Archive for the ‘ Games for Thinking and Learning ’ Category

Strategy Game: Quoridor (ages 6+)

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

I don’t know about you, but there are times when the kids complain about being bored and not having anything to do.  We’ve been trying to bring out some board games that don’t get much use during the school year. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a game called Quarto. Another quick strategy game we’ve been playing this summer is called Quoridor. The goal of this game is simple, to be the first player to reach the opposite side of the board. What keeps it challenging is that your opponent can place barriers from letting you get across.

Your opponent tries to stop you from reaching the other side by putting up fences to block your path and slow you down.  On your turn, you have a choice of moving one space or putting a fence in place. At times you might be forced to back-track and retrace your steps along the maze of fences!

This game is recommended for ages 6+. My kids have all enjoyed it.

Related Posts: You might want to check out the Critical Thinking Activities category for more board games and card games that our family enjoys such as Set, Quiddler, Who Nu, Blink, Lab Mice and more.

Be sure to check out the entire Summer Activities SeriesWe have lots of indoor and outdoor activities to share with you all summer long – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays!

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Ideas for Keeping the Family Close-Knit and Strong

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.

– Eva Burrows

Does your family hold a regular family meeting?  We started holding one a couple of years ago and started some traditions that are still family favorites… “candle night,” the “smiley under the plate” and getting downright silly with the kids in “knock your socks off.”  At the end of the post, you’ll find 10 other ideas for keeping your family close, but first a little bit about holding a family meeting…

We started holding family meetings when the kids were 4, 6 and 8.  It has been a real positive experience for our family. We use this as an opportunity to share good feelings, to talk about what’s going well in our family, to brainstorm ideas that might make our family work better as a team, to talk about things we’d like to be going better and probably most importantly of all, to have fun together.  We want the kids to know they have a real (and important) voice in the family.

Here were some guideline we first came across about family meetings:

  • Meet Regularly
  • Make an Agenda or List of Topics to be Discussed
  • Plan the Time (so you can do something fun immediately after)
  • Take Turns
  • Limit complaints
  • Take Notes

Meet Regularly: Our aim is to meet once a month, but to be honest this only happens every other month or so. At least that’s a start.

Agenda:  Hubby and I usually jot down some topics for discussion and leave space to take notes as each person contributes. Here was last Sunday’s agenda:

  • Say something nice about somebody else.
  • Talk about things that are going well in our family
  • What are some ideas to make family life better?
  • Upcoming Family Events/Family Calendar (we talked about our upcoming trips)
  • In what ways do we feel like a team?
  • What ways can we get along better?
  • How can we all pitch in more around the house?

Other ideas you might include in your family meeting:

  • allowances
  • kids’ activities (what they like, what they don’t, how it affects your family time)
  • chores/jobs around the house
  • time spent on electronics
  • goals you are working toward (individually and/or as a family)
  • extended family & how to stay close (letters, art, phone calls, special trips)
  • things you’ve noticed from the week (help that was given, chores that were done unsolicited)
  • Need more ideas? I came across a post called Family Meeting Topics that might be helpful especially if your kids are older than mine.

First we talked about each point in our agenda as I took notes. Then I read out the notes from our previous meeting if they added anything relevant to the conversation.

I’m not sure how much you’d be interested in the nitty gritty details of our family meeting, but I’ll just add a few comments…  (This is from two years ago.)

Something nice: DD and LD said they were proud of ED for making it to the top of the rope at gymnastics (about 40 feet in the air which she had done for the first time earlier in the week).  Even ED chimed in nice things, “Mom cooks great food.” [I don't know about that, but it's cute for her to say!]

Things that are going well: The kids love “candle night” when we turn out all the lights during dinner.  They also love when we do the hidden smiley face under a plate. (pictured right) Everyone sits down and checks under the bottom of their plate. We go around the table saying lots of nice things about the person who has the sticker under his/her plate for that meal. You should see how much the person glows when we all talk about them, their strengths and the positive things we’ve noticed about them lately.

 Some of our ideas for making family life better: to make sure we each clear away all our dishes after every meal/snack; to actually put shoes into the basket;  to put laundry away promptly; to make labels for where things go.. and things like that.

When we talked about what ways we could get along better, the kids had some honest comments about not saying “Noooooo ”  (in a whiny voice) when someone wants to play something they’re not interested but to use a nicer tone of voice (I thought that was really insightful!)

As I said before, the most important part of the family meeting from our perspective is the family funthat comes at the end of the meeting.  We actively spend time doing something together which creates a close family bond, makes kids happy to do the family meeting, and builds fond memories together.  A couple times this year, we all put lots of fun ideas into a jar and pulled out one or two to do as a family.  The kids especially loved the game we played one time after our Family Meeting called “Knock your Socks Off.” We all crawled around on hands and knees trying to protect the socks from being pulled off our own feet while trying to go after and remove the socks from other members of the family. The last person to survive with a sock still on won the round.  We all roared in laughter and we still talk about that game all the time! Some of the other things in our jar? go hiking, lay in the grass to relax, play tickle monster (tag), mummy wrap, go to a park, play board games, do a family craft, go bowling, go to a restaurant, read books in front of the fireplace, go to a museum…

This time we decided ahead of time what we were going to do and didn’t pull from the jar. LD and ED really wanted to go bowling while DD wanted to go on a hike.  We decided to do both (with a trip to DQ in between!).

Bowling with the Family

Followed by a hike at a park.  We came across an owl, deer, a beaver and a couple of foxes (it was in the evening so the wildlife was quite active)  in addition to this pretty little waterfall.

And other ways to keep your family bonds tight and strong: 

  • Write notes to one another and leave it on their pillow.
  • Have a family game’s night.  (You can see some of our favorite family games.)
  • Do meaningful things as a family. Volunteer in the community. Go on a walk and pick up trash in your neighborhood or at your local park.
  • Have a strong community of support (beyond your family).  Attend (or organize) neighborhood barbecues, block party or picnic. Participate in a church, temple or mosque.
  • Go on a family bike ride or walk in the neighborhood together.
  • Hold hands, hug, snuggle and sit close.
  • Sing songs together as a family.
  • Go on family trips. It doesn’t have to be far, it doesn’t have to be expensive, but create a history together.
  • Look through old family photos together and talk about some of your favorite family memories. Ask questions that start with, “Do you remember the time…”
  • Make time for your spouse and keep your marriage close.
  • Support one another, not just emotionally, but also help with odd jobs and chores.
  • Talk about problems and keep the lines of communication open.

Do you have some other good ideas to keep the family close? Come tell us at our Homeschool Facebook Page!

Image: Family via Shutterstock

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Quarto Strategy Game

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

This summer, we’re trying to bring out some of the board games that are often ignored during the school year. Board games and strategy games can foster the ability to think, focus, and problem solve. Games require players to plan ahead and can help develop more sophisticated thinking skills. Games are beneficial because they foster social interaction and social skills. Everyone practices taking turns and following the rules.  Games also help everyone learn good sportsmanship–winning and losing gracefully. A board game can cost less that taking the family to the movies and yet can be repeated over and over. Besides, they’re fun!

The game I want to share with you today is a strategy game called Quarto.  It is a challenging game that takes tic-tac-toe to another level!  Players try to get four in a row by attribute:

  • color (tan or dark brown)
  • shape (circle or square)
  • solid or hollow
  • tall or short
The twist is that each player gives the other player the next piece to place onto the board.

In the picture below, DD is placing a solid square piece on the board. This prevents me from winning by placing hollow or circular piece.  After she places her piece, she’ll decide which dark piece to hand me for my move. 

My six year old is able to play this game, though it is more competitive playing with my 8 and 10 year olds who can both strategize and think ahead.

You can find the Quarto Strategy Game at Amazon.

Related Posts: You might want to check out the Critical Thinking Activities category for more board games and card games that our family enjoys such as Set, Quiddler, Who Nu, Blink, Lab Mice and more.

Be sure to check out the entire Summer Activities SeriesWe have lots of indoor and outdoor activities to share with you all summer long – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays!

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Family Games Night (A Review of Several Games)

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

It has been WAAaay too long since we had a family games night. For a while we did really well holding a family meeting once a month or so (see this post-Holding a Family Meeting) and this post (Our Monthly Family Meeting).  Last weekend, though, everyone was home (no sleep-overs, no sporting events!) and so we gathered together to play a bunch of games! Fun!

This was the first time we had played the Hasbro game, Whoonu. It sure was fun and was a great way to think about the ones we love!  The premise is pretty simple. One person is “Whosit” — and everyone else chooses a card that they think the “Whosit” will really like. All the players puts that card into an envelope and then the “Whosit” places the cards in order from favorite to least favorite. She reveals the cards and the players all get a token (numbered 1 through 5 depending on where their card was ranked).

LD has ranked all the cards and reveals that root beer is his favorite thing!

ED revealed her cards — showing that she liked camping the most. I was surprised that she ranked chicken noodle soup as better than bumper cars!! Who knew?!!!

We also played several card games… Quiddler, which is a game where you have to make words. (great for young readers through great grandparents!)  To play, you draw a card from the discard pile or from the draw pile and try to form a word. You have to keep the same number of cards in your hand so you must discard each round.  When someone has a word (or words) she says “Quiddler.” Each player has one more chance to draw a card/discard. Once everyone has had their turn the cards are revealed.

You add up the points at the end of the round (based on the numbers on each card). Also, the person with the longest word or most word gets and extra 10 points. In the picture  below “bad” would have 15 points, “that” would have 14 points plus 10 more for being the longest word and “at” would have 5 points but you’d have to subtract 2 points for the card that wasn’t used (each word has to be at least 2 letters in length).

Each round you add a card — so the first round is 3 cards, second deals 4 cards to everyone and so forth… all the way through 10 cards (or whenever you want to stop). Our family played just three rounds.

We also played Set and Blink. I reviewed these two games before (they’re really terrific for challenging people to think quickly!!).

Read more about the card game Set here (great for ages 5 or 6 on up)

read more about the card game Blink here (great for ages 3 and up)

If you are thinking ahead to the holidays, these are all really terrific games.

I’ve reviewed lots of games on the blog. You’ll find information about other games (we have a lot of critical thinking games and cooperative games) here.

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Wonderful Geography Games for Kids

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

We have been playing a couple of wonderful geography games in our homeschool. We have the Africa version, but you can also buy these same games in a version of Europe, Asia, or the Americas.

The first is a card game called WorldWise Geography (Africa) I got for just a couple of dollars (it’s a different version that the one I linked to. It looks like the game has been updated a bit.) We didn’t play it quite like the rules indicate, but the kids loved it so much they asked to start school with it (and the other geography game) each day last week!

Each card has a country on one side and the neighboring countries or bodies of water that surround it on the other. We played with the map side face up and each person looked to see if they had one of the neighboring cards to place on top. If not they could place a wild card or super wild card or would draw from the pile.

The first couple of times, we played with are cards face up so we could all help one-another (to make it less competitive). This game was great for my kids (ages 7 and 9), but it is much too complicated at this point for my 5 year old.

The other game we played is a wonderful board game called 10 Days in Africa.  In this board game, each player is give 10 cards. Each person has to take a trip across Africa by going from country to a bordering country.  If you have a jeep, you can travel to any other country. And, if you get an airplane (let’s say a green plane), you can travel from one green country to another green country by plane.  You cannot end your trip with a jeep or a plane ride.

There are three draw piles and three face up cards to choose from when it’s your turn.  You can discard onto any pile. Each play should always have exactly 10 cards (you just can’t see all the cards in the picture below because we were trying to figure out how to make the trip work!)

Here is a winning trip:

I can’t recommend this game enough for your homeschool or for a family game night. It’s really fun and educational!

We also have this same game for Europe — 10 Days in Europe… and there is also 10 Days in Asia, 10 Days in the Americas, 10 Days in the USA. Just choose the geography you’re interested in learning and you’ll be building your dream trip too!

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