Just because the holidays are over, doesn’t mean gift-giving is finished. The birthday party scene is in full swing, and both my girls are receiving more invites than I can keep track of. While I’ve always love kids’ birthdays, I’m admittedly finding it more challenging to buy for the older crowds. (I used to struggle with what to buy for high school age and up, but these days, even gifts for tweens leave me scratching my head.) Because we’re a big fan of gifts that get the kids away from screens and back into the land of the living, I’m often on the lookout for cool gifts that involve real human interaction, be it crafts or games. And because my 9-year-old appears to be on the cusp of playing with toys that are hands-on vs. wanting to sit on a computer all afternoon, I tend to zero in on classic game play–and if it involves friends, then so much the better. We recently learned of a new company that relates to just that. Sugar Lulu caters to the tween population with products that keep them entertained and occupied. We love their line of portable games whose packaging alone was enough to catch our eyes. Cleverly disguised as tin-case carryalls, they are ideal for sleepover or for toting along to a friend’s house for the afternoon. Open up these nifty little purses, and you’ll be treated to one of four games: This or That (50 cards that help you figure out just how well you know your BFFs), M.A.S.H. (to help you determine your destiny), Truth or Dare (an updated version of a classic game) and Fortune Teller (finally, an excuse to ask your bud those all-important questions). Our prediction? Hours of fun for your kid and her besties.
In a Nutshell: Girls can get their game on with this line of portable play kits designed for today’s tweens.
I don’t claim to be good at math. I may have inherited my dad’s good looks (!), but most definitely not his knack for doing complicated calculations in his head. My 8-year-old, on the other hand, seems to devour numbers and relishes challenging equations. So when we find a board game that truly tests her math prowess and keeps her engaged, we know we’ve got a keeper. Robbin’ Eggs keeps kids on their toes, even if they count on their fingers. Just like a good math problem, the concept is straightforward. Players roll the dice and then turn over eggs to get the sum as close to the number on the dice. The catch? Some numbers are positive, others negative; if your kid can do quick addition/subtraction on the fly, and she’s got a good memory to boot, then she’ll be a pro at this game. But not so fast…for those whiz kids who think they’ve got this game in the bag, pay close attention to the silly rules on your card and to your fellow players who might steal an egg before you can get to it! In the end, the player with the lowest score wins. How’s that for new math?…
In a Nutshell: Egg-cellent game play for ages 7+, Robbin’ Eggs is a reality check for mini math geniuses and a great way to beat the summer slump.
Are you good at thinking on your feet? Do you possess a knack for coming up with words that stump your Scrabble partner? If you love playing games that allow you to flaunt your vast vocabulary, then take a break from the virtual Words With Friends and dust off the coffee table for Game Night. Packaged in an eye-catching vintage tin, Road Trip is a fast-moving board game where you get points for moving quickly (no worries about traffic tickets on this route!). Players travel cross-country as they move across the board, taking challenges that demonstrate their language skills. When you roll the Alphabet Dice, you must use that corresponding letter to answer a question. It can be as difficult as saying a word that ends or begins with said letter, or (our favorite) completing a sentence with a word that starts with that letter (how silly you want to be is up to you!). Just be mindful of those Rest Stop cards; like in the real world, too many bathroom breaks may work against you. Whether you’re playing with family or friends, this crowd-pleasing game is a ton of fun–and it sure beats the license plate game.
In a Nutshell: Hitting the road was never so easy. Just pack your thinking cap!
When it comes to playing board games, my 7-year-old can be a sore loser. Blame it on an ultra competitive spirit that’s been cultivated over the years, or maybe it’s just plain bad sportsmanship (I don’t like being last either). Nevertheless, I miss the days of playing games like CandyLand when my daughter was content to land on any edible treat, even if it set her back 10 paces. Instead, there should be more games like the new assortment from Peaceable Kingdom that focuses more on cooperative game playing than who gets to the finish line first. One of the games in the line, Stone Soup, is a great way to encourage team building at a young age. Players must work together to cook a pretend soup by making matches of all the ingredients. Easier said than done, though; they must accomplish their task before the fire under the kettle burns out. To make this soup even more delectable, there’s one magic stone card in the deck that can keep that fire from going out…but everyone must be in agreement as to when they’ll use the card. Talk about team work! Aimed at ages 5 and up, Stone Soup is one satisfying meal that’s worth the wait.
In a Nutshell: Tired of hearing “no fair” when the game just doesn’t go your child’s way? With Stone Soup, too many cooks don’t spoil the broth, but rather are just the right number of ingredients for a fun time for all.
After three days at home with a sick kid, we’ve been going a little nutty over here. Once TV has run its course and activity books have lost their allure, you know it’s time to break out a board game. Well, even if my daughter isn’t yet cured of her virus, she’s been having a blast playing The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game. The concept is simple (perfect for foggy, cold-infected little minds): Each player gets a mini log and uses a spinner to land on a color. Once they have collected one acorn for each of the corresponding colors, they win! The trick is to demonstrate your dexterity with the Squirrel Squeezer (don’t worry–no animals are harmed in the playing of this game), tongs in the likeness of the backyard critter that allow you to grasp acorns off the tree-shaped board. And beware of the masked squirrel who just might steal your acorns, or the blowing wind that threatens to overturn your log. We were able to play several rounds of this game without losing our momentum–and without me checking my watch every 10 minutes. I am human, after all.
In a Nutshell: Yes, sick days can definitely make a kid (and her mom) a bit nutty, but a good game can help pass the time and cure the boredom blues.