This is the earliest I’ve ever had my Christmas shopping done, and I must say I’m quite relieved to know the pressure is off to beat the clock. But for those of you who are still looking for gifts for your kids ages 3-8, I thought I’d post some Morrow Family Favorites to give you a hand.
We love games here at Casa Morrow. Board and puzzle games particularly–especially when they make you think. (When you’re a homeschooler, you tend to look for games that require more of the players than simply rolling a die and moving some spaces!) One of our top favorites, which even my husband and I enjoy playing, is Richard Scarry's Busytown. It’s a combination of spinning to see how far you can move and working together with the other players to spot as many of a particular object as you can in 30 seconds (and then everyone gets to move that number) on the I Spy-like game board. We got this last year when PJ wasn’t even 3 yet, and the only thing that sometimes got in the way of her playing properly was her own lack of focus. Developmentally she was able to understand the rules and play correctly. It’s a great mix of activities (either spinning the spinner or searching for the objects; working as an individual and working as a team) and it doesn’t take real long to play, either. This one gets a very enthusiastic double thumbs up and 5 stars.
The other favorite board game is Granny’s House by Family Pastimes. Family Pastimes makes cooperative games that encourage teamwork, reasoning, and thinking outside the box. The goal of this particular game is to reach Granny’s house with a gift without being eaten by bears, drowned in the lake, lost in the forest, baked by the sun, or stopped by a fence. These obstacles, called “Uh Oh’s,” are conquered using the “Good Things” that you choose at the beginning of the game or whenever you land on a red diamond on the board. If you can come up with a reasonable way to use, say, a trumpet to get over a fence or an inner tube to get past the bear, then you can–it’s a great way to encourage creative thinking! I recommend this one for the upper end of the age range we’re working with here, because it can get a little long, especially if you land on an Uh Oh that you can’t get past and you have to follow the path down to the Uh Oh below it (and on and on until you either land on an Uh Oh you can get past or you land back at your house). The games may look a little bit ghetto, but that’s because they’re manufactured entirely by the Deacove family. They have games for all ages, including adults, and buying from them is a great way to not only support a family, but to also cast a vote of confidence for the Mom and Pop shops that are struggling to survive in this conglomerate corporation-run economy.
ThinkFun is the maker of the two other great games that we love here. What I particularly like is the fact that they’re single-player games, which encourages independence and confidence. The first is Clever Castle. The object of the game is to correctly achieve the layout of the nine tiles as shown in the clue notebook. The notebook is divided into skill levels and the clues get quite tricky towards the end. It seems ridiculously easy for adults, but for children it’s a huge challenge, even the beginning clues where they show you exactly where everything goes and all you’re doing is directly copying the layout. The only thing I don’t like about this game is that there isn’t a way to keep the mesh bag of notebook and pieces attached to the board so they don’t get separated, though I suppose if you simply kept everything in the box you’d be fine. Don’t ask me why we didn’t. :)
The second ThinkFun game is Camelot Jr. (Or Royal Rescue, as it used to be called--you might see it with that name in a resale shop or garage sale.) This is a great spatial reasoning game that challenges you to lay out blocks across a board in such a way as to allow the prince and the princess to be able to reach each other. Again, the notebook of clues progresses in difficulty as you go along, and I’ll admit there were a few that stumped me just in the intermediate level!
The last game we enjoy is Quirkle, though PJ can’t really play it and Abby is just getting to where she understands it well enough to be able to play without my help (though she still misses the majority of the strategy). The goal here is to get as many points as you can by laying out your tiles to create rows where all the tiles share either the same color or the same shape. Because it can reach all over the place like some mutant crossword puzzle, you need to make sure you’re either on a very large table or on the floor, which can be tricky when you have a little one who thinks it’s fun to run through the game and kick the pieces around. (PJ and I often play as a team, and she likes laying down the tiles where I specify and helping me decide which ones to use on a given turn.) This is a great thinking game, plus it reinforces colors and shapes (and counting, if you let your kids keep score!).
And even though my Christmas shopping is done, Abby’s birthday comes up before the end of the month and PJ’s is in the spring, so if your family has found some winner games and toys, be sure to leave a comment telling us about them!
PS: Today we’re starting Phase 2 of our fundraiser for author Sandi Rog, so be sure to check out the blog so you don’t miss the opportunity to win your choice of a Kindle Fire or a Nook Color, delivered in time for Christmas!
Great Games for Little Kids
Posted on December 12th, 2011
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