Looking for Children Games Playable with Severe Color Blindness

Keren contacted me, because her son is severely colorblind. He can’t really play basic games as every children game is in color.

What she is looking for are some board games for her eight year old son, where he could pick up the enjoyment of playing games. Because everything heavily relates to colors, this is not an easy task to accomplish.

I have a son that is colorblind with red, green and blue. He can see colors which have a yellow base. This has made it very hard for him to play basic games as every childs game is in color. I have tried every resource in aid to get him the simplest game and now am writing to you to ask if you know or have any games to your knowledge that he would not have difficulty in playing. His age is 8 and has never done jigsaw puzzles, or played board games.

Concerning the color blindness of her son we could at least find out a bit more of what type he is suffering from. This is important because for you, as a mother or father of a child with a color vision deficiency the first step should always be to try to understand what your child really sees. With this in mind it’s much easier for you to help your child and for your child to tell you about his/her problems.

After asking for more details she wrote me the following sentences. They show us some nice insights what it means to live with a colorblind child.

My son has never spoken in color names and as for his crayon box I have had to label every color. With all his school writing books I have to photocopy in black in white as he is not able to see the pale blue lines he is meant to write on.

All this descriptions point into the direction of some kind of achromatopsia. People suffering from some type of achromatopsia have at most one type of color receptors they can perceive colors through. Therefore they see either only in shades of gray or, when suffering from blue cone monochromacy, can see at most some shades of blue.

This of course means, that children suffering from achromatopsia can only play games which don’t rely on colors. Or the colors must at least be easily distinguishable when transformed to shades of gray. Here is a tip how you could test this:

  1. Take a digital picture of all the game pieces.
  2. Upload the picture on your computer.
  3. Transform it to a grayscale picture (most picture programs support this like the free available Picasa from Google).
  4. See if you still can distinguish all the different parts of the game.

Unfortunately I don’t have that many children games and don’t know of any which are playable even with the handicap of not perceiving colors.

Do you know of any games? Please add your ideas in the comment section to help not only Keren but also all other mothers and fathers facing the same challenge.

3 responses on “Looking for Children Games Playable with Severe Color Blindness

  1. Peter

    I believe most card decks should be usable by an achromat thanks to the symbols on the four suits. Card games can be complicated, but some are probably okay for 8yo. Mahjong tiles are also distinguishable for achromat, but that is a game for older people.

    Mancala is a family of ancient games that I believe a younger child would enjoy. I remember playing some in grade school.

    Checkers could be played with modified pieces if the traditional red and black are not feasible. Chess should be playable although more for older people.

    In general, many board games can probably be played after minor modifications to the board or pieces.

    Word based games may work. Boggle is good for younger children. A lot of party games are probably okay (e.g. scattergories, pictionary), although perhaps more for older people. As far as I know these are American games; I don’t know if they have them in other languages.

    This case sounds interesting. Again, I would encourage the family to contact a research university or hospital where a color vision scientist could assess the boy’s vision more precisely. Depends on where they are located I suppose. If they are willing to give a blood sample, the genotype could be assessed as well, even by sending the sample in from far away.

    I can help them get in touch with some color scientists if they are interested. I am interested from a scientific perspective, but I also agree with you that it is in the best interest of the family to get a precise idea of what the color deficit is.

    In any case, I would definitely be interested in hearing more about their experience, if the family is willing to discuss it further.

  2. Mary Bret

    I too have a colour blind son who has always enjoyed board games. We play them almost every evening and with a few modifications most games pose no problems at all. For example, Uno, it’s possible to write the initial of the colour in the corner of the card (Y on the yellow card). Rules can be changed as well – Mousey mousey has (horror of horrors!) a dice using colours instead of numbers, so just change the dice for a normal one and say that green is 4.
    The best thing is to be inventive and have a good time.

  3. Lucy Koch

    Try adding pattern to the game pieces. I’m thinking of games like CandyLand. Instead of just having colored squares, get out a black sharpie and have one solid (the darkest color) and then do patterns – dots, stripes, squiggles – on the other color squares so that there is a distinguishing characteristic from color to color. There is a silver sharpie pen that will write on dark colors and an opaque white pen (those are hard to find). You should be able, with a permanent marker, to add patterns right to playing pieces, cards and game boards.