This post does NOT contain affiliate links because I want you to go find games for less than what any affiliate link I could provide will produce. Go have fun finding a bargain and using what you have! 😊
You’ve decided to start gameschooling (using games as educational tools), and now you want to buy all the games, but you quickly realize you would need to win the lotto to purchase your wishlist. Don’t worry! I have tips here to help you slowly, over time build an awesome game library that you won’t need to play powerball for. And these tips aren’t just for gameschoolers. They are beneficial if you’re looking to add new games for family game night too, even if you’re main purpose is entertainment not learning.
Have a plan
The first thing to do is plan what types of games you’re looking for. This can be super specific- like certain games you would like to get or a more general list- publishers you’d like to look out for and certain game themes.
I’m including a printable planning list that should help get you started. This can be printed full size if you want lots of room or printed 2 to a page to fit easily in a purse or pocket to take on the go.
I’ve started the list with some of our favorite publishers. To make the list they had to be publishers that I could confidently say that any game you pick up from them will be great. (I’m sure there are many more that could be added to this list!) Add any topics or concepts your kids will be working on, for example: letter recognition, multiplication, etc. Also, add any themes you would like to include. There are games for every topic, so you can be as specific or general as you’d like here- honey bees or nature. Once you have your plan, now you’re ready to start shopping.
My first stop is always the local thrift stores. It’s not always successful. You may have to sift through 63 copies of Trivial Pursuit, and games with 2 old baseball cards, 3 buttons, a couple of coins, and a card from a different game, BUT when you are successful, you can find the best deals. And finding those hidden gems is so exciting. When you’re going thrifting for games, take your time! I like to grab a coffee and make it a fun trip and leave the kids at home.
Don’t be afraid to open up the boxes and make sure the pieces are there. Games should have the contents listed so you can make sure everything is there. Places like Goodwill, Savers, and Once Upon a Child are all great places to start.
Thrift Stores aren’t the only place to find used games. Facebook Marketplace is successful for many people, and there are even groups on Facebook for used games. Also, check tag sales. Games might be harder to find there, but when you do find them it’s likely there will be a bunch together. This will allow you to negotiate a better deal for taking a bunch.
Tag sales aren’t the only place for negotiation when buying used games. More than once at the thrift store, I had the price reduced on a game because something wasn’t “perfect.” You just have to ask- the worst they’ll say is no.
Think outside the box
Obviously, we all know that big box stores like Target and Walmart sell board games. Sometimes they do run great sales, so I’m not saying don’t look at them but don’t ONLY look at them.
Did you know that a lot of grocery stores sell board games? Grocery stores often sell board games and card games, and so often, I find them at clearance prices. It’s worth taking a peek while you’re there anyway.
What about 5 Below or the Dollar Tree? The dollar store is always a great place to get dice and playing cards, and often they have other great finds. The last time I went to ours, they had Left, Center, Right (Usually around $7 elsewhere) and other small card games. 5 Below has a vast selection of games, and there are sometimes some good ones to be found there. The last time I was there, I found Flash from Blue Orange for $5! (usually $15)
Repurpose games you have
A lot of times, you can take a game you already have and use it in a way that can work on concepts your kids are working on. For example, if you are working on letter recognition attach some letter stickers to a game your kids love and include that as part of the play.
You can also piece together different pieces from several games to help them work for you. A great place to find some inspiration on this is from my friend Autumn at Schooling Meeples. Her post on what she has dubbed “Frankengames” is a great resource.
Make your own
We are currently taking part in the Haba 2021 Game Design Challenge. Haba sends you a little kit with random leftover parts from games and the challenge is to come up with an original game. They have a contest linked to it, but this is something you can do on your own anytime. Collect items from around your house and let your kids have fun! Making the game will be just as much of a learning experience for your kids as playing it will be.
Print and Plays
If you have a printer or access to one (local library) print and plays can be a great way to keep fresh new games around and save a ton of money. I compiled a list of some during no spend January that you can take a peek at here, but just a simple google search with print and play games + any concept will yield millions of results for you.
My last tip is to have a wishlist for friends and family that are looking to buy gifts for your kids. You can easily create a wishlist on Amazon, and share it with them for birthdays, Christmas or any other time. This will be helpful for them to simplify their shopping and great for you to help expand your game library. Win, win!
However you add games to your gameschooling library, one of the most important things to remember is you don’t need to compile a huge collection of games overnight or at all. And, just as with anything else, you don’t need to keep up with the Joneses of boardgames. There will always be new games, and you don’t need every single one. ( I might be writing this part to remind myself 😅 )
The best games are the ones you have that your family loves to play together.
Sustainable Gameschooling – This group is all about using what you have!
Local game store/ game cafe- Does your local area have an independent game store or cafe? This would be a great place to try out games. Some even have homeschool days!
Local Library- Does your local library have games to borrow? So many libraries are beginning to carry games. Check out if yours does!