Kids Making Their Own Board Game – A Lesson in Frugal Creativity


My kids are very creative. Part of the reason is because we limit their screen time on weekdays to half an hour, and two hours on the weekends. So they’re forced to find something else to do to fill their time, and they often do interesting projects. For example, my oldest son makes 8-bit video game drawings on graph paper, which we hang up on the walls. . A pad of graph paper is only a few dollars on Amazon or at your local Staples, and it’s brought many hours of fun.

When I was reading Mustard Seed Money’s post about inexpensive fun with board games, I was reminded of how a few weeks back, my middle son (age 9) designed his own board game. This was a nearly-free project that he did over a weekend with things we had around the house. As part of this

How do you make a board game with things you already have?

  • We brought out a cardboard box from the garage and cut out a rectangular panel for his game
  • He designed the game board in pencil and then went over everything in a Sharpie marker. There was a path with special stops on the board, a bank, and even a jail
  • We already had some amiibos (little video game figures for the Wii U and 3DS) that he and his brother had received as birthday and Christmas gifts
    • He created statistics for all the video game characters on cards that he cut out from computer paper
    • We also already had some amiibo cards from the Animal Crossing game he had gotten for his birthday
    • The amiibos were the game pieces for his board game, and the cards played a role in part of the game
  • The board game was based on Monopoly, and we found some dice in the house to use with it
  • I found some images of monopoly money online, and replaced the middle of the money with amiibo images I found on Google image search.
    • I used Paint to do this, pasting the images into Paint and resizing them
    • Once I had all the images in Paint, I copied and pasted them into a Word document
    • I printed a test page at home
    • In order to not waste my own printer ink we made color copies of the money at Staples. It was 40 cents a copy though (ouch!) so I’m not sure if it was less expensive in the end


The end result? A homemade board game to play with his family and all his 4th grade friends. Total cost? Just paying for the copies. Technically you can print them at home for what may feel like “no cost” – but don’t forget there’s still a cost for the ink.

Here’s the money we printed – very cute but it sucks up the ink!

Frugal Side note – All right, I took a stab at calculating the cost to print it at home. I get the toner at BJ’s and it’s $84 plus tax (so about $90 total) for both a black and white and a color cartridge. The toner prints “up to” 440 pages. If it actually does, the cost per color print is 20 cents. So at first glance it looks like I should have printed my own. But this page was solid color, so I suspect it used much more ink than a normal page. Likely the cost for this particular one was a bit closer to printing at Staples. But this is a good fact to know for future decisions.

Now that he has this board game, he can play it with his older brother, us, and bring it to indoor recess. Since he made it himself he’s very proud of it. And he can add things to it over time, since it’s his creation. He’s already been tweaking the rules as he plays to make the game more fun.

But CMO, This Doesn’t Apply to Me

What if your kids don’t have a bunch of amiibos around, or they don’t like video games? They can make a board game with other things they have around the house. Take a look around-what kind of toys do they like and already have? Maybe figures from a certain show or game are sitting in a bin, forgotten, and can be pulled out to use in a fun game.  Are there characters from a game, movie, or TV show that they’re fond of? You can encourage them to create something based on their interests. Instead of shelling out for a store-bought game, making their own gives them a sense of accomplishment, lets them be creative, and saves money. A win all around!

Frugality without creativity is deprivation, according to Amy Dacyczyn (of Tightwad Gazette fame).  I love how my kids take ordinary things like toys, leftover cardboard, or graph paper and use them to make something new. Hopefully by sharing with you a creative way to approach having fun with your kids, you can take away some ideas on how your kids can use things you already have around the house to have fun.

What kinds of creative things do your kids do to stay occupied? Any awesome ideas for a board game? Let me know in the comments.



9 thoughts on “Kids Making Their Own Board Game – A Lesson in Frugal Creativity”

  1. Wow, that’s awesome! We have a bunch of board games, but haven’t tried to make one yet. I’ll see if the missus can help get one up and running. Our kid is a bit young so it’ll probably be pretty simple. Thanks for the great idea.

      1. Ellie @ The Chedda

        It was a cooperative strategy board game with wizards and dragons! Everyone works together to eventually beat the boss dragon. It’s pretty fun!

  2. Thanks for the shout out!!!

    I love the idea of creating board games. I have to admit I was never very good with creative thinking during play time or even creative writing for that matter. It’s definitely a gift and sounds like you are really encouraging which is awesome!!!

    Sounds like your children might be the next Parker Bros 🙂

    1. If so I’m going to request a cut of the proceed for letting them use my cardboard boxes! My oldest actually once made a board game based on his fourth-grade classroom (it had a cafeteria, a gym, etc.). So I have two board game tycoons in the family! 🙂

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