Fun Stuff for Kids

Games We Play

Did you know that there are conventions dedicated to playing games? Furthermore, did you know that one happens every year in Indianapolis?  To tell you the truth, I didn’t either until I met my husband.  While we were dating, he took me to Gen Con  for the first time.  Gen Con is the original, longest-running, best-attended gaming convention in the world!  Featuring hundreds of game companies, costumed attendees, more than 10,000 events, a Family Fun Pavilion, and the debut of exciting new games, Gen Con truly isThe Best Four Days in Gaming™!  Since that first excursion, I have trekked with him several more times.

While I was packing for last year’s convention, I reflected on the games that I really like to play.  While I really enjoy cooperative games (where everyone works together for a common goal), my husband enjoys more strategy and competitive games, so we play them all.  Lucky for him, I grew up in a family that liked to play games (i.e. Clue, Euchre).  I wish that he could have met my Grandma Hirschy.  She would have given him a run for his money in Scrabble.

Depending on the game, we sometimes have our own “House Rule.”  For example, I don’t necessarily like to play with a traitor in some of the games, so when we play the game, we do not play with a traitor.  If it is a necessary part of the game, we play that role together.  Therefore, it is our twist on the original rules, thus our House Rule.  You can make your own twists as well. As long as everyone agrees to the rule change before play begins, where is the harm?  My thought is if it makes the game more enjoyable, have fun with it.  However, at the convention this weekend, everything is strictly by the rules.

Previously I shared a list of games that our 5-year-old loves to play.  Today,  I am sharing some favorites that my husband and I like to play together, with older kids, or with other adults.  A surprising number of the games on the list were discovered at the convention in years past. Maybe I’ll come home with some new favorites this year.  I’ll let you know.

Have a Great Week!


Loot, by Gamewright – The Plundering Pirate Card Game. Yo-Ho-Ho and a barrel of fun! Set sail for an exciting adventure of strategy and skullduggery in this captivating card game. Storm your opponents’ merchant ships and seize valuable treasure. But watch your back, matey — plundering pirates are out to capture your ships as well. The player with the most loot rules the high seas. Note: This is a fun game to play with a group of people.


We Didn’t Playtest This At All, by Asmadi Games – The most aptly named game ever. In this exceptionally silly and awesome game, your objective is to win. Simple enough. Sadly, all of your opponents have the same simple goal, and they are trying to make you lose. Between rock paper scissors battles, being eaten by a random dragon, or saved by a kitten ambush, there are many hazards to avoid. Note: Some rounds can last 10 minutes, others last only 30 seconds.  A game that is more fun the more people that play.


Sitting Ducks, by Playroom Entertainment – No duck is safe in Sitting Ducks Gallery where the object is to maneuver your ducks down the row and avoid getting in the line of fire! Get your ducks out of the water before feathers start flying because cards can target, shoot, or move the line in various ways! If your birds of a feather can stick together and keep from getting hit, you could be the last Sitting Duck in the lake!  Note: We have sooo much fun playing this game.  In fact, my sister-in-law and nieces request this game when they visit from Virginia.


10 Days in the USA, by Out Of The Box – Start your engines.  It’s time to hit the road for a fun-filled journey across the USA. You have 10 Days in the USA – travel the country by jet, car, and on foot. Plan your trip from start to finish using destination and transportation tiles. With a little luck and clever planning, you just might outwit your fellow travelers. The first traveler to make connections for their ten-day journey wins the game.  Note: If you like this version, you will want to check out the multitude of other versions available, i.e. 10 Days in Africa, etc.


FLUXX, by Looney Labs – A card game where the cards themselves determine the current rules of the game. By playing cards, you change numerous aspects of the game: how to draw cards, how to play cards, and even how to win. There are many editions, themed siblings, and promo cards available.  Note: A game that is always changing, but very fun to play.


Aquarius, by Looney Labs – Kids love the colorful design, fast play, and familiar matching strategy. Adults love the game’s competitive edge. It’s the perfect family card game. The player with the longest hair goes first connecting element cards to complete a secret goal. Deal the cards and plan your move, but don’t get too comfortable — you may get zapped!  Note: Fun even as a player game, but better with four.


Pastiche, by Fred Distribution – A World of Beautiful Colors comes alive as players choose commission cards picturing 34 of the finest European art works of the past six centuries. Players score their commissions by mixing primary colors through clever tile placement and recreating the palette of colors used by the masters who created these works. Explore the paintings’ palettes and pasts of the artists in this unique and challenging game for the whole family. While placing hexagonal pieces to gain palette (color) cards, players become familiar with the different color combinations that produce the many hues of an artist’s palette… all listed on the Player Reference Card. Players also learn to recognize many great artists and their works as they complete commissions.  Note: I love this game.  Takes a lot of time to play, but it is well worth it.


Survive Escape From Atlantis, by Stronghold Games – In this game, you try to lead your people from the sinking central island of Atlantis to the safety of one of four islands nearby. Your people can get there quickly by boat (if they find one) or more slowly by swimming. But it will be a perilous journey as they must avoid Sea Serpents, Whales, and Sharks. When the volcano on Atlantis explodes, the game is over. The player with the most survivor points wins.  Note:  So much fun.  You never know until the end who is going to win.


The Downfall of Pompei,i by MayFair Games – Can you escape the inferno?  The rich, beautiful Roman city of Pompeii sits at the foot of majestic Mount Vesuvius. Renowned for exotic, easy and ample luxury, the wealthy town attracts the best of Rome’s proud citizens. But a terrible secret lies deep beneath the slopes of the mighty mountain. A primeval secret is about to unleash unspeakable horrors on this fateful afternoon. The mountain, so very long asleep, is finally reawakening. Come to beautiful Pompeii. Use your cards to attract your Roman friends and relatives to visit select sites. But beware. The dreaded Vesuvius card means the mountain is awake, spewing fiery lava onto the unsuspecting city. Now you must struggle to get your compatriots out of the doomed town before they are engulfed. Rushing to avoid lava flows, your people must flee before Vesuvius explodes and ash seals their fate. Lead the most survivors to safety and win.  Note: There is just something about throwing other people’s tokens in the volcano.  Always have a great time when we play this one.


Ticket to Ride, by Days of Wonder – Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure game. Players collect train cards that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn.   Note: This is one of our five-year-old’s favorite games as well.  He doesn’t usually make it through the whole game, but he is getting better.  This is one where we play house rules so that all the lines are open all of the time.  That way it isn’t so cutthroat.


Pig Pile, by R&R Games – Howdy Pawdners! No mud slinging allowed in this fun, fast-paced family game where players compete to corral the most pigs. Get rid of your cards first and be awarded the prime pile of pigs. Sounds easy, but pigs can be slippery! The more cards you have, the better your chances of calling out “Hog Wash!” and clearing away the deck! But don’t hog the cards too long or you’ll get stuck. Dump your cards the fastest to build the highest heap of hogs! The player with the largest Pig Pile wins!  Note: This is one that we play all the time with my parents.  Everyone has a great time and it can accommodate six people.



Cooperative Games:


Pandemic, by Z-Man Games – Four diseases have broken out in the world, and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures for these diseases before mankind is wiped out. Players must work together playing to their characters’ strengths and planning their strategy of eradication before the diseases overwhelm the world with ever-increasing outbreaks. But the diseases are breaking out fast, and time is running out: the team must try to stem the tide of infection in diseased areas while also finding cures. A truly cooperative game where you all win or you all lose.  Note: I can’t tell you how much I love this game.  If we don’t win a round, my husband and I usually stay up late to make sure that we end on a winning note.


Forbidden Island, by Gamewright – You and your team can be the first to breach the borders of the Archeans’ ancient mystical empire in the collaborative card game, Forbidden Island, by Gamewright. In this game, teamwork proves essential to locate the Earth Stone, the Statue of the Wind, the Crystal of Fire, and the Ocean’s Chalice as the Island floods beneath your feet. Adventure… if you dare!  If you like this game there is a second game by the same designer called Forbidden Desert.    Note: Great cooperative game!  Love that you can change the difficulty level to make it more challenging, if you want.


Shadows Over Camelot, by Days of Wonder – Shadows Over Camelot is a unique collaborative game featuring a malevolent twist. As the incarnation of the Knights of the Round Table, players work together to defeat the forces closing in on Camelot. But beware, players must be vigilant for a traitor in their midst who is biding his time-secretly sowing the seeds of havoc and destruction. Yet too much suspicion will undermine the knight’s efforts to protect the kingdom. These are dangerous times indeed. Many memorable game nights await in this Days of Wonder game.  Note: One of my husband’s favorites.  Always a go-to game with a group of teens.


Castle Panic, by Fireside Games – In Castle Panic players must work together to defend their castle in the center of the board from monsters that attack out of the forest at the edges of the board. Players trade cards, hit and slay monsters, and plan strategies together to keep their castle towers intact. The players either win or lose together, but only the player with the most victory points is declared the Master Slayer.  Note: We found this at the convention a couple of years ago and what a keeper!  They have an expansion pack that keeps it very challenging and fun.


Flash Point Fire Rescue, by Indie Boards & Cards – Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a fully cooperative game; everyone plays on the same firefighting team – win or lose together. Every turn is filled with the tension of having to fight the fire back rescuing victims or investigating points of interest. Players can ride the ambulance to safety or fire the engine’s deck gun in a desperate attempt to control the blaze.  Note: One of the newer games in our collection.  Always a hit with a group of kids or adults.

ABC – ABC Basket

Like most moms, I am always looking for ways to reinforce concepts that my child is learning in school or at child care.  Since Hank is now in the Pre-K class at preschool, a large focus is on school readiness and early literacy skills.  To help bridge the gap between school and home, I put together Our ABC Basket.  Now, whenever we have some down time and need an activity, we can pull one out and have fun learning in the process.  We can also continue to add to the basket throughout the year to reinforce other concepts as well (i.e. math, science, etc.).  The most important thing for me is for Hank to have fun while learning, and the more active I can get him in the activity, the better.  If the activity isn’t fun any longer, we just put it back in the basket and grab something else.

Have a Great Week!



Alphabet Match

A couple of weeks ago while looking for fall activities, I ran across a blog post from Toddler Approved called Fall Leaf Alphabet Movement Activity.  This post inspired me to create my own version of the alphabet games to use throughout the year with my son.  I printed out 2 sets of Alphabet cards (one set to use on the floor with painters tape and another set for the letter cards).   I found some alphabet cards from Homeschool Creations that I liked because it had actual pictures along with both the upper and lower case letter.  I show Hank a card at random and see if he can identify the letter.  Then I hand him the letter card and say, “Can you put the B on the ball?” He then looks around on the floor to find the picture of the card with a picture of a ball on it and places the letter card on top to match.  When he is ready, we can incorporate letter sounds, i.e. “What sound does it make?”  You can also play without the extra letter cards, but just the ones on the floor.  I tell Hank to walk around on the letter cards and following different directions, i.e. “Put your nose on the dog,” “Sit on the apple,” “Hop on the cat,” “Can you put your elbow on the picture that starts with the sound ‘h’?”, “Can you hop to the letter that makes the ‘s’ sound?” etc.


ABC Movement Cards

I loved this idea I saw a couple of weeks ago.   The 26 ways to Exercise through the ABC’sblog from Kids Activities blog. Presenting a list of movement suggestions of exercising/moving to each letter. While the list is great, I really wanted to have a set of cards that I could print out with the letter and exercise on it that I could use for the activity.  So I searched some more and found a set of Exercise ABC Cards from The Home Teacher.   Most people would have stopped there, but I went further.  I decided to make my own set ABC Movement Cards specifically for my kids with inspiration from both ideas.  Whether you use the list from the Kids Activities Blog, the cards from The Home Teacher blog, or my movement cards, it doesn’t matter.  The point is to get your kids moving and learning about the alphabet at the same time.


Feed The Alphabet Frog

I was already collecting bottle caps for an art project when I came across an alphabet activity from I Can Teach My Child called Feed the Alphabet Monster.   I love reusing items that we would normally throw out into something usable.  Hank is a little recycler, so he was very excited to help collect the caps.  Hank wanted to Feed a Frog instead of a Monster, so we modified the activity.  I used an old kid’s meal bucket (the plastic ones that they have around Halloween) instead of the baby wipe container.  I then printed out some Fly Stickers using Avery 5160 labels to put on the top of each cap.  Then under each lid, I used scrapbooking stickers so that I didn’t have to manually write the letters on each cap.  I decided to use both upper and lower case letters, so I used 52 lids in all.  We placed the frog on the floor and then made a pile of all of the lids about 5 ft. away.  Then Hank picked out a lid, told me the letter, and then got to “feed” the lid to the frog by tossing it into the “frog’s” mouth.


Alphabet Tunnels

They are going to have so much fun with this activity.  Hank and Faith both love to play with cars.  So what better way to incorporate literacy into their play than with letter tunnels inspired from Toddler Approved.   Instead of hand printing the letters on the tunnels, I designed a Tunnel Template so that I could print the tunnels with my printer.  As a bonus, I added number tunnels as well.  I also made a couple of “Road Trip” maps for both Hank and Faith (since she has to do everything that big brother does) to follow and “drive through” the tunnels in a specific order.  On the maps I used letters and numbers that actually look like roads that came from Making Learning Fun .  You could even use the letters by themselves as roads scattered on the floor to drive on between the tunnels.  After I got all materials ready, I put them in the bag along with some painters tape to attach them to the floor.  I can also see Hank wanting to use the tunnels with his wooden train set, and if so, that will be fun as well.


Target The Letters

After seeing this idea on the More Mom Time blog, I decided to do our own version.  Instead of using a shower curtain and using markers to draw circles and print the letters on it, I wanted to make Letter Targets to just print out and scatter out on the floor. I then printed a set of the Letter Target Cards.  To play, we put the letter targets on the floor and put the cards in a pile.  Hank picks a letter card and tells me what letter is on the card.   Then he takes a beanbag and tries to hit the matching letter target.  Lots of fun!


The Alphabet Mystery

We have a Leapfrog magnet alphabet set that a friend gave us for the refrigerator.  I thought it would be fun to hide the letters and have Hank go on a “mission.”  His mission (if he should choose to accept it) is to find the missing letters that have disappeared from the fridge.  I have previously used this Alphabet Word Game printable that has the capital letter listed, but it also has a blank box next to the letter in which to put the corresponding letter magnet. We will just tape it to the fridge.   I then give him a magnifying glass and send him on his mission.  After he finds a letter, he will run back to the fridge, and we can discuss what letter it is.  We then put the magnet in the player to see if he’s correct and learn about what the letter sounds like as well.  Then he can put it on the chart and see what letters are left to find.  You could also play this with the magnet letters that can be purchased at WalMart, the Dollar Store, etc.