By: Jennifer Bisson

Just as we love dice, children are also often caught up in the allure. The great thing is that there are many wonderful ways to encourage kids to play with dice, which are not only fun, but often help them learn. From practical skills to creativity, dice can be great teaching tools that make learning part of a game.

Of course, the first thing you want to make sure is that you are using age appropriate dice. If your little ones are still too young to know not to eat the dice, there are some large, squishy dice you can get for them (much too large to be swallowed). As they get older, you can graduate smaller dice (though there are still many dice that are bigger than standard dice and easier for little hands to hold).

Dice can be a fun way to practice basic skills, from number recognition to colors and shapes.  There are many wonderful learning dice available, that have different things printed on them (instead of numbers).

The great thing about using dice in conjunction with learning is that you can start simple and then get more complicated as your child grows.  You might start with just asking them to pass you the dice with a clock on it, then have them read you the number on the dice, then you might ask them something they do at that time of day.

Letter dice give you lots of options as well, from simple letter recognition to placing the dice rolled in alphabetical order.  You can challenge your child to name an animal that starts with the letter rolled (or has the letter in its name).  You can roll a bunch of letter dice and see how many words you can create with the letters rolled.  You can use the letters rolled to create a poem, using the letters as the first letter of each line or word.  They can practice grammar by writing nouns or adjectives that start with the letter rolled.

Pipped dice are great for younger kids, especially to reinforce basic math.  When working with addition or subtraction, it is often easier to visualize the changes with pips than it is with numbers.  Even simple concepts like bigger and smaller can be illustrated with dice.  If you have a few different colors of dice, you can have them roll a few of each color and tell you which color has the most pips total.  You can also use dice to show how different numbers equal the same total (for example:  two plus three is equal to one plus four).

With a handful of d6’s you also have a lot of ways to keep your kids entertained, without needing a lot of other supplies or much space.  There are a ton of games you can play with d6’s that will entertain your kids for quite a while.  A quick google search will bring up a lot of options, but here are a few that range from very simple to decently complex.

Big 6 is one of the simplest, requiring only one d6, 5 tokens of some kind (per person) and a piece of paper with the numbers 1-6 written on it.  Each turn, you roll the dice, and whatever number you roll, you either place a token on the number (if it doesn’t already have one) or you take the token off (if there was one there)…except the number 6, where you always place a token (tokens there are ‘out of the game’ and never get picked back up).  The goal is to get rid of all of your tokens.

Shut the Box is another great and easy game to play on the go.  It takes 2d6, and you need some way to mark numbers 1-9 (when traveling I often just write the numbers down on a page and cross them off, but you can also use markers to note which numbers have been rolled).  On your turn, you roll both dice, and you can either mark off the total of the dice, or each individual number rolled (so if you roll a 4 and a 5 you can either mark off 4 and 5 or 9).  You keep rolling until you roll numbers you can’t mark off, then your turn is over and you score the total of the numbers you didn’t mark (a lower score is better).  This game adds a little strategy in picking whether to mark the single numbers or the total, but is still relatively simple and easy to carry along, and can be played almost anywhere.

Another classic game with d6’s is Yahtzee.  You can find the score cards online, and either print them out or make a copy by hand.  With the score sheet and 5d6, you are ready to go.  Yatzee adds even more strategy, deciding which of the scoring options you want to try for, and also making the best of whatever you end up with.  There is some math in figuring out how your rolls score as well as in the final score.

With a full polyset, the options grow even more.  Depending on the age of your children, you may want to consider a larger size dice set, or one like these that have larger numbers (in an easy to read font).  

Now, some people may struggle to learn the different shapes of the polyset, but the more you use them, the easier it becomes to differentiate them.  A neat little game that is simple to play and can help you become more familiar with the different dice is Dice Farmer.  You start with 3d6 (so you will need more than one set of dice..*grin), and on your turn, you roll your dice.

Any 1’s you roll are out of play.  Then you group the rest of your dice into totals that equal the number of sides of a die.  For example, if you roll a 2, 4, and 6 you could either add in two d6 (2+4, and the 6 on it’s own), a d8 and d4 (2+6 and the 4 on it’s own), a d10 (4+6) or a d12 (all three together).  You win when you have ‘grown’ your dice so that you have 3d20 in your set.  This game is pretty simple, but gets kids thinking about different ways to add dice together, and which of the ways would help them the most (is it better to get two smaller dice or one bigger die?), and it gets them used to recognizing which die is which.

Another fun game that has a decent amount of strategy in it is called Button Men.  It uses dice from the polyset (though any particular character might use multiples of the same die, so again you will need a few sets), and you will use your characters dice to attack and manipulate your opponent’s dice.  The characters were originally printed on buttons (hence the name!), and intended to be a fun little battle game to play at conventions, but the rules and characters are available free on their website, and you can print or draw out character cards and play anywhere.  It makes a great travel game as it is easy to carry and set up, and the different character types gives you a lot of variety in your play.

And, of course, we have to talk about roleplaying games.  Roleplaying games can help teach a whole lot of great skills.  Most roleplaying games don’t just have you roll dice, but they have bonuses and modifiers to the dice, so there is some math involved there.  They also encourage kids to read, because when they get excited about their character and the game they are playing, they often want to read about what else they could do (a lot of roleplaying games have really excellent books that have lots of story and details for players to read).  Even just the vocabulary that kids will pick up playing roleplaying games will expand their reading and speaking capabilities.

But roleplaying games also teach a lot of other skills, such as strategic thinking and planning.  As you play, you learn how to think ahead, how to best use a situation to your advantage and how to adjust when something surprising happens.  If you have a group of kids, they learn how to work together, and how to communicate and discuss ideas, and how to use their different strengths to better accomplish their goals.

There are a ton of different roleplaying games out there, for almost every age range and genre.  From microRPG’s which may have very brief rules and highlight quick, one-shot games, to the time tested classic of Dungeons and Dragons, you can find a game that will suit your child’s age and interests.  Tinyd6 games have a simple system, but there is lots of room for creativity.  They have quite a lot of themed games, and don’t require a lot to play, just a simple character sheet and 2d6.  

I feel like the My Little Pony rpg, Tails of Equestria, deserves mention here as well.  It has a slightly more robust game system, using a full polyset of dice, along with a really neat ‘exploding hoof’ mechanic (where you can turn your smaller dice into bigger ones for greater success!).  And the game really encourages players to work together, which is wonderful for a kid’s RPG.

Going a bit more free-form, you can try out the Rory’s Story Cube rpg, Untold: Stories Await.  This game features Rory’s Story Cubes, a whole range of dice with different pictures on their sides.  But the game is like playing through your favorite tv show, each player takes on a character, and as you play, you roll dice to discover what challenges and twists await you.  It is more story driven than many traditional RPG’s, and focuses more on creating interesting stories, but it the game framework to help prompt ideas and is a great way to introduce kids to using creative means to overcome obstacles that pop up.

Storytime dice are an even more free-form roleplaying and storytelling game.  Each set of dice comes with dice that help you roll up characters, foes, settings, challenges and even outcomes.  The dice may give you the structure of your story or game, but it’s up to your players to fill in the details.  The dice come themed, either the base (which is a modern story), FairyTale or ScaryTale, and each has characters and items specific to its theme.

Roll “A” Story dice could be used on their own, or added into any of the other dice sets to give you even more options.  Each die in this set has faces that show options for a theme:  weather, animals, foods, emotions, actions, places, vehicles.  These can be really fun by themselves, in a “What would you do if…?” game, where you create situations based on the dice rolled.  You can keep rolling dice and adding a new detail to the situation as you go, or the dice rolled can be new events or twists in the story.  Kids can get really crazy with some of the combinations you can roll, trying to decide what kind of pizza a cat would like best or what a car would say if it could talk!

Dice also offer a great way to keep kids occupied.  There are a bunch of dice games like these bowling dice, where you just need a small bag of dice, and you can play anywhere.  These type of dice are wonderful to keep in your bag, just in case you end up getting stuck somewhere longer than you planned.  They don’t take much room, and can help keep kids occupied and content.

Whether you are simply looking for a fun activity for your kids, wanting to help them practice math or reading skills, or learning to develop more complicated planning and creativing thinking, dice offer up a wide range of ways to engage and captivate your kids.  So, if you find your little ones are just as fascinated by your dice as you are, why not get them some of their very own!

Links to dice and games mentioned in this blog post:

Where (and when) are you dice set (includes the continent, month and day dice, as well as a compass die and d24 for hours of the day):

Alphabet dice:  I couldn’t find a good link for these, I found mine at the local dollar store.  There is a Campbell’s Alphabet Dice game that looks very close, and you can find a bunch of them on ebay (my guess is they are out of print)

Role 4 Initiative dice (featuring a larger size for easy readability)

Dice Farmer (rules are explained in the comic) 

Button Men: 



Untold adventures await: 

StoryTime Dice: 

Roll a Story dice: 
Bowling dice: