shares its birth year (1960) with Bubble Wrap, the first Xerox office copier, the aluminum can, and the advent of the birth control pill in the United States.
  • A 40th anniversary edition of the GAME OF LIFE was released in 2000. In this version the Travel Agent career was replaced with a Computer Consultant career path.
  • In the 1992 edition, a player who chose the College path received $40,000 in debt, whereas in today’s edition the same such player is given $100,000 in debt to reflect the present day cost of higher education.
  • Television personality Art Linkletter was THE GAME OF LIFE spokesman in 1960 and his picture even appeared on the $100,000 bills in the game as well as on the outside of the box.

Featured Contributor

I am a Digital Educator, Public Speaker and Author for the video game industry, Tech & Video Game Journalist for geek parenting, video games, technology, and STEM education blogs and publications. I am also an Author, Public Relations Director, Entrepreneur, Virtual Assistant, and Military Family Advocate. Aside from my professional life, I am a proud military spouse and geek mom to three brilliant nerds, two of which are Autistic. I love coffee, creative minds, positive people, and I am a serious MASS EFFECT fanatic!

Games Family Games Genres FamilyKids Platforms Board Games
Published Feb. 8th 2014
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Ah...LIFE. So many fond memories! The only thing that bugged me was just how critical it was to get a high-paying salary at the start. If you ended up getting one of those $20k/year jobs, it was almost impossible to win. But hey...that's life. ;)

    Right up there with my other childhood favorites; Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, The Enchanted Forest and Fireball Island.
  • Si_W
    Haven't played board games for a long time, my family used to love playing this when I was a teenager. Good article btw, this is what I love about this site is the diversity in writing...
  • katbrat7
    Featured Contributor
    Thanks so much. I'd try Cards Against Humanity, Pandemic, or Resistance if you want to get back into it and try a good fun tabletop entertainment with friends. Let me know if you do, you can read about Pandemic from my site =)
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    Good fun read. We just started down our family's journey for family games about a month or two ago.

    Candy Land is my 3 year old favorite, and hungry hippos is my 2 year old daughters favorite.
  • katbrat7
    Featured Contributor
    Candy Land and Chutes & Ladders was a fun one with my daughter as well when she was that age. She's now 10 and we do Scrabble and Apples to Apples or Beat the Parents. Enjoy the moments, they grow so fast, but games are so much more fun with them!

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