Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide - Board and Card Games

We are a game family.

For me, playing games is something that I remember doing a lot as a child. At home we would play board games and card games. I remember playing games like Scrabble and Monopoly and Clue. And, if I was playing with my brothers, there was a chance it was Dukes of Hazard or some such game.

I can remember going to my Grandma and Grandpa's house to spend the night and playing games into the evening. We played mostly a dice game or Hand and Foot, but then later played a game called Give and Take and Rummikub. I remember Sunday dinners at Grandma and Grandpa's where my aunts would play Euchre, and sometimes I would get to play too.

When my husband and I started to date, and ever since really, we have enjoyed playing games together. We like to get together with friends to play games (admittedly, this is harder with a family). We have a full game closet in our basement. Long before we had children old enough to play, we had our own copy of Pay Day! and Life. I frequently would give him a game for Christmas, when we were first married. We have games based on classic television game shows and classic board games too. Sometimes, I can even convince him to play a game of Scrabble.

Now, with young kids, we get the chance to play games with them. Lately, we have been playing Monopoly Deal, Pay Day! and Life. Last weekend, my son grabbed Cribbage and Score Four out of the closet (I'm missing a couple of pieces if anyone has extra?) and I taught him how to play both. Of course, my daughter was anxious to play a game then, so after our games, we joined her on the floor for a game of Memory, which she pointed out we hadn't played in a long time. I love not only playing with them, but also observing them playing games together - a recent favorite is Horton Hears a Who, wear they don an elephant hat and following the activity required on the card, race the timer in search of clovers.

When we travel to my parent's house, the kids get a chance to play with many of the toys I played with as a child, including some of my games. My son has tried out Chinese Checkers and a few others. In addition, my mom has shown them Shut the box and Mexican Train. When anyone visits, the kids are always eager to play games with them. One of my hopes is that when they are grown, that they too will have memories of playing games with the family.

In addition to bringing families together, games can really be a learning tool for kids as well. There is a lot to be said about learning to be a good loser and a gracious winner. It can be a very difficult concept for a young child at first, but with time, it is something that will help them in life. Of course, there is also learning to follow rules. Not that this is only seen in game play, but certainly, it illustrates on another level the importance of following rules. Games like Cranium and Pictionary also involve a creative element and can help foster those skills in children - typically with much laughter ensuing. We love games that challenge the mind too, like Blokus, Masterind and Police Blockade (you can learn more about Police Blockade here). Today, my son pulled out MindTrap. I was happy to see his interest in one of my favorite games, but knew this game was in general beyond his 7 years, but we picked through the cards and found questions that he could try to solve. I love how this game challenges you to think of things differently than you normally do. (If you aren't familiar with this game here are two sample questions from the side of the box: 1. "Picture two plastic jugs filled with water. How could you put all of this water into a barrel, without adding the jugs or any divider to the barrel, and still tell which water came from which jug?" 2. "Barney Dribble left the 'Soul-Ace Hotel' and walked toward the parking lot. Without the benefit of moonlight or any artificial light, he was able to spot his black car 100 meters away. How was this possible?" I'll put the answers at the bottom, so you have some time to consider them.)

My children have a number of games on their Christmas Wish List this year - Sorry Spinners, any of the U-Build games, the Curious George Helps the Zoo Game, Diary of a Wimpy Kid game, Chinese Checkers, and probably a few more. I think games are a gift that keep on giving and know that my kids will find a game or two under the tree on Christmas morning.

In case you are playing along, here is the answer to the MindTrap questions: 1. "First you would freeze the water in one or both jugs, and then cut the plastic away from the ice." 2. "It was daylight."