Games for the whole family

Well, we are having a better day today. After my post yesterday, things went downhill again and I never did get to the grocery store, so I had to go today. (At least I didn't have to pick-up the Legos again... a blessing I don't take for granted.) I took TM and D. with me with the promise of lunch in return for going to four grocery stores. We ended with the Vietnamese market so stopped and had some pho at the diner next door. I've been going to the Vietnamese market a lot with TM these days because it is part of our 'all thing Vietnamese desensitization plan'. He loves it all, but it is a trigger, and his therapist thinks that more will help with that. So off we go at least once a week.

But because everything has all been a bit heavy this week and because one of the week's high points was playing games together, that is what I want to focus on. I have found that if the homeschooling is starting to drag a bit that taking a break and playing some games together is a good way to perk everyone back up. This would include the parent, by the way. My children play games together a lot, but there is something about playing with mom and/or dad that makes it even better. It is time shared together and because you are not really focusing on the other person, but are engaged with them, it leads to some good conversations at the same time. It's kind of like the riding in the car phenomenon of parent-child communication. (You know, when the child is riding with you and you can't look at them because you are driving and it makes conversations seem a little less intense and thus frees the child to discuss things they otherwise might not. Hmmm... wouldn't want to have to diagram that sentence.)

Back to games. We have some favorites that you may or may not know about. Because I'm always on the lookout for good games, I'll share our favorites in case you haven't heard of them.

For the younger set.

I find games for this age group to be trying. They can't read, often can't follow two-step directions, and can't sit still for very long, but still want to play a game. And there are only so many times one can play Candyland. (I think I passed my personal quota several children ago.) Other games for this age group are often equally dull for the adult playing. But there are two games that we have discovered that I actually don't mind playing all that much. They are both Haba games and I have no idea if you can still get them, but it is worth investigating.

The first is Cheeky Badger (or Frechdachs as it says on the box). I really love this game. I involves cute little tin suitcases that the child fills up with clothes and hopes the badger doesn't empty. Play moves by rolling a die with colors or a badger on it. And since there is no game board, no one can 'accidentally' bump the markers off of it by wiggling too much and knocking into it.

The second is Chubby Cheeks. It is a little more involved that Cheeky Badger and has more and smaller parts (not a plus in my book), but the play is simple and a colored dice still indicates the move. And I think the little bags of grain that you collect are cute.

I keep meaning to invest in more Haba games, but for some reason am not thinking about it when gift-giving occasions come around. Maybe this will be my reminder for when I'm getting ready for a couple little girls' birthdays in June.

Once a child can read and follow instructions, a whole new world of games opens up. Of course there are always the standbys of Monopoly and Scrabble and Battleship and Life and the like. They get played with here, but I am not terribly likely to join in. (It really does make me appreciated the day long Monopoly marathons my father would play with me when I was a child.) But there are a whole bunch of other games that I do find fun.

The first is Settlers of Catan. This is a family favorite and my guess is that nearly everyone has heard of it by now. Essentially, you try to build settlements by earning or trading for commodities that you need to do so. It involves a little luck, and little skill, and some great trading skills. M. tells me that the expansions packs for it are just as fun, though we have yet to try one.

Forbidden Island is a game I bought D. on a whim one Christmas that has become popular around here. It is actually a cooperative game, but there is still an element of competition because it is everyone against the island. You must find the hidden treasure before the island sinks and each player is given unique skills to make the job possible.

Ticket to Ride is the game we bought for everyone this past Christmas. It had received good reviews online and I decided to try it. It is as good as the reviews say it is. It is fairly simple to learn, but it does take a bit of planning in order to win. The best thing about it? My children can beat me at it. I know that sounds funny, but I am a little quirky that I don't do well at letting my children win a game. That's probably why it's best I stick with 'luck' games when they are small. But this one, I wasn't pulling any punches with the boys when we played it the first time and one of them completely skunked me. I think I won the next round, but I was impressed with a game that didn't depend on sheer luck that was made so that a 10 year old boy had a chance of beating his (highly competitive) mother. And it has a playing time of about 30 minutes. Just about perfect in my book.

One last game I wanted to mention is actually an educational game. It is called World Wise Geography Card Game and there is a separate game for each continent. We have the European version. I picked it up on a whim at a homeschooling convention one year, because, well, that's what I do at homeschool conventions. I really should stop because my children can smell out an educational game from a mile away, humor me once by playing it and then conveniently disappear the minute it comes out again. But this one has proven a little more popular. Each country or body of water on that continent has a card. On one side is a picture from that country and its name and on the other side is a map showing which countries or bodies of water touch it. When a card is played the next person then either plays a card from his hand that touches the card previously laid down or draws a card. The person can also try to bluff if they don't have a card that works, though there is a penalty for getting caught. I bought the European version thinking it would be slightly easier than some of the other, larger continents. Ha! It just shows how poor my geography is. Usually we play with the map (which is included) open on the table because we find it helpful. Maybe some day we will be confident enough to try it on our own, but we haven't reached that point yet.

We have so many games in our collection that it would be the world's longest post if I were to include every single on of our favorites, but this is a start. What are your favorite family games?


Hi from Ruth! said…
Thank you very much for the games ideas. My kids (9,7,5) are just getting into games over the past few months and I've been looking for more ideas. So far, we've stuck with games like Sorry, various Bingo games and simple card games for the younger two...but my older is getting into Chess and Settlers of Catan.

After I read your post last night, I ordered the Badger game (though I believe it's called Crafty Badger now, and not Cheeky Badger) and I have Chubby Cheeks, Forbidden Island, Ticket to Ride and a couple of the World Wise Geography games on my amazon wish list for next time I place an order.

Many thanks!

Lucy said…
We recently got "Herd your Horses" and all 3 of mine (10, 6 & 4) have played it almost daily. I know some of your kids like horses, so if you happen upon this game, I can heartily recommend it.

There are several different ways you can play, based on the sophistication of the players, and it has a lot of horsey information.

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