As the gamer parent of three young children, I often have asked myself the question, “When can I introduce my children to roleplaying games?” I was first introduced to roleplaying games when I was twelve years old and my slightly younger brother started around the same time. But how young is too young to start roleplaying? What can you expect from your children on the first game session? And what games are good games for young children to start out playing?
Here are some answers so you can stop asking questions and start planning that first game session!
My default assumption for the first time I would be introducing my children to gaming was that I, the elder person and gamer, would be guiding them through at least their first few games. I would act as the storyteller or game master and they would be having the time of their lives (or so the vision went). But what age could they start playing at?
The answer to that is definitely going to vary based on the child, but most roleplaying games targeted towards children are geared for the six to twelve age range. The basic assumption is that they are old enough to count, compare numbers, read, and follow along with your story.
Does that mean that your four-year old or five-year old can’t participate in roleplaying games? Absolutely not. That will definitely depend on the child. Many children at that young age are imaginative and eager learners, but often have too much energy to sit for very long. But you know your child better than anyone else and should be able to make that decision.
What Can You Expect From Your Children On The First Game Session
The number one thing you need to be aware of for your child’s first game session is this: It will not go how you plan!
Think of the first time you introduced a child to anything, whether it was dance classes, baseball lessons, painting, or board games. Your daughter probably peed in her dance suit, your son ran the wrong way on the base path, there was paint everywhere but on the painting, and you lost board game pieces within the first three minutes of the game session.
But guess what? It’s okay…
Be patient with them and realize that the first session will probably be extremely fun but potentially chaotic, especially at the younger ages. Remember the phrase, “More is caught than taught.” With children, if they see you having a good time regardless of how the actual game play goes, they will learn to enjoy games. If you are trying to “teach” them how fun gaming is and force feed it down their throats, it probably won’t be enjoyable long-term.
Tell them how much you appreciate that they are playing games with you and let that come through by showing them how much fun YOU are having.
Good Games For Young Children To Start Out Playing
It wasn’t always this way, but tabletop gaming has really evolved to the point where there are many, many wonderful options for children of all ages. Some of the wonderful roleplaying games geared towards younger audiences include Hero Kids, Faery’s Tale Deluxe, Mouse Guard, Meddling Kids, The Princes’ Kingdom (boy oriented), The Big Night (very young children), Fuzzy Heroes, Broomstix: The Harry Potter RPG, Pokemon Jr. Adventure Game (card oriented), Redhurst Academy of Magic, and The Zantabulous Zorcerer of Zo, just to name a few.
Each game is going to be more ideal for a certain age range of children and even potentially a specific demographic, so you’re going to have to find a game that fits who will be playing. Having a group with a four year old boy and five year old girl is going to require a much different game that four nine year olds that are raving Harry Potter fans. For me, there were three award-winning RPGs that I looked to when I decided I wanted to introduce my children to their first tabletop roleplaying game.
Hero Kids is a fantasy RPG for children ages four to ten years old. It is perfect for younger children and offers a fast and fun introduction into the roleplaying world. In addition to the actual game itself, there are multiple adventure modules and expansions for it. So if your children really get into the game, there is ample support for continued roleplaying.
Faery’s Tale Deluxe is a fantasy RPG where players can take the role of a pixie, brownie, sprite, or pooka in an enchanting storytelling game of imagination and wonder. The game is suitable for ages six and up and is also designed to be an introductory roleplaying game, primarily geared towards children.
Mouse Guard is a RPG based off a comic book series that is written and illustrated by David Petersen. Although it is a true all-ages book, it is classified by the publisher for eight years old and up, but has potential for younger age ranges as well. This would be a good game if you have a wider spread on the age spectrum, like a younger child playing with older siblings.
As I stated above, there are many wonderful roleplaying games for children available. But these three games listed above are all award-winning games that have enjoyed success within the roleplaying community. It will be hard to go wrong if you started with one of these three games.
Now Make It Happen!
So you’ve been thinking about it. You’ve pondered the possibilities and the long-term ramifications of your child become a life long gamer. Now the only thing left to do is bite the bullet and actually do it. What would it be like if your child loves gaming even more than you? Think of all the awesome memories you’ll be able to make with you and your children at the game table. Why are you waiting? Start prepping the most unique game session you’ll ever run, your child’s first game session.