No arcade-style table game is particularly easy for a young child to learn how to play. Table games like billiards and air hockey all involve some level of skill and knowledge of physics, and many are fast moving, making it hard for younger kids to keep up.
Just because it won’t be easy to teach your young child arcade table games doesn’t mean you have to abandon your dream of a game room the whole family can enjoy together, though. Some games are easier to learn than others, and by starting with those that are the simpler to grasp, you can work young kids up to the games that are more complicated.
It will take some time for children to get the hang of how hard they must throw the pucks to get into scoring range and how still keep them on the table, but the pucks in table shuffleboard are slid by hand, eliminating the learning curve for using a particular piece of equipment. The throwing technique itself is simple, and the lack of an opposing player at the table’s other end eliminates stress during the learning process.
Since players take turns, shuffleboard is also easy to practice alone, so kids don’t have to play against anyone until they have mastered how to throw.
Pro Parent Tip: Gutter bumpers are available for shuffleboards, which keeps the pucks on the playfield, reducing frustration while kids are learning.
Still Pretty Easy
Rapid movement aside, air hockey is a pretty easy game to learn. Hit the puck with the striker and put it through the goal. Pretty basic. It is less easy to get good at it. Air hockey requires quick reflexes, and some knowledge of angles and velocity, if you want to have some idea where a shot will end up and how long it will take to get there.
As far as the actual method of play, though, air hockey is not a hard game for most young kids to grasp. They just need an opponent who will go easy on them as they make progress.
Pro Parent Tip: Since air hockey is fast-moving and encourages leaning over the table, it can be dangerous for very young kids who have a habit of putting their hands down in the play area. Start with the lesson of keeping hands up off the table to avoid mishaps.
When it comes to difficulty level, ping pong is pretty close to air hockey. The play is different, of course, with balls and paddles instead of pucks and strikers, but the technique is much the same – hit one with the other and send it toward the table’s other end.
The main difference between air hockey and ping pong puck is that in air hockey the puck is constrained by the width of the table, while a ping pong ball can end up pretty much anywhere once it’s in the air. This requires a wider reach, which makes ping pong the slightly more difficult of the two for younger kids to play.
Pro Parent Tip: Let little kids play two against one to make the game easier and fairer. Just make sure they stay in their zones, so they don’t whack each other with their paddles by accident.
Foosball is a tricky game to place on a list like this. Physically, it’s one of the easiest – all players have to do is turn rods. Strategically and competitively, though, foosball is a lot more involved than just kicking the ball back and forth.
Learning to truly compete in foosball requires multiple skills on the table, including how to pass the ball, how to pin or catch the ball, and how to defend a goal. These all use the players in different ways, and can be tough to master even for adults.
Pro Parent Tip: Teach each skill required for foosball separately, instead of launching right into a play. This will give kids an idea of what they can do on a foosball table, so they’ll start to develop real playing ability (even if they prefer to just whack the ball about between coaching sessions).
I think many adults would agree, learning to properly handle a billiards cue alone is harder than most of the games on this list. Breaking a rack requires both technique and strength, and, at its core, billiards is just physics on a sweet-looking table.
The rules of billiards are also complex compared to other table games, and can make it hard for younger children to understand why they’re not allowed to do certain things while playing. Billiards also requires substantial reach, which can be a real handicap for smaller children.
Pro Parent Tip: Instead of trying to teach your kids on a full-size billiards table, opt for a small, inexpensive table for teaching purposes. Then, keep sizing up until both the kids and the table reach full size.
Shawna Newman is a digital marketing consultant with an emphasis on site-building and SEO, working with KICK Foosball.