How to Build a Board Game Collection on a Budget for Gameschooling and Other Fun!

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Note: This post is long. It started out as a list of tips for gameschooling on a budget. Then, as is so common when I blog, it morphed. True to my personality, my stories started coming up!  I decided I wanted to tell the backstory to my gameschooling. So if you just want the tips for thrifty gameschooling, scroll down to the numbered list at the end. If you want my history of gameschooling, keep reading :-). If you want all this info in a handy dandy PDF go here. But I invite you to scroll below in this blog post to watch all the videos if you want recommendations for all the categories of gameschooling because the videos don’t appear in the PDF.

The holidays always remind me of board game playing time. I grew up in a family that always played games over Christmas break, the “Week Between” Christmas and New Year’s. I have fond, cozy memories of happily playing the classics of Scrabble, Boggle, Clue, PayDay, Life, Pictionary and other games with my parents and sibs. A fire crackled in the fireplace, and snow banked outside the house.


We also had a lot of fun playing board games with cousins, especially all the Parker Brother games (anyone remember Trust Me?). I loved Masterpiece, the art collecting game. I’m going to get it from ebay one of these days.



True story: one time, in high school, I planned a New Year’s Eve party with some friends, involving board games. My sisters and I got Pictionary for Christmas that year. Some of my friends showed up on the wrong night because they got the date wrong. We were playing games any way, because we play games every night during the Christmas break, so we just invited them in to join in with Pictionary and played away! They left not one bit wiser about coming on the wrong night!




Anyway, this game-playing tradition has spread and passed on to the next generation. The grandchildren love games, so much so that the game playing has carried over beyond the Week Between to other family gatherings, like Thanksgiving, monthly Sunday family dinners to celebrate birthdays, and summer reunions.



Some of my children, their cousins, and some of my sibs having fun with Scrabble. I much prefer Bananagrams these days!

One of my sons and some of his cousins are such serious game players that they have amazing game collections and special bags to carry them in. They prefer more of the role-playing and tile-laying games. Carcassonne, anyone? I’m not so much into those. I prefer word, math, and quiz games. Games without Meeples. I saw, however, on Facebook that the Duggars like Catan, so I’m learning to like it. 🙂



My oldest son even went to a board game convention. When he recently came to spend Christmas break with us, he brought the following games to play, in a special luggage bag designed just for games. See the games in the pic above and below:




We did get to play Secret Hitler on Christmas night. That’s a fave around here. I’m learning to like it. I wish it drew more upon knowledge of historical facts. Victory is based purely on strategy and acting. The kids also played it Christmas Day morning. Dear blessed children, for playing quietly and letting their father and me sleep in!


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We didn’t get to all of the games he brought, because we played a lot of the new games we got as Christmas gifts, plus football, plus the Christmas Cookies game I created, plus another one I invented, which is under wraps for now, plus Spontuneous Christmas, plus Word on the Street. Of the games he brought, we did play Ra, Azul, and First Sparks. I also insisted we play Backseat Drawing. Some of the family played 5211 and Resistance. That doesn’t even count all the games we played on New Year’s Eve. So yes, we take games seriously at our house :-).



Nothing like playing in shorts and short sleeves on Christmas Day. Yay for Arizona Christmases! It’s amazing that it snowed just two days later!


This is probably why when I heard about gameschooling, the idea resonated with me so much! I first heard about playing games for school, in a primitive form, from these books by Peggy Kaye, back in 1998:




I love these books! I still have them. I bought them when my oldest was 5 and have sooo enjoyed doing one-on-one games with different children through the years for our homeschool journey. They are simple DIY games made with paper, pencil, or sometimes dice and a timer, dried beans, or a paper clip, or other common household items. The author also has Games for Books, which looks fun too. Her website is here,where she has free games to download.

I also loved using Diane Hopkins’ Happy Phonics kit, which is full of games to teach children how to read. I got that with Child #2 and have used it with succeeding children. I also had fun going to the Orem UT PERC every week, which is a lending library of educational games and toys. So fun! Then I moved and couldn’t access it. I finally found a similar place in Davis County Utah but it wasn’t quite as fun.



Then I heard about ToriAnn Perkey, a homeschool mom in Utah, who promotes games in homeschooling. I had also read in Oliver and Rachel DeMille’s Leadership Education: the Phases of Learning book about having learning games in a closet, like Scattergories, but I hadn’t bought any yet.  So I started to pick up used games at thrift stores, like Blurt, Brainquest card decks, and Outburst, and I bought a bunch of new educational games with grand visions of playing games all day. You can see my early musings about all of it here, from 2013. I was so excited, as I felt like, “Hey, this will feel like Christmas from my childhood, all the time!” I got Bananagrams, Appletters, Pair of Pears, Dixit, Tell a Tale, Storymatic, Rory’s Story Cubes, Camp, Wildcraft, and a bunch of math games.



We played games hit and miss for a while. They loved Dixit but the others not much. Then I had to put playing games for school on hold because we moved to Arizona. That meant packing and unpacking for months on end. Once I was finally unpacked and organized (!) I tried to instigate the habit of gameplaying every Friday but my kids wouldn’t cooperate much. I guess they didn’t get the game loving genes that my firstborn got.



About that time, sometime around when I moved, I read about gameschooling from Cait, over at My Little Poppies, over four years ago. I’m happy to say, that finally, four years later (!) the forces of the Universe have conspired to make gameschooling come together in my life with my three youngest children! I’ve been doing gameschooling as part of my homeschooling, every day, for the past few months, and it really has infused so much fun into my homeschooling. I think I’m loving it more than my children.



So, if you homeschool, I challenge you to start gameschooling. has a challenge for 2020 of reading a book and playing a game every day for school. That’s reading any book a day and playing any game a day. Easy, fun, and you bond and learn at the same time!



Even if you don’t homeschool, I challenge you to invite more board and other tabletop games into your life, whatever your age or stage in life. They truly change ordinary days into extraordinary ones, along with reading aloud. They turn an ordinary day into a hygge day, and allow you to do “hyggeschooling” instead of plain old homeschooling! They keep your brain limber and you have fun at the same time! Even the Prophet, President Nelson, and his wife, Sister Wendy, love Scrabble! In the video below his wife says he has developed a strategy that works 90% of the time for him to win. (Here’s a video and transcription of how he relates family history to Scrabble.)



So, with my backstory done, I present to you, “How to Build Your Board Game Collection on a Budget, for Gameschooling and Other Fun.” 




  1. Get ideas for what games you want by frequenting these pages: My Little Poppies Amazon page,,, and
  2. Pick out thrift stores that are on your routes for your regular errands, or not too far out of your way. Go at a regular time, like right before grocery shopping or in between dropping off and picking up a child from a class. Find out if the thrift store has half off days or other type of discount days, or even discount days for educators, then go at that time, and show them your homeschool association ID card, to get the discount. As Cait from says, because of the Marie Kondo organizing movement, people are purging stuff from their closets, so you are likely to find great deals! I definitely have! I have got Super Master Mind, Apples to Apples, Buzzwords, National Geographic Brain Game, Cranium Wow, Cadoo, and many more this way.
  3. Set a budget for what you will spend each month to build your collection, whether it’s $5 a month, $25, $50, whatever. It’s easy to get addicted to this, thus overspending, unless you set limits! 
  4. Also check out used bookstores in your area. Sometimes they have have  used puzzles and used board games.
  5. Let your friends/neighbors/relatives know you are collecting games for gameschooling. They will probably be happy to give you some for free!
  6. Join Facebook groups for board gaming in your community and let them know what you are looking for. They also might be happy to sell them gently used or give them away because of the Kondo craze.
  7. Find out what friends of yours are into board gaming. Ask if they have a certain game you are eyeing and if you may borrow it and try it out before you buy. This allows you to make sure the game appeals to your children and has replay value. That’s how I discovered Chickapig, my 10 year old’s current fave and what he got for Christmas.
  8. Check ebay, craigslist, and other groups in your area for gently used stuff for sale. classifieds in Utah is definitely a great resource.
  9. If you are a member of my church, do your family history research and temple work to enlist the help of angels. See my post on angelic help while thrifting for more about that. Set your intention for a certain game and pray for help in attracting it to you. That’s how I got Scattergories. Yay! (Even if you aren’t a member, you can enlist angelic help by being an angel yourself and showing mercy to others, thus getting help and mercy back. You can also join my church too of course. 🙂 )
  10. If you can’t afford the game you really want at retail and can’t find it used, even with angelic help, read the game’s descriptions on amazon and Sometimes, just by reading about the mechanics of the game, you can create a crude DIY version of the game that will tide you over until you have saved enough to buy the game at retail. Some examples of this are: Apples to Apples, Taboo, Scattergories, Balderdash, Pictionary, and Liebrary. This is usually easiest for  language arts-based games and math games, and some art.

Happy game hunting and playing! I’d love to hear about your deals that you find in the comments below!





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11 Responses to How to Build a Board Game Collection on a Budget for Gameschooling and Other Fun!

  1. We too are a game playing family. We have found long term benefits in finding time to be together learning, playing and serving each other through gaming. We have also found value in purchasing games that have questions. My favorite cards right now are from a game called Lifestories. We seldom use the board game but have the cards at the dinner table to spark conversation. Other cards we love are: Tell it like it is-the Ungame, Getting to know you better and The Worst Case Scenario Survival Game.


    • treeoflifemama says:

      Those all sound fun Patricia! I keep a bunch of card decks full of questions next to my dining room table and bed because I too love asking them at dinner, or to my husband at bedtime, without the mechanics of the game! I remember seeing the Ungame as a kid. Isn’t it from the 70s or 80s? I just picked up the Worst Case Scenario while thrifting for only $2!


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  9. Michelle Omer says:

    I am so glad you are posting these resources! I have been inspired to start gameschooling at our house and your ideas have really helped. If you had to pick your favorite 10 games you would pay full price for if you had to, what would they be? I’m looking to add to our collection, but am overwhelmed at the options out there. There are so many that seem to have the same basic skill set in mind – like math or word games, and I’d love help sifting through them.


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