Kid-Friendly Family Games

Back in March, we traveled (by Megabus . . . but THAT adventure we can discuss on another post) to Washington DC with both kids and luggage full of winter clothing.  Quick Travel Tip: it is COLD in DC in March. On the upside, it is not crowded, and if you’re up for it, there is ice skating on the National Mall. Very Cool.  Literally and figuratively. But, I digress.

So, we spent a full week eating every meal in a restaurant of some shape form or fashion.  Our children are generally well-behaved and pretty good company, but let’s get real . . . they aren’t perfect. And, after getting up early to get to places at certain times for various tours, hiking all over DC, waiting in lines, being dragged through art galleries they weren’t totally fascinated by, they were TIRED at dinner time. And hungry. And possibly, just a TAD bit crankier than usual.

It just worked out that the hotel where we stayed (the Holiday Inn at the Eisenhower Avenue Metro exit, which we would recommend as a decent mid-priced hotel, if anyone asked) offered free dinners for kids in their restaurant. And the food was nothing fancy, but it was pretty decent. So, every day, we’d time our touring so that we ate lunch out somewhere (usually at a restaurant in one of the museums) and then were back at the hotel for dinner and bed.

By the time we’d arrive at the dinner table, the kids were FAMISHED, and as I might have mentioned, TIRED. It was a recipe for a complete disaster. Seriously. And after having a FANTASTIC time (best.trip.ever!) as a family during the day touring DC, we really did NOT want to end the days with melt downs.  This game SAVED us:

Spot it!

I am absolutely serious. It was the PERFECT game to stick in my purse and pull out as we waited for our dinner to arrive. It’s small. It’s simple. It doesn’t require anyone to get particularly loud or rowdy. There are no small pieces, just the cards inside the tin. My 4 year-old could play, and while he might not be quite as quick on the draw as we adults were, he got the hang of it, and could hold his own. It was also a BREEZE to pick up off the table in about 2 seconds when they were walking up with our food. Even now that we’re home, it’s still a great game to throw in my purse if I think there’s a possibility that we’ll be hanging out somewhere waiting.  I really can’t recommend it enough.

For this same trip to DC, I also purchased this VERY simple game:

Pass the Pigs

I’ll be honest – I thought the premise was RIDICULOUS when I read it. Really, just totally ridiculous. But, it’s fun. Lots of fun. And, not just because we have an emotional attachment to Arkansas (Whoo, Pig Sooie!) We passed A LOT of time on our 3 and 4-hour layovers (again, we should really discuss the Megabus adventure separately at some point) playing this game, and really enjoyed it. It’s another one that is simple to pick up and start playing, and easy to transport in your purse, but it DOES have small pieces (the pigs!) that can be lost if you’re not careful. I wouldn’t take it to a restaurant like I would with Spot It, because my children (one of them, in particular) can get a little over zealous with the pig tossing. I’d really hate to have to retrieve a pig from another diner’s dinner. It fact, I probably wouldn’t. I’d send my husband to do it. They are HIS children, after all.

For Christmas 2011, we were trying to find some games that we could play as a family that wouldn’t bore the grown-ups in the family to death. My husband did some research and found this jewel:

Hey That's My Fish

It’s an awesome game, because it’s really fairly easy to understand and easy to play, but challenging to play well.  My children were both able to play it (my son was 3 ½ and my daughter was 5 ½ at the time), although they are still working on really developing the ability to strategize when they play it. But, that doesn’t really matter. We still play it and we have a GREAT time. Plus, while we play, we love to say repeatedly, and in ridiculous voices, “HEY, that’s my FISH!” Note: What’s available on Amazon is a smaller version of the game. We have the Deluxe version, which we purchased at a game store. Interestingly, there’s a VERY well reviewed app out there for Android based on the game. I haven’t tried it, but since I just realized there’s one for Android, I went searching for the IOS version, and I am TOTALLY going to give it a try! Since I usually REFUSE to pay for game apps unless I feel they are VERY educational, my son is going to think I am a cool mom for at least 5 minutes at some point tomorrow. Woohoo!

Last year, for his 4th birthday, my son received this:


He became obsessed. So did the rest of us. It’s not necessarily a competitive game, since only one person can play at a time, but it is fun to compare how far we’ve each been able to get through it, or to discuss the areas that were causing us issues. I’d also point out that there’s a Rookie version of Perplexus, but we opted to go with the Original Version for him, even though he was only 4.  He’s never made it all the way from the very beginning to the end (I’ve only done it myself once), but he enjoys the game very much and even at 4 he had the hand-eye coordination to do nearly as well as an adult. So, I’d recommend this version for a variety of ages.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I visited Mozambique to spend some time with our friends who are missionaries there. They play LOTS of board games. No cable TV, unreliable electricity, and intermittent internet makes board games a great go-to resource for entertainment), so really THEY should be writing this blog post, or at the very least, approving it. But, they have much more important things to attend to, and really, all I’ve got to do is this (and a pile of laundry so high we may all be crushed under it soon, but this is MUCH more fun), so I’ll just tell you about the game that they introduced us to, and that we subsequently bought when we got back to the states:

Ticket to Ride

This is the one game I’m going to recommend here that my kids are not yet old enough to play by themselves. There really is just too much strategy and it’s a little too complex. I’ve seen 10 and 12 year-olds who are able to play alone, but it’s just a little much for the 4-7 year-old age bracket. So, when we play, we play as teams, and the kids mostly help us execute the moves. They still have a really fun time, and I figure they’re getting a head start on being some serious competition in a few years.

Later, I’ll come back in a separate post and let you know about some more “educational” gems that my kiddos have come to love over the years.

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