You're Stuck Inside. Now What?
Needless to say, the recent global pandemic affecting us all has disrupted our lives in a way few of us have ever experienced. You’ve been told to work from home. The schools are closed, and the kids are home. Now what? Many school districts are putting in place distance learning initiatives, handing out Chromebooks and sending home “blizzard bags” and packets of work. But for some children, these activities will only occupy a small fraction of what the normal school day usually would.
My sister, a nurse in Central New York, just got hit with the news the district her children attends is closing this week and will be closed for nearly a month. The first thing I did when I heard this from her was to send her several time-tested board games that I’d enjoyed with my own son over the years. While Candy Land and Monopoly are good for a few go’s, they do lose their appeal after the 4th or 5th play through in a week. The games I chose for her family are ones that both adults and kids would enjoy and not lose their luster after multiple play-throughs. Why? Because they provide more critical thinking opportunities than your typical roll and move games. When a game offers the opportunity to win in multiple ways and develop strategies, not only does it provide more substantial enjoyment for everyone involved, but it also helps children to develop the skills needed to learn and apply knowledge more adeptly.
(My sister’s family has kids from ages 6 to 18, and includes one child with autism and another with Asperger’s.)
Which games did I pick and why?
Catan Junior – The kid sister to the widely known and wildly popular (made so by The Big Bang Theory) game, Settlers of Catan, this game requires strategic thinking and can include a bit of “gotcha” game play. Catan Junior plays much faster than the adult version of Catan. It requires critical thinking skills, and like most other games provides much needed social interaction to help build social skills. There’s a bit of basic math needed to add and subtract commodities. The game plays as few as two players and up to five so kids can play by themselves or adults can join in. Bonus – it’s a fun Pirate theme rather than the simple sheep and fields of the original Catan.
Sushi Go! – This is a quick playing card game that requires significant social interaction, the ability to think ahead and make wise decisions. There’s also some math involved when tallying up pieces of sushi on cards. Frankly, I find this game much more entertaining than Uno or Yahtzee even though the premise is similar. The game is portable, being a card game stored in a small metal tin. The regular game can play up to 5 players while the “party version” accommodates up to 8. The game plays in 3 rounds of alternating play back and forth. Generally games last 30 minutes or less. Most of our family games run about 20 minutes so it makes a good game to play while waiting on dinner or in between other major activities. The artwork is also cute and more approachable than boring number cards.
Santorini – I love this game. It’s a very visual and tactile game. You build towers while trying to trap your opponent so that they can no longer build their own towers. There’s a lot of strategic thinking required much like with chess. The rules are simple, however, by adding the God cards (based on the Greek Pantheon), players can use special powers granted by the Greek Gods to change things up. There’s an expansion called The Golden Fleece that adds even more intrigue to the game. It’s probably most fun with 2 players as you have more things to do and more pieces to work with but can accommodate up to 4.
Castle Panic! – This is another great game with fun pieces. Protect the castle from attacking forces! What I love about this game is that it’s a great introduction to cooperative games. Most of the games we older folk grew up with pitted us against one another, but cooperative games require a different strategy. Everyone works together toward a common goal to win the game. You either all win or you all lose. This helps to build teamwork skills which makes it great for families. The game accommodates from 1 to 6 players. So, you can even play this game solo. This is a nice option when one person wants to play and everyone else is off doing something else.
The cooperative and one player options are something that many of us will not be familiar with but have become more prevalent in board gaming in the last decade. Groups looking for less contentious activities as well as people who don’t have access to groups of people have prompted board game developers to rethink how we play and with whom. This has leading to many more options in games like this little gem.
Other games I’d recommend for families with older children include:
Catan – Catan Studio (Originally Mayfair Games)
Tesla vs. Edison – Genius Games (Originally Artana)
Evolution – North Star Games
Pandemic – Zman Games
Periodic – Genius Games
Ex Libris – Renegade Game Studios
Azul – Plan B Games
Terraforming Mars – Stronghold Games
With as much time as many of us will have on our hands, now is the perfect opportunity to invest in a few good board games to supplement your kids’ educational home activities. Let’s get rolling!