Hurricane Sandy brings back board games

    Last week, to prepare for Hurricane Sandy, I cross-referencedThe Emergency Kit List with our well-worn, reliable 7-page Camping Checklist. Both lists include similar non-perishable food items and fresh fruit and vegetables, flashlights (or headlamps), sleeping bags and extra blankets, bottled water, and….ready for this families of the Techno Age? Board games! A deck of cards! And you might as well throw a football in with the mix–it’s entertaining indoors because you never know which framed picture might fall or how a tackle will dramatically transform your sofa and pillows.



    Of course, we don’t have to wait for a hurricane to pull out the favorite family board game collection. There might be a blizzard in the coming months. Or a playdate in the next few hours. Or good old teen poker or blackjack pizza night every weekend.

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    I grew up playing countless games of Clue, Monopoly, Connect Four, Boggle, and Old Maid on our living room floor with my brother, cousins, and chums. It seemed that Miss Scarlet from Clue was always in the Conservatory and so was the candlestick. The shoe was and still is my favorite game piece in Monopoly. And the illustration on the Old Maid card was fascinating and frightening at the same time. That set of cards might be considered an antique today, and you would think that this Victorian game might be marketed with an updated name by now. In France, a variation is known as “vieux garçon” (Old Boy), and in Japan, it’s “baba-nuki”  where the person left with the joker loses.





    Today Boggle is still very much part of our family life. Literally, but also the game. We play it on camping trips (fits more easily in a tent than Scrabble) and at the pool. It provides players to think about how letters fit together visual-spatially and sometimes surprisingly to form a word.  



    For the younger board gamers, in addition to Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, and Uncle Wiggly, there are many beautifully crafted memory games available, such as Audubon’s Bird Photograph memory game and Art Close Up: Museum of Modern Art. It might be more intriguing to step away from the game board and move around wildly for a game of Animal Charades. What a great crowd-pleaser when your child chooses to mimic the behavior of the Western Tree Hyrax or the Slender Loris.



    Try a few games of Pick Up Sticks with your child. It could easily go from “a few” to many, many games because it’s such a fun challenge, plus helpful to fine-motor development.



    A game of chess or checkers can take on a different feel just from the appearance of the set. There are miniature, glass, and even football player chess sets. The extra-large checkers rug with oversized pieces captivates its players.  



    For card games, the Bicycle Card Company website offers numerous games for all ages with additional information on the background of the game. Did you know that Solitaire is often called “Patience?”  War engages some of the youngest players, and it develops counting and recognizing card values.  



    Apples to Apples and its “Junior” edition can generate hilarious moments as players find themselves creatively problem solving to demonstrate how a chosen word can be best described by the word selected by the “judge.” Interpretation of meaning can become deep or even…silly! Which of the following three words are best described by the word eternal? spilled milk, roadtrips, or quicksand? If I were the judge, this would be a tough one.



    Most of the games described above are manufactured by Parker Brothers, a division of Hasbro, or Mattel. But how about playing a board game manufactured by none other than your child or a team of children? Just from providing the very basic recycled materials such as a shirt box (to hold the contents of the game), a medium to large piece of cardboard, markers and paints, dice, colorful “gemstones” or pebbles, cork bits, or anything fun and safe to function as game pieces, you’ll be delighted to see where it goes from there. Some inventors might get innovative with building a spinner using a brass paper fastener and cardstock. Send a gentle reminder that written instructions are a necessity!



    What are your favorite family board games or parlor games? I know…I didn’t even mention Risk, Sorry, and Life. And what about Twister? Who doesn’t have an amusing Twister story to share?



    Please share your favorite board or card game with us in the comments below.



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