Build a Board Game

Build a Board Game


  • Poster Board
  • Markers
  • Mixed candy
  • One six-sided die


Draw a basic outline of a game board in the style of Monopoly with approximately four to six spaces per side. Invite your clients to assist you in filling out the spaces with age-appropriate challenges or directions. Some suggestions could include, “Tell a story about something that happened to you today” or, “Move ahead three spaces.” For squares that require a response, a reward can be listed in the form of moving forward two spaces. Reserve one or two corner spaces for moral challenges - these could be labeled “Challenge Square.” If a player lands on this square, the therapist may ask a difficult question to assess the person’s moral reasoning or understanding of social expectations. Some examples include, “What do you do if you find a wallet on the ground?” or, “How do you show someone you are listening to what they have to say?” Once the game board is complete, game play can begin.

To play, each player looks into the bag of candy and picks their favorite piece. This will become their game piece. Regardless of whether they win or lose, each player will be able to eat their game piece (their favorite candy) at the conclusion of the game. Players place their game piece in the starting square and take turns rolling the die to move their piece around the board, completing challenges along the way. Each time a game piece passes the starting square, that player gets to take one more piece of candy. Each time the player successfully answers a Challenge Square question, that player gets to take one more piece of candy. The first player to receive five total pieces of candy (game piece plus four candies) wins the game and gets to keep all their candy. The remaining players must return their candy to the bag, except for their game pieces.

Target Population:

Children and teens of developmental level between six and 15 years. This is particularly helpful among siblings and families, as well as with clients who struggle with social skills.

Expected Results and Troubleshooting:

Young clients typically enjoy this game, especially when they know they can still eat their favorite piece of candy at the end. Build a Board Game typically results in greater conversation breadth and depth among participants, as well as a sense of satisfaction related to having built a board game just for those clients to play. However, one common issue will occur when a client provides a surprising or undesirable answer to the Challenge Square. Resolving this issue is largely left up to the therapist’s discretion, according to the rapport established with the client(s) as well as whether the response is developmentally-appropriate. One way to respond to this would be to ask others in the group what they think of the answer, as a sort of “Ask the Audience” (in the style of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) method. This provides group feedback to the client while encouraging the client to think critically about their initial response.

Related Works:

Peppler, K., Danish, J., & Phelps, D. (2013). Collaborative gaming: Teaching children about complex systems and collective behavior. Simulation & Gaming , 44 (5), 683-705.
Martinez, A., & Lasser, J. (2013). Thinking outside the box while playing the game: A creative school-based approach to working with children and adolescents. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health , 8 (1), 81-91.

Originally posted on the Geek Therapy Wiki, hosted on the now-defunct Wikispaces platform, as part of Dr. Patrick O’Connor’s course Geek Culture in Therapy.

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