When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good game!

It's been downright frigid outside lately, and while our family loves to skate, sled, and play in the snow, eventually we get, well, cold, and need to find something to do indoors. This is where a good collection of games (board, card, strategy, word, and others) comes in handy; we need to look no further than the shelves in our family room to discover an instant source of fun. Playing games together gives us a chance to talk, laugh, think, and spend real time together. It also helps Matt and I teach the boys the important life lesson that winning isn't everything.

Over the years, we have discovered a wide variety of amusing and challenging games to meet the needs and interests of the boys' ages. These are the ones that have stood out as our family's favourites.

Cariboo by Cranium (ages 3+) This exciting treasure hunt game encourages a team approach, and is perfect for young ones who are learning letters, numbers, shapes and colours. Players match objects from their cards with those on doors on the game board to try and find colourful hidden balls. Finding all of the balls unlocks a special treasure box!

Honey Bee Tree by iplay (ages 3+) In this cute game, players carefully remove "leaves" from the bees' tree, trying not to "wake" the bees. If any bees pop out of the hive while a player removes a leaf, that player must keep them. The little bees in this game are irresistably adorable -- the boys always loved making up adventures with them after the game was over!

Balloon Lagoon by Cranium (ages 5+) This is a game with a lot of variety and activity. Players try their hand at different carnival style mini-games that let them practise spelling (at a fish pond), picture completion (at a spinning puzzle), matching (at a dice-rolling snack hut), and fine motor skills (at a frog flipping pond). Playing this game is almost as much fun as going to the fair!

Slamwich by Gamewright (ages 6+) In this fast flipping card game, players try to get cards from their opponents by making crazy card sandwiches and then slamming their hand down first when certain combinations of cards turn up. Players also have to watch out for sandwich thieves, slip slaps, and munchers! We've had many hours of silly sandwich making fun with this game, and it's great for travel, too.

Lego Games (ages 6+) These new games were a popular gift for the boys this Christmas, and a very big hit with both of them! When pairing the building appeal of Lego with the strategy and luck of a board game, how could anyone go wrong? The game themes vary from robots to race cars to pirates to monsters and more; there is definitely something for all kinds of Lego fans to enjoy.

Qwirkle by Mindware (ages 6+) An excellent strategy game, Qwirkle involves building lines with wooden tiles that are either all the same colour or all the same shape. Players need to plan carefully to maximize the points they earn for each turn. This game takes close to an hour to complete, but we find the time flies by because we're all so absorbed in playing it!

Bananagrams (ages 7+) Scrabble fans out there will likely love this game! Players try to use up all of the letter tiles in their pile to make connecting and intersecting words. Each person plays individually, but players are constantly drawing letters from a large central pile, and the speedy word-making actions of one player affect all of the other players in the race to be the first one finished. No children are required for the enjoyment of this game (though the kids love it too!). My parents and Matt and I have spent many hilarious evening hours Bananagramming together and accusing each other of being rotten bananas!

RushHour by Thinkfun (ages 8+; junior edition also available for ages 6+) While this is essentially a single player game, our family likes to work on it together sometimes to see if we can solve the really difficult challenges. Players set up a traffic jam with toy vehicles on a grid according to the directions on one of many varied-level cards; they then try to get the red car out of the jam using allowed moves. This is a super game for anyone who likes to challenge his or her thinking.

Our family has had hours of fun playing many of the old standby games I remember from my childhood, too: Candyland, Trouble, Connect 4, Mastermind, Checkers, and the like. If we ever tire of the games we have, we can arrange a swap with relatives or friends for a few weeks in order to discover different ones. There is always a new game out there to try!

In my eyes, family game time is as valuable as family meal time -- it's a chance to connect with the ones you love (with the added bonus of not having to do dishes afterwards!). Taking an hour or two to enjoy a game and each other's company in a spirit of fun leaves all players smiling and saying, "Good game!" afterwards. In this sense, everybody wins.

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