I have not always been big on board games. “Monopoly” and “Pictionary” were the extent of my game repertoire prior to having children. But during my kids’ early grade school years, their teachers encouraged us to play board games for the many educational benefits, and as a result, we’ve become a game-playing family. We add new board games to our collection each Christmas, and games are a highlight of our New Year’s Eve with friends. We take board games on vacation with us, and Family Game Night happens several times a year around here. Though we always come back to our favorites, we also like to try new games regularly. To see the very latest in board games, I’ll be checking out the Chicago Toy and Game (ChiTAG) Fair this weekend. I can’t wait! For more details on the ChiTAG fair, and a discount on admission, see the end of this post.
Why Play Board Games?
It shows you care. Whatever their age, kids love to get parents’ undivided attention. Setting aside a night to unplug and just play games is the definition of quality time. It shows you have made family time—and play—priorities in your busy lives, and that is a valuable message. Even though my kids are in the tween and teen years, when we say it’s game night, we don’t get any complaints.
It’s good for your kids. Board games pack so much learning into a (flimsy) cardboard box! (As an aside – why can’t game manufacturers make stronger game boxes? They are not built to withstand children. Does anyone still have Candyland in the original box? If you do, my hat’s off to you.) Playing age-appropriate games can build skills such as hand-eye coordination, number recognition, money management and more; reinforce social skills; increase attention span; deliver life lessons, and teach healthy competition. If you’d like to learn more about how this all happens, this article from Scholastic is a good starting point.
It’s fun and cheap. Having a family game night is fun and inexpensive. Even if you buy a new board game, it’s still cheaper than most new videogames or taking your family to the movies. Pop some popcorn, put on your comfy sweats, and gather around the game board for some laughs.
What to Play
For younger kids, these are some of our tried-and-true favorites. You probably have at least a few of these in your toy closet.
- Candyland – The classic.
- Chutes and Ladders – another classic. The knockoff “Snakes and Ladders” just doesn’t cut it.
- Franklin Goes to School – My kids seem to love quiz-type games, and they absolutely adored this game (based on the Franklin books and animated series) when they were younger (preK through 3rd grade). As you work your way around the game board, you answer quiz questions. And because there are questions for different levels, kids of multiple ages can play at the same time. Sadly, it seems you have to buy this one on eBay because it seems to be out of print.
- Operation - Not technically a board game, but you can’t beat this game for building manual dexterity, and it’s a lot of silly fun.
- Perfection – Also not technically a board game, but a “beat the buzzer” game that teaches shape recognition, along with time limits. You can compete against yourself or others.
Now that the kids are a bit older, we’ve found some new favorites:
- Apples to Apples - Everyone seems to love this game, which comes in a Junior version for younger kids. We’re probably ready to upgrade to the regular version now.
- Buzzword - This award-winning game is a riot. It involves guessing idioms and phrases that all contain the same “buzzword.” For example, if the buzzword is “Buzz,” a clue might be “go away,” and the answer would be “Buzz off.” See how many can your team can get right.
- 5-Second Rule - Challenging and fun, this game asks you to read a topic card, then say three words that fit the topic in only 5 seconds. It’s a lot harder than it sounds and leads to a lot of laughs as you get tongue-tied trying to spit the words out.
- Pictureka! An “eye-spy”-type game that challenges you to find hidden pictures in the game boards. You can play this many, many times and still never see everything hidden within the quirky drawings.
- The Logo Game – For teens and up, primarily because young children won’t know all the old brands and logos. It’s fun to see media-savvy kids guess at the logos in this game. My youngest likes to read the questions for the rest of us, since she is not old enough to know all the brands.
I’d love to hear your tips, especially with respect to getting older kids engaged in Family Game Night. Is it better to put your game night on the calendar or let it happen spontaneously? Let the kids invite friends or keep it “just family”? Does everyone unplug, or is texting allowed during games? What’s worked for you? I’d love to hear about your favorite games, too. Tell me in the comments!
Chicago Toy and Game Fair Discount
If you’re in the Chicago area, be sure to check out the Chicago Toy and Game Fair this weekend. Now in its 11th year, the ChiTAG Fair celebrates the power of play and creativity. It’s the only U.S. fair of its kind that is also open to the public. You can preview, play, and purchase the hottest toys and games, rediscover classics, and (this is super cool) meet the inventors behind the ingenuity. I really enjoyed chatting with some of the game inventors the last time I was at the fair. The atmosphere at the fair is fun and focused on play opportunities. The kids will absolutely adore you for taking them, because they can literally play their way through the fair. You will feel like a kid yourself! It’s a great place to buy some holiday gifts or get ideas for your wish list. I’ll be tweeting from the event and I’ll let you know about my favorite new discoveries in a follow-up post.
Click here to see the full schedule of contests, live stage entertainment, interactive exhibits, tournaments, and more. Click here for ticket info and a $2 off admission coupon!
The Chicago Toy and Game Fair runs November 23 & 24, 2013 Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Navy Pier, 2nd Floor Festival Hall A (far east end of the Pier) in Chicago, Illinois.
DISCLOSURE: This is not a sponsored post. The Chicago Toy and Game Fair invited me to attend a blogger preview of the fair, and provided press materials. Opinions are mine, all mine.