Category: Games

2014 holiday give & get, list & links

unnamedToday we share gift ideas at many different price points in three categories: toys, books and whole family gifts. Thanks to those who responded to the survey with their kids’ faves.  We hope you find some inspiration below!

*indicates multiple votes / perennial favorites





For 3-5 year olds
Marble Run*
Water Wizard
Art Supplies*
Inflatable guitars
EZ steppers
How to Train your Dragon DVD and related costumes and sticker book

For 6-8 year olds
Minecraft (& Minecraft games, toys and books)
Lego sets*
Magic set
Science kit
Snap circuits*
Weaving loom
Razor scooter
Sockem Boppers
Sockem Bopper Power Bag
Nerf all conditions football
Frozen DVD

For 9-12 year olds
JD Bug Scooter
Perplexus Epic Maze
Bounce Back Net (for sports)
Taylor Swift concert tickets
Magazine Subscriptions (Muse, Ask, Cobblestone, Sports Illustrated Kids)
Razor ripstik
xBox 360

For 13+
Gift Cards (Starbucks, iTunes, GameStop, Target)
Make up / Sephora Gift Card
Frisbee (Ultimate regulation weight)
Handmade marbles
Magazine subscription (eg People StyleWatch)
Locket necklace
Concert tickets


For 6-8 year olds
Gooseberry Park
Ivy and Bean
Ramona series
Diary of A Wimpy Kid -The Long Haul
American Girl Smart Girls Guides
Scat by Carl Hiassen
Guys Read Other Worlds by Jon Scieszka
Skink: No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

For 9-12 year olds
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
City of Ember Series by Jeanne DuPrau
The Greenglass House by Kate Milford
The Mysterious Benedict Society Series by Trenton Lee Stewart
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Divergent series
Alex Rider series
Minecraft, The Complete Handbook Collection, by Stephanie Milton
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
Holes, by Louis Sachar

“Movie Night” (share a favorite DVD, movie sized candy selections, microwave popcorn)
World Atlas
Holiday Concert tickets
YMCA / gym membership
Ice cream maker
Popcorn popper
Doodle dice
Badminton set
Bird bingo

noticing along the way–a favorite outing activity

The sun is shining today after a long, long cold gray winter in New England. We get a little manic around these times, disproportionately thrilled at our sudden good fortune. It makes me think about getting out again into the world!

I live in the Boston suburbs, and one of my favorite family outings when the kids were younger was to take the T into the city, stroll through the Public Garden, and grab something tasty at a bakery or corner shop. Totally easy, and pretty low-budget.

For several of these outings I created simple scavenger hunts that kept the kids engaged along our low-key adventure. Not yet readers, I sketched out things that they could spot on the journey: the T logo, a Red Sox hat, a squirrel, a vendor cart…the kids loved it, a spark of magic each time something was spotted. There was no keeping score or tracking what was found, just noticing. Looking and noticing details.

I am a big fan of noticing details–really taking the time and explicitly noticing–which requires a certain kind of attention and focus. For children, nurturing that skill helps to develop increased ability to be aware of one’s surroundings (safety! beauty!), as well as tuning into others’ emotions and expressions (friendship! empathy!).

While every encounter with our kids needn’t be a “learning moment,” this activity tied to our downtown adventure was fun for all and educational, too. While I know it’s sometimes desirable to plug a child into any available technology–for even just 30 freakin’ minutes!!!–for everyone’s sanity (I have done it myself plenty of times), hooray for the moments when kids can look around and really take it all in.–t

P.S. This kind of general “find it” checklist can work for any adventure and for all ages. On a more recent day we set out with a list that included an afternoon coffee in an independent café; the wackiest candy we could find in a convenient store; and a photo in front of a random monument…so fun!

a list of games by personality type

mastermindWe are huge fans of games –  they create family time, allow us to model and practice good sportsmanship, and teach and hone skills. A great last minute gift and something for everyone. Here are some of our faves broken down by skills, inclinations, a a few for solo play:


Visually / graphically inclined
Blokus (spatial perception, strategy)
Set (card game)


Like to draw / build
Creationary (LEGO game)

Creative thinking

Word games (spelling and reading required!)

Math Facts
Zeus on the Loose (sums to 100)
Rat-a-Tat Cat (facility with adding 0-9)
Farkle (and for finding your center on the risk-taking spectrum)

Strategic Thinkers
Qwirkle (younger kids)

Solo Play
Rush Hour
Screwball Scramble

The Scrambled States of America
Where in the World

Deductive Thinkers

a list of games for multi-age groups

hedbandzHere we bring you another list.  This time it’s games for multi-age groups.  Think two families gathering with siblings of varied ages or a multi-generational family at Thanksgiving looking for an activity.

1.  Hedbandz.  A game that levels the playing field among players as no one knows what’s showing on their own headband.  Kids learn deductive reasoning by trying to guess their “identity” (kitchen? Hamburger? Las Vegas?) and by listening to the questions the older plays ask to figure out theirs.  This comes in two versions and both are appropriate for multi-age groups.

2.  Clue.  Another game that hones deductive reasoning and strategy skills.  Caveat – If the murderous theme and weapons here might upset younger people at the table, skip it.  Note there is also a Clue Jr. version for really young budding detectives.

3.  Mastermind. And oldie, but goodie!  This involves complex reasoning skills but is very simple so that younger players can learn the game easily.  For Mastermind lovers there is a free iPhone app called Crack the Code, something I don’t mind my kids playing to pass the time when we’re in waiting mode somewhere.

4.  Telestrations.  Drawing meets telephone in this game that is guaranteed to bring laughter to all involved.  Reading is necessary so pre-readers will need to team up to play.

5.  Scrabble. While Banagrams is the cool new kid on the block in letter tiles, a big component of the game is speed.  I played Scrabble with my 8 and 10 year olds this summer and realized how beneficial the extra time was for them as the had the chance to examine the board as the turns passed. In contrast, the speed element of Banagrams often leads younger players to quickly feel defeated.  We had the pleasure of playing on a Scrabble board that belonged to my grandparents, and it spun.  So if you are purchasing new this is a great addition to the game closet.

Whether you are stocking up on birthday party gifts, preparing early for the holidays, or just want some fresh activities for your next family and friends night, we hope some of these games will do the trick.

on the double’s mine – what’s yours?

great game to play with kidsMy younger brother, who doesn’t yet have any kids of his own, really does his homework and continually finds the best gifts for my kids.  For my daughter’s birthday he sent a game called On The Double and it’s my current favorite.  There are three things I like about this game:  First, it’s a deck of cards and comes in a tidy box, easy for road trips, airplanes, or to have in the car when waiting in pick up lines for older siblings.  Second, it’s quick to figure out.  Instructions are simple and you can get right down to playing in no time.  Third, I love that my 6 year old regularly beats me (and I’m really trying).  It’s a game based on seeing the relational aspects of shapes, color and positioning.  It requires focused attention which is good practice for me these days and plays to her strong suit developmentally.  So when we have ten minutes while the pasta water is boiling, before a piano lesson, or even while we’re having lunch, we play!

In the spirit of sharing: what are your favorite easy to take along games that you adults enjoy playing? Please post your favorites as a comment, we’ll all benefit and so will our kiddos! -n

have game(s), will travel

scrambled states of americaSummer is family vacation time, and with that in mind, we want to recommend a local Watertown, MA company – Gamewright Games.  They offer a wonderful collection of card games, many so brilliantly (and sneakily) educational, and engaging enough for truly fun multi-age play. In tidy little boxes, these games are easy to take on the go for some unplugged, mellow family time. Our top choices are: Rat-a-Tat Cat, Sleeping Queens and Scrambled States (pictured here) Happy trails! xx