Board Game Buddies


Working with teachers at a local elementary school, the Board Game Buddies Drop-In Recess Program was developed by Daniela O'Neill and has been ongoing for over 4 years (except in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19). The original intention of the program was to provide early grade students, many of whom were learning English as a second language, with a fun opportunity to build their language skills in interaction with older students. Board Game Buddies takes place during one 20 minute recess time weekly in the school library where the different games are all spread out on tables and the floor a few minutes before recess begins. For the first two recess sessions, only the older Grade 5 and 6 children volunteers take part learning how to play approximately 30 board games with playing times of approximately 10 minutes. Following this, for the remainder of the weekly drop-in sessions, Grade 1 students are invited to drop-in and play the games with the older children. This activity fosters so much language, social interaction, and laughter! It is amazing to see how much fun and learning can happen in 20 minutes and the children love it, with sometimes over 60 children participating!

Exciting new grant received to expand Board Game Buddies!

Daniela has recently received a grant from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation to expand this program in the local community and provide 10 WRDSB schools with their own Board Game Buddies board game collection and all materials to mount their own program at their school! Invitations to schools are going out starting in January 2023. You can read more about the program and the new grant in this article in UWaterloo News

We are currently working on putting up all the information here about the collection (a subset of the games for the library's Board Game Fun collection) and all materials that schools will receive. We hope to have it all up by Feb. 2023. Please check back!

Board Games in the Board Game Buddies collection

  • The 24 board games for Board Game Buddies were chosen to meet a number of criteria, similar to those for the KPL library collections but with some further constraints to allow successful peer-to-peer. play (without adult help) and fit the short 10 min recess time frame. Some of the most important criteria taken into account when choosing the set of games were:
    • suitable for children from approximately 5-12 years of age
    • no commercial or popular culture figures or themes that might limit cross-cultural play and conversation
    • wide variety of different themes and topics that would appeal across different ages, genders, and cultures
    • simple rules that could be summarized on a 1-page sheet of Quickstart Instructions to facilitate quick learning and teaching by older peers
    • an element of chance, so that older peers playing with younger peers won't always win
    • mixture of competitive and co-operative games
    • beautiful aesthetics wherever possible - wooden pieces, eco- and child-friendly materials, art and design features - lots to see and talk about!
    • high-quality and durable
    • allow for up to 4 to 5 children to play at once
    • don't have noisy elements (e.g., beepers, tower that crashes down) to avoid noise from games
  • In addition to these criteria, the games were tried out at first to see if they worked well and were popular in Board Game Buddies at its original school location. The games were also part of 4 Family Board Game Fun events at the library to get additional feedback from patrons as to whether they liked the game(s) and would like to see it in a collection.
  • Here you can see a list of the 24 games in the Board Game Buddies collection with a short description of each.

QuickStart Instructions and Content Lists

One of the special things we did for Board Game Buddies to help children learn the games easily and quickly was write simplified 1-page instructions for all the games using a similar format and simplified language. This also introduces a literacy component for older Board Game buddies that is more appropriate for their age than the original instructions that are often written for adults and may be quite lengthy. We also incorporated in these instructions ways to play the game, or determine the winner (if its a competitive game), even if children don't quite finish the game within the 10 minutes. These instructions are placed into a plastic sleeve, along with a contents list for the game on the other side, and provided along with each game in its box or container.

We are still working to upload all these to this site, but they should be here soon for use by anyone.

Important! Read before using materials here

The materials here are provided openly for other interested schools and community locations to use and adapt according to a CC BY-NC license, unless stated otherwise. This license allows re-users to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. (The creator for the text of these materials should be indicated to be Daniela O'Neill. Some items may have other stated attributions, such as photographs or drawings for which sources and any applicable permissions are noted).

New! Videos

On the new Talk2Thrive YouTube Channel, Daniela is featuring short videos of some of the games that are in the Kitchener Public Libary and /or Board Game Buddies collection! This is a work in progress and they will be uploaded as they are made.


Remote video URL