How to Play D&D with Kids: The Complete Guide

by DM Guides, Guides

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As tabletop RPGs’ popularity continues to rise, more and more kids are getting in on the action. D&D is a complicated affair among adults. That begs the question, “Is D&D for kids?”

We believe the answer is “Yes!” so we put the definitive guide to help you pass on your love of D&D to your kids. The basic steps are:

  • Get Prepared – taking the appropriate steps before your zero session will make the whole process way more enjoyable.
  • Pick Characters – Kids are more in touch with their imaginations than adults. Turning that imagination into a playable character is an important step.
  • Set Ground Rules – It’s essential to create healthy boundaries for your kids to flourish. That’s not saying they can’t bend a little bit, but often if you give an inch, you’ll find yourself miles away.
  • Make Play Fun – This is the most critical step. If it’s not fun, kids aren’t going to do it. Period.
  • Other Tabletop RPGs for Kids – D&D isn’t for everyone. It’s worth considering other kid-friendly options to supplement your tabletop adventures.

The benefits of allowing kids to open up their creativity in a safe environment are incredible. So, let’s dive in!

Get Prepared

The more work you do beforehand, the better the campaign will go. Even with the randomness that D&D can sometimes bring, having a general plan will provide a better experience for you and your young players. Not sure how to set a game plan? Keep reading. We’ve got you covered.

Starter Sets

D&D requires a lot of material. Books, dice, dice holder, character sheets, rule books, and cheat sheets. Here are some suggestions for bundles that can save on your wallet and simplify the process by getting everything all at once.

  • D&D Essentials Kit 5e – First time DMing and have no materials? This setup comes complete with 6 full dice sets, bags, 64 page rule book, the Dragon of Icespire Peak adventure, DM screen, and more. The best option for
  • D&D 5e Gift Set – This is similar to the Essentials kit but it comes with a full Player’s Handbook. If you have some experience playing or DMing and don’t have a book yet, this is a great purchase. Comes with plenty of dice, and who doesn’t like to collect?
  • D&D Starter Set – For smaller groups or individuals looking to play. Comes with a set of dice and plenty of reading material to get you started!

Kid-Friendly D&D Campaigns

Ultimately, you’re the adult. If you’re not the parent, be sure to run the campaign by the parents before starting. Some campaigns have some adult-themed material you may want to avoid with younger age-groups. Leaving the risqué material aside, certain adventure styles may also pique a child’s interest more anyway, so focusing on kid-friendly content has multiple benefits.

  • Monster Slayers: Heroes of HesiodMy favorite of the introductory campaigns put out by Wizards of the Coast. This campaign offers an educational experience with the perfect run time. Plenty of options to explore. By far the best starter option.
  • DND Adventures for Kids This site has tons of FREE resources and campaigns suitable for kids. Both in content and length.
  • Crimson HoodA bit more complex than Monster Slayers, this offers a bit more challenge in about 1-3 hours (depending on your group).
  • The Young Adventurer’s CollectionThis is less of a campaign and more of a supplement to other campaigns. It’s a great option if you’re homebrewing your own story.

Make D&D About What the Kids Want to Do

Kids have minds of their own. We need to remember this when playing tabletop games with them. Even adults are prone to get easily distracted and be goofy during a campaign. It’s even more true with kids. Lean into that and be flexible. If a kid wants to pretend that scorching ray is made of cotton candy, go with it. If you insist on realism or sticking to the rules, the less fun your kids will have.

Pick Characters

Sitting down to decide who you’re playing as is one of the most exciting parts of D&D. If you haven’t caught our How to be a Better D&D Roleplayer post, check it out! We cover a lot of information on creating characters. For kids, this process is a lot less about stats and a lot more about letting their imaginations run wild.

Premade Characters

If your kid has a playstyle in mind, it might be easier to find something premade for them. Rolling stats and going through the process of making a character will likely bore most children. There are infinite resources on the internet that can help speed this process up.

  • DND Adventures for KidsHere’s a list of well-made characters suitable for a child’s first adventure.
  • Digitaldungeonmaster.comA well laid out character selection. Be sure to double-check and make sure the one you pick is kid-appropriate.
  • KassoonOne of the larger repositories. I would get 5–10-character sheets from here and let your kids pick their favorite.

Once characters are established, they’ll start asking questions about the mechanics. That’s your cue to start going through the character setup with them.

Focus on Play Styles, not Stats

Kids are usually not going to be into stats. This is especially true for younger kids. Kids want to make big explosions or turn enemies into boogers. Find play styles that the kids want to play.

Do they want to be the hero who charges in and fights all the time, or the sneaky guy who sets traps and tricks people? If they don’t know, give them some examples from their favorite books or shows to choose from.

This will help them understand how to play much better than explaining the differences between Dexterity, Constitution, and Strength.

Once they decide what playstyle they want to use, you can select their stats for them.

Fun Kid-Friendly D&D Names

Often in adult D&D campaigns, we get names like “Yarlphleg the Defenestrated.” Well, not really, but you get the point. Names like that will not resonate with children. I like to take hints from Terry Pratchett. So many bad guys have names like “Miss Tick” or “Rob Anybody.” Names like this are a lot easier for kids to understand, and picking clever and goofy names can be part of the fun.

Set Ground Rules

Boundaries are healthy for everyone. Having hard yes’s and no’s in your campaign’s vocabulary is the strongest way to ensure everyone’s fun. Remember, the relationship is more important than the rules here, but that goes all the way around the table. One person can ruin a campaign for everyone. Here are some ideas you can copy or modify to fit your group:

  • Wait your turn – Get a system in place (outside of initiative) that allows your players to be heard. Rotate the system so the same person isn’t going first every time. Have them draw from a cup of numbered popsicle sticks (or just roll each time there is an action to take) and do things in that order.
  • Have a signal – This could be a sound, a hand gesture. Something to let the table know, it’s time to quiet down. It’s not a bad idea to let the conversation go for a bit, that’s part of the social aspect of tabletops. But you’ll accomplish nothing by letting it get out of control. I have a special clap that I do to get attention. It works in a room of 300+ kids, it’ll work at the table.
  • Language – Keep it simple and G-rated. There will be enough new terms and monster names for them to learn without complicating things more. A good rule is to not use language you have to apologize to parents for or explain.
  • Respect – It’s good to have a discussion about respect and what it means during the first session. If you have good enough ground rules, you won’t have to deal with this, but it’s good to be ready. Without respect, a campaign won’t be able to move forward. Respect includes not talking over others and using kind words to each other. You can always briefly revisit this later if needed.
  • Props – Dice, food, drinks, books, costumes, etc… All of these need to be a part of respecting each other. If you find a group misusing or having problems with these, you may need to address having them in the first place. Dice need to stay on the table (not in mouths). Costumes and props need to stay attached (and not poking and prodding around).

Make Play Fun

Fun is the number one goal here. If kids aren’t having fun, they aren’t going to want to play and neither are you. If you can’t envision yourself having fun, the kids probably aren’t having fun either. Fun is a subjective term, but there’s a lot we can at least agree on. Let’s add some tools to your toolbox to help your kids enjoy each session.

Set the Stage

Be grand but simple in your world-building. Most kids I’ve met love big stories. They don’t want to know about the color of the drapes on the wall, but they want to know if the drapes are alive and have a tragic back story. Go over the top with the following:

  • Voices – With kids, this is especially important. If you go ham with this one, it will pay off.
  • World Building – This one is difficult. Building a grandiose world without complicated language is an art of its own. I recommend Terry Pratchett for a master class on how to do this. Use simple words sparingly. Don’t worry about being perfect with it. Kids won’t remember what it was supposed to sound like, they’ll remember big moments in big worlds full of potential.
  • NPCs – Kids love a good character. There’s a reason so many young adult shows revolve around wild protagonists. We already covered naming, but take character traits to an extreme and keep it simple. Highlight simple and understandable features and keep them few in numbers.

Give Kids Things to Touch and Hold

Tactile learning is one of the top learning languages for kids. If you can give them mana potions, play weapons, robes, wands, you name it, the kid is more likely to remember. Props will also help with immersion and will help the children recall key moments. If they slew a monster wand held high firing their fountain soda fireball variation full force, every time they look at the wand, they’ll remember that moment.

Encourage Role Play Introductions

First impressions can set the tone for the entire campaign. Help the kids practice their introductions. They may also want to repeat them frequently throughout the campaign. The more rehearsed they are, the more comfortable they will be with them. Give them the freedom to introduce themselves to NPCs often. This will help the children feel more attached to their player characters.

Early Combat

Kids will likely be murder-hobos right from the start. The earlier you can get them fighting and used to combat, the better. Attention spans are much shorter so keep combat short as well. With younger kids especially, quick transitions and more numerous encounters will be better than anything long-winded.

Theatre of the Mind

Children’s imaginations are crazy. They can come up with stuff that’s hard for me to imagine as an adult. Use that to your advantage.

  • Have Them Describe – While the kids are poking around this world you’ve made, ask them to come up with what their character is doing and interacting with. How would they finish off a monster? What do they think of the Orc Pirate “Stinky Pitface?”
  • Boast About Success and Cover Failure – Kids like to feel accomplished and failure can stick. The more you boast about what they accomplish the more engaged they will be. Write off failure as something comical. Never let a kid feel utterly defeated in a campaign. It’s not about stats.
  • Homebrew when Necessary – Sometimes spells and mechanics in D&D won’t quite cover what a kid wants to do. It’s okay to come up with stuff on the fly or mix in your ideas to give them freedom. Who doesn’t like breaking the rules a little for more fun?

Don’t Follow the Rules

There’s been a lot of information about rules, but at the end of the day, it’s about fun. Break the rules of the game to have fun. Should you let your Paladin huck a javelin and then misty step, catch it mid-air and then impale an enemy? Yes. A DM let me do this in an adult campaign and it made me feel like I was on cloud-nine, imagine what it will do for a kid. Let them completely and utterly trample your campaign into the ground. As long as they’re having fun with it, and it’s not keeping anyone else from having fun, go for it.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Often, adult games go 3-4 hours. This won’t work with kids. You’ll want to cap your game between 1-2 hours depending on the age group. Attention spans are going to start waning nearing the 1-hour mark. This also applies to encounters. Combat, dialogue, exploration, all aspects should be shorter in general. The goal should be to end every session with them wanting more. Unkillable enemies are not going to be fun for kids.

Why Play D&D with Your Kids?

Tabletop games are a great way to give kids a lot of what they need. You’re getting change in your pocket with every campaign, meaning something to discuss and point back to down the road. These fake encounters can be teaching moments for real life. Aside from the relational benefits, let’s look at some of the other long-lasting effects D&D builds.

Inclusive

Most kids I know enjoy being included in adult events. Kids also like to feel in charge of various things. Having a player character that makes big impacts in a world (even fictional) can be something that instills wonder.

Educational

One of the best ways for kids to learn is through accidental learning. This works for adults too. Having fun while learning doesn’t feel like learning. D&D excels in this area. It covers so many senses at once that it’s impossible not to learn on many levels.

Inspiring

Motivation with kids can be tricky. If a kid doesn’t want to do something they become an immovable force. If you are celebrating victories and downplaying failures, kids will feel inspired by every little thing they accomplish and that can boost confidence in other areas of life.

Encourages Thinking Outside the Box

Problem-solving is a skill that will stick with someone their entire life. Thinking outside of the box is a huge component of that. Make sure that your puzzles are solvable, but don’t be afraid to challenge kids. You may be surprised how quickly they dismantle your best attempts.

Other Tabletop RPGs for Kids

D&D is not the only way to tabletop. There are tons of other games out there that are kid-appropriate and easier to learn than D&D. If the kids aren’t enjoying D&D, don’t give up, check out some of these throwing in the towel.

  • Starport is the go-to for ages 5-12. Often used as a classroom tool or after-school program, educators and DMs all agree, this is a great start. Non-violent and educational, this game makes the top of our list.
  • No Thank You, Evil is great for short blocks of fun. For ages 5 and up, this tabletop is meant for 2-5 players with an average playtime of 30 minutes (or more). This tabletop earns our creative seal of approval.
  • Hero Kids boasts a robust yet simple exploration system that lends itself to the imagination. If you are wanting to start getting kids into the stats and numbers, this is the one to go with. This tabletop has my personal favorite character sheet setup.
  • Golden Sky Stories wins our wholesome award. This tabletop teaches children the benefit of helping each other and the importance of friendship. If the kids are more interested in storytelling than combat, this is the way to go.
  • Mouse Guard is the most complete setup. The quality of the items in the box is fantastic. It even comes with a GM screen. Quality aside, this wins our adorable award. But don’t let that fool you, danger lurks at every corner for the young players.
  • Star Wars: Force and Destiny is the perfect choice for all you sci-fi fanatics out there. This particular campaign is geared towards newcomers to the roleplaying genre and does a great job teaching the ins and outs of roleplaying within the Star Wars universe.

Related Questions

Is D&D Kid Friendly?

Absolutely. D&D was not designed with kids in mind, but it happens to check all of the boxes that help a child develop well. We highly recommend adding D&D to your family nights.

What Age is Appropriate for Dungeons and Dragons?

In our experience, most kids 11 and up are able to play and enjoy D&D, but every kid is different. Some as young as 5 are able to jump in, roleplay, and have fun.

As far as appropriate content, remember that you are completely in control. Feel free to tone down or eliminate adult content when playing with younger players.

Are there Kid-Friendly Dungeons and Dragons Podcasts?

You bet! Here are a few of our favorites:

  • D20 DamesAn every other week podcast great for all ages. The episodes are streamlined and focus more on problem-solving rather than combat. Perfect for a bedtime story.
  • Dice Tower TheatreBased on the dramatized story surrounding 6 children growing up in a magical world, this kid-centric podcast is perfect for the whole family.
  • Quest Company JuniorIncredible voice acting, family-centric messages. Don’t miss out on this incredible adventure.
  • Make Believe HeroesGreat for those looking to get ideas for a homebrew world and expand their table top vocabulary. Highly educational and easy to follow along with.

Where can I Find Kid Friendly Character Sheets?

DND Adventures for Kids is the best place to find sheets specifically designed for kids. Everything is worded to be kid-appropriate with the stats already filled out.

Wrapping Up

In the end, being flexible is going to be your best friend when it comes to playing D&D with kids. Everything you’ve read in this post is a tool for your toolbox to help you with that. Placing kids in an open creative environment that allows them to explore is not only putting relational change in your pocket, it’s growing them in ways you may not see right away. So grab what you need, and don’t be afraid to jump in!

Rob Benson

Rob Benson

Co-Founder

Rob has been invested in the gaming world since the first Nintendo Entertainment System came out. After being introduced to Dungeons and Dragons in middle school, he decided to grow his passion and a lifelong love for tabletops. His favorite part of D&D is watching players come alive as they learn how to play the game!

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