I am breathing carefully and calmly through my nose as I think of playing board games with children: Monopoly, which goes on forever and makes children cry; CandyLand, which seems like it’s about to end and then someone gets sent back to the beginning.
I do have a few, a very select few, that I am willing to play. I look for a game that is fun for me as well as for the kids, and that doesn’t require me to hold way back in order to avoid trouncing my opponents.
Wits & Wagers Family (photo from Amazon.com). I prefer the grown-up version, which I first encountered at my brother and sister-in-law’s house, but the kid-friendly game is nearly as good. I am timid and suspicious of games, but this one won me over: it’s like Trivial Pursuit except you’re NOT SUPPOSED TO know the answers. The idea is that everyone will be guessing. The guesses are laid out in a row, and then everyone can bet on the likelihood that the guesses are correct; in this way, you can win points even if you didn’t know the population of Vatican City, or how many points an athlete scored in his best game. It ends up being a lot of fun and a lot of laughing, and as soon as I got home from that game night I ordered the family version to play with the kids.
Set (photo from Amazon.com). This game was recommended to us by one of the kids’ teachers, who had the kids make their own small decks to practice with. The point of the game is to find three cards that make up a “set”: the three cards can be different colors but the same shapes, or different shapes but the same colors, or all different colors/shapes. It took me a little while to catch on, but after that it was simple and addictive.
Double Solitaire (photo from Amazon.com). I consider solitaire an excellent game for anyone to have in their repertoire of skills, and double solitaire is a nice way to teach it to a child. You buy two decks of cards, with different backs to make sorting-out easier afterward (I get a set of one blue and one red deck from Target, but this robot deck was more fun to use as the photo), and you and the child start playing solitaire across from each other on a table. The only difference between regular and double is that you can play cards on the other person’s aces as well as your own. It usually starts out in silent solitaire-like play, and by the end it’s teamwork: “Wait, don’t do your three of hearts—if I do mine, then we can get at these cards underneath it!”
Scrambled States (photo from Amazon.com). I bought this game this summer to help a child struggling with geography—and it turned out to be a genuinely fun game. There’s a lot of table-slapping and yelling out state names. It isn’t entirely educational: some of the rounds are about the color of the state, or about whether the cartoon of a state is wearing a hat.
Rat-a-Tat-Cat (photo from Amazon.com). This is a Grandma’s House game, so I haven’t played it myself—but my mom has played it with the kids hundreds of times and tells me it’s surprisingly bearable and even fun.
Rummikub (photo from Amazon.com). This is one Paul is willing to play often with the kids, and I remember liking it as a child—but if some other adult is willing to play the game, I’m off to another room in a flash.
I always think I don’t want to play Memory (photo from Amazon.com), but I don’t mind it much once I’m playing it. I like that it can so easily be adjusted for different skill levels by using fewer pairs of cards. And I’m so grateful to Amazon.com customers who post photos of what the cards look like, because I find that crucial to my enjoyment of the game. (I like the look of this set, too.)
(If you don’t know if you’d like to play Memory or not, it’s a fun kid-craft project to make a small set. Cut a little pile of index cards in half, and have the kids either draw matching pictures or use pairs of stickers.)
Games make such good gifts, and I like to buy a new one each Christmas. Do you have suggestions of other games that are fun for children AND grown-ups?