Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Adventures of a Table Top Tutor

Kids keep playing long after the teacher has left. photo: Toys As Tools

Folks, this is Doug Mercier, an IT professional by trade and my go-to advisor for all things board games and video games.  He also helps me with questions like, "How do I set up a server for Minecraft for my kids so he can play with his friends- you know, people he actually knows? But I have to be able to turn it off whenever, okay? "

Today, as my article in Quartz about board games is published, I am simultaneously publishing his first person perspective on what it is like to teach Testers 1 and 2 on how to play the coolest games out there. Happy Reading. -Jenn

Adventures of a Table Top Tutor
by Doug Mercier

In a world saturated with games and entertainment for kids it can be hard for parents to turn the fun off, get them to settle down, and do their schoolwork. But what if the fun didn’t need to turn off? Video games and board games can seem like fruitless activities however, many of them can actually teach kids important lessons that can be used in real life.

For example, games like Catan teach the importance of resource management and planning ahead. Other games like Legends of Andor teach problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. So how is a parent to know when a game has real skill opportunities versus just fun?

That’s where I come in.

I am showing Tester 1 how to play Andor. The kids do learn fast if you teach and play at the same time. They'll pick up newer games faster once they get used to how to play role-playing games like LEGENDS OF ANDOR. photo: Toys As Tools 

How this all got started...

Jenn Choi, the founder of this site, reached out to me because while she knows the potential that games have for child development, it was still difficult for her to figure out the mechanics of the game and then to teach them to the kids. She didn't want to spend an hour poring over rules or finding the right video tutorial and so she outsourced that role to me. We didn't know exactly how to get started but we figured it out quickly.

Jenn and I talk briefly before I meet the kids, I’ll research any games that I’d like to work on with the kids. Then, I’ll test play them myself if I’m unfamiliar with them using my circle of friends as guinea pigs. In most cases we try to play at least one new game per week, new to the kids, if not to me. Our first week we played two card based games: Love Letter and Superfight as well as Pandemic.

Playing our first session at The Geekery HQ in Astoria, Queens. If you go during Open Play it's free to just play, you can even borrow their games to play for FREE. Also, you can order in a pizza for dinner. Awesome.  photo: Toys As Tools 

I showed my students how important it is to organize my games. I keep all my Superfight cards here. photo: Toys As Tools 

Just a few of the games that you can try out and play at the Open Play session at The Geekery HQ.  We love it there! photo: Toys as Tools

I like cooperative games for my sessions with kids

Things got really interesting when we started on Pandemic. The brothers learned it was a cooperative game with the players working together to prevent a worldwide epidemic. We hadn’t even fully set up the board yet and they were already working together trying to plan out how to win while bragging about how could save more cities!

Since one of the kids was on the young side (9) we used slightly relaxed rules, but they impressed me with their skills. At first they sort of tried to compete with each other, seeing who could cure the most disease. They quickly realized that if they kept competing, they would be overrun, and began to work collaboratively. 

Rachel Ford, Strategy Consultant for Toys As Tools and Master Girls Toys Tester bought this game, Ticket to Ride after seeing it at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair presented by Mary Couzin.  Jenn and Rachel are planning to have me walk them through this one too. 

Cooperative games such as Forbidden Island and Betrayal at House on the Hill have kids working together as a team, recognizing the strengths of others and relying on them, and planning ahead to avoid problems. This was just our first step though, with many more games and many more lessons to come!


And that's the news from Doug Mercier. If you'd like to get in touch, email him (dougamercier at gmail dot com) or call him at 917-767-1836. Here's a hint from me, if you want to hire him, don't wait. You all should have seen what happened to my teen sitter who was featured in the New York Times. Doug has this amazing schedule that accommodates afterschool hours. Just don't get me bumped off his schedule or me and you will have words.  Heck, maybe you can join us!

Here is Doug with us playing Double Take by R & R Games

 If you'd like to read my piece in Quartz about why I hired Doug, here it is.

Want to build muscle? Use weights.  Want to build leadership? Use cooperative games like Legends of Andor. 

Note: If you are a Toys As Tools reader, you know that we never accept payment for reviews. Products are submitted to us for review or we buy them ourselves.  Reviews are never promised.

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