I was born in the 1970s. And we had little more in the ’80s than Super Channel and Atari, so my family played games. I never took to most card games, but I still love a good board game.
Many of my favourite childhood memories revolve around board games, like that time we were playing Pictionary and my dad got his card mixed up. So what he was drawing for my brother (an American Indian) was not what my mom and I saw on the card (Vanna White). We died laughing as he continued to sketch arrow after arrow surrounding a man wearing feathers. Had he made it a feather boa, at least it would have been closer to Vanna. That was probably 1987 and we still talk about it. And occasionally laugh so hard remembering the look on his face that we cry.
My extended family is huge and during family gatherings, we often play a big round of Trivial Pursuit. When we aren’t watching out for cheating (a regular occurrence), you might find us making up definitions for words like “horology.”
Before we had kids, it wasn’t uncommon for Big B and I to take our special-edition Cranium over to my aunt and uncle’s house for a raucous night of play and wine. It even factored into one of our loveliest wedding memories, when my uncle tried to hum “Who Let the Dogs Out?” during one of his turns to surprise my cousins with their all-expenses-paid trip to be part of our destination wedding in The Bahamas. (I assure you, it sounded nothing like the song. We still get a good kick out of that one, too.)
Oh, and Balderdash. Try playing that with a bunch of English majors and see who wins. It’s absolutely one of the best games of all time, and we’ve busted it out at a party or two. (Yes, our parties are that awesome.)
Thanks to Mattel, we’ve introduced our children to one of the first games we played as kids ourselves: UNO. At ages 3 and 6, they’re totally capable of playing this game with a parent and The K Man would be able to play it independently with other kids his age. You may not think of it as an educational game, but I’d beg to differ. It teaches and reinforces colours, numbers and patterns; it helps kids form and understand different rules (skip a turn, pick up four cards, reverse play); and it’s brilliant for spatial organization — being able to picture something in your mind and describe it. Our kids love that a game may last one minute or 12, and I can see the strategy piece starting to form in The K Man’s brain. Miss Q, on the other hand, is still quite happy to tell everyone playing what her cards are.
Pictionary and MadGab are still much too beyond our kids’ years, but we’ve stashed them with our other board games in the rec room and will pull them out in a few years.
We also tried Apples to Apples and Bounce Off, with some success. This is the perfect time to note that there’s a reason these games have age recommendations on them. Cognitively, most kids reach milestones around the same time and I have no doubt that Mattel has tried focus group after focus group to try to get suggested age ranges nailed down. Follow them. Sure, you can change up various elements of many games to make it easier for too-young participants, but there are enough games out there that you could easily just stick to what works for your kids in the stages they’re in right now.
While the Bounce Off concept was easy to understand, my kids just can’t yet manage the skill involved to bounce four plastic balls into a specific pattern. (Big B and I did play a bit so the kids could learn, and it was super fun. The K Man should be ready for this in only a year or two.)
I can also see Apples to Apples being a game they’ll enjoy by age eight or so. Basically, you choose a green apple card — which has a word with synonyms on it — and after being dealt five red apple cards, you have to (a) select a card that best represents the word on the green apple card, and (b) explain your rationale to the judge. Perfect for learning how to prove a theory through logic and debate.
So the next time you find yourself with a rainy day and you’re all crafted out, pull out a board game and connect with your kids. In no time, you’ll be making Vanna White memories of your own.