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Thinking Out Loud

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Kid's All Right >> The Fun of Children's Games

I haven't had much time for gaming lately, but I did finally get to try Gulo Gulo, and was quite impressed. I can't think of another game off the top of my head which has such an intrinsic balancing mechanism to put adults and kids on a level playing field. I've ordered it and can't wait to show Ben -- I think he'll have a blast. I know I will.

Speaking of gaming with Ben, he's still at the stage where most of the things I've introduced him to are more "toy" than "game" but I know that will come with time (he is three and a half, after all). He still likes playing Monkey Madness on a regular basis. And just when Trish and I have started getting tired of seeing that bright yellow box, he goes and does one of those incredibly cute things that kids do. He got his three favorite stuffed animals -- Blue Bear, Baa-Baa Sheep and Duffy the Raccoon -- put them all in a circle, game them each a board, and started playing with his friends. He taught them the rules, told them to take turns, clapped and applauded when Duffy filled up his card first, and then cleaned everything up and put it back. My eyes brimmed with tears of joy. It was simply beautiful.

I also recently picked up Snorta, which has some great components -- some small plastic barns and 12 plastic animal sculpts. While the regular game is a bit too complex for Ben right now, we've made up several different variants. They're all largely memory games -- hide an animal in one of the barns, then try to remember which animal is where when the corresponding card gets flipped up. Or make the animal sounds when you see the card, and try to find the barn with that animal before mommy or daddy does. Even though we've never played it the same way twice, Ben absolutely loves the game and requests it nearly every day.

Another game with cool animal bits is Cosmic Cows from Playroom. It's a Yahtzee variant, with two players basically "sharing" the opportunity to score a certain category ... So both players vie for the right to score a full house by moving a plastic cow along a line on the board for the full house scoring line. The first player to get 3 cows all the way to their side of the board wins, so there's a bit of tug-of-war going on. Again, the concept is a bit tough for Ben, but luckily the game is easily kiddified by removing the wonky scoring combos and breaking it down to just rolling dice and moving the cows on the numbered columns. With Cosmic Cows, though, Ben's interest wanes pretty quickly and it invariably comes down to all the cows leaving the board and running around the table.

I love gaming with Ben, even if it is more child's play than gaming play. We're spending quality time together, and I get to share my favorite hobby with an enthusiastic member of the family. Hopefully I'll have a bonafide opponent on hand in just a few more years of grooming!

What about you? What are some of your favorite games to play with children? Do you have anecdotes to share about kids and gaming?


  • Gulo Gulo (of course)
    Amazing Labyrinth
    Enchanted Forest
    Cranium Cariboo (for 3-year-olds)
    Kinder Bunnies: Their First Adventure

    By Blogger Ryan Walberg, at 9:23 AM  

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