Growing up I remember sitting around the table playing Monopoly with my family. I remember loving the competitiveness of the game; the way my dad (cut-throat to say the least) often wouldn’t trade with anyone; the times my mom offered charity in the form of play money to someone who wasn’t doing well; the feeling of winning; and the occasional stomping off of someone or other who couldn’t handle not winning.
I remember playing chess with my dad, Life with my mom and sister, and pinocle and nickel-and-dime poker with the whole family. I remember the towering stacks of games- Clue, Risk, Checkers, Yahtzee, Scrabble, Taboo, Scattergories- high up on the shelf in our playroom. I absolutely loved playing games. I still do.
Characteristics of a great family game
So now it’s our playroom that has the stacks of games. Sometimes we have high hopes for a game but it doesn’t quite fit our family, and sometimes a game surprises us and we enjoy years of play. As I look at the games that get the most use, wondering what makes them great, I recognize that they do one (or more) of these three things:
- make us laugh
- make us think
- make memories
I hope that this week, as I highlight some of the games that have stood the test of time in our home, you will find something new to explore here, something to add to the running Christmas or birthday list for your family. And I hope also that you will share what your family favorites are in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for a new favorite to add to our teetering stacks!
Kinesthetic games for the whole family
- Bop It XT- This little treasure was given to us as a gift. It is addictive, easily-transportable, and can be played solo or in “pass it” mode. Each little doo-hicky on the game has a different function (bop it, flick it, twist it, spin it, pull it) and the objective is to follow the directions of the voice and do the right action to the right piece at the right time. Very simple to learn, not so simple to master. I love playing “pass it”. When the voice tells you to pass it to the next player, it gives you an extra second to do so before the directions begin again. Be prepared to go a bit bonkers with this one!
- Hyperdash- Another great game that can be played solo or with a group, Hyperdash requires players to set up the five numbered, colored cups and follow directions to each one as prompted “punching” them with the plunger as you go. It can be played inside or out, depending on where you are and how much space you have. The goal is to be the fastest, or to beat your own time if you’re playing solo. This is a great game to help kids expend a little energy!
- Outdoor Challenge- We like to keep screen time to a minimum, but the Wii has a couple of games that are really active and Outdoor Challenge is our favorite of this type. This was the first Wii game that our then-four-year-old could play with us, and one of few games that can be played with a whole bunch of people (taking turns for each activity). The challenges are varied and include fun activities like log jumping, pipe sliding, speed roller skating, kayak attack and mountain boarder, all of which require some serious physical maneuvering!
- Jumping Pixies- What do you get when you cross cute wooden pixies with Newton’s laws of motion? You get a hilarious catapulting game- marginally educational in the physics department, but guaranteed to have you giggling with your little ones (and not-so-little ones). Try to pop your little pixies into the holes of the game board with the seesaw-like plank, and earn points based on which color they land in. This game is so much fun, and will also have your little ones adding tens and ones in their heads to get their scores (an extra math perk!)
- Askew- Askew is basically a balance game. It is made up of color-coded metal pieces and a stand that waits to foil attempts at balancing the lot of them. Each player has a group of metal pieces of varying lengths and must choose wisely which to place and where, so that he is not the one to knock the whole thing down (getting himself extra pieces in the process.) It’s a great and subtle physics lesson! (Zach isn’t really wearing shades. I was playing around with my photo editing software.)What games get your family moving?
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