Nights spent playing games with family can be among the most memorable. There are many lessons to be learned and character traits developed playing board games.

I can remember growing up and playing board games with my whole family and with my siblings alone. I learned a lot about myself playing those games. Conversations were enjoyed and lessons were taught. I have also passed the fun and learning along to my children.

Here's my top 10 list of essential classic board games, along with reasons why I think they are great teaching tools:

1. Candyland and Chutes and Ladders

These are great games to start out with when you have small children. They involve color identification and basic counting, which is perfect for little ones. The characters and places are appealing to them.

The lesson: never give up. Sometimes you have to go back to the beginning and start over. Sometimes there are impediments that slow you down. The best way to handle them is to graciously accept and continue on, knowing that you might not win, but you can always finish the race.

Kids need to learn perseverance right from the get go. Use phrases like, "Oh well! Looks like you are going to have some catching up to do, but I know you can do it! Sometimes these things happen."

2. Memory

This is a great tool for learning to identify details and to build photographic memory. With little ones, I'd start out with only a 4 x 4 grid of cards and gradually build to include more as they got older.

3. Chess

andCheckers.Children can be taught chess at a much younger age than you probably expect. This game provides them with the opportunity to not only develop strategy, but also to anticipate the moves of their opponents. Checkers also helps develop these skills with fewer move options.

4. Life

The game of Life provides kids with the chance to make choices, to begin to think about things like careers, schooling, marriage, families, insurance, bills and all the things that real life will offer them once they are older. It's a great way to introduce them to ... well, life.

5. Monopoly

andStock Market.These were biggies when I was growing up. I loved learning about real estate and mortgages, borrowing and taxes. Stock Market, though not as popular, was actually my favorite. I learned about purchasing low and selling high and how it all works. These are also good forums to learn about charity vs. greed and to get a sense of what kind of character your children have.

6. Clue

Clue teaches analysis and the importance of remembering details. An altogether awesome game for developing thought processes and deduction using the process of elimination.

7. Operation

This game helps little hands develop dexterity.

8. Scruples

For older kids, this is a wonderful game to learn about character and provides you with the chance to discuss answers. Its "What would you do?" forum allows players to think about how they would handle a variety of situations. A lot of discussions of ethics occurred when I played with my children. Warning: Some questions are adult in nature, so I recommend going through the set of cards first based on your children's ages and maturity.

9. Scattegories

This is one of my all-time favorite games. Ten categories are given and a die is rolled to determine the letter that all words must begin with in each category. This is a terrific game for expanding vocabularies and being really creative with your answers.

10. Scrabble

I love playing this with my children and love it even more when they can beat their old writer mom. The hidden lesson is to learn to best use the lot you were given in the most creative way.

Board games are not only fun, but they can act as springboards for deep discussions, learning about character, teaching charity and developing analytical skills in your children. I have had some of the best discussions with my children, laughed the most with them and taught them important life lessons around the board of a game. PLUS: No batteries required.

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