Going retro with board games

How to turn winter nights into educational family fun

Name that game: Do not pass Go, do not collect $200… Col. Mustard in the library with the candlestick… You sank my battleship!

Parents likely aced the identification of those, but many children prefer action-packed video games and may be unfamiliar with traditional board games like Monopoly, Clue and Battleship.

You can introduce your kids to these classics by planning a family game night. It’s the perfect family activity for frigid winter evenings when outdoor fun loses its appeal.

If you don’t own any, you can pick up traditional board games and educational games locally at stores such as ToyTown on Avenue Road or Scholar’s Choice on Bayview Avenue.

“The second it starts to get a little bit cold out, board games and puzzles start flying out of here,” said John Laplaine, manager of ToyTown, which has been operating at 1754 Avenue Rd. since 1952.

To prepare for a family game night, all you need is a table where everyone can be comfortable, a game or two, and your family. Since this is family time, make sure everyone’s electronic devices are turned off before you start. You and your kids will survive for a couple of hours without checking email or texting friends.

Some games, like Battleship and Checkers, are for two people. Large families that want to include two-player games can turn family game night into a round-robin tournament. Winners can play the winners, narrowing it down until a family champion is crowned.

Having winners and losers does not have to be the objective, though. Competition can be downplayed and good sportsmanship emphasized. The goal is for everyone in the family to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.

Games are fun, but there are some sneaky educational and behavioural benefits as well.

They require concentration and attention, and patience while waiting, plus many games test memory as well as the ability to solve problems.

Any player moving a piece around a game board uses simple counting skills, while games that involve the exchange of money, like Monopoly, involve counting with much higher numbers.

David Dorval, manager at Scholar’s Choice at 1599 Bayview Ave., says his store concentrates on educational games.

“We focus less on the traditional games and more on unique interactive games that have learning aspects to them,” he said.

Many family card games also feature an educational aspect. The top seller at ToyTown, Laplaine advises, is Anomia, a matching game that’s won numerous awards, including the Select Seal from Mensa. Laplaine also recommends Spot It!, another matching game.

“Right now, there’s been a big resurgence in fast-paced card games that are easy to learn and fun to play,” he said.

Games have rules. But you can be flexible with them to accommodate younger children or perhaps even just to shake things up a little: the rent money on Monopoly properties could be reduced so players won’t go broke so quickly, or your kids could consult a dictionary during a Scrabble game while the adults must not.
You could also create a crazy rule or custom.

If a player rolls the dice too hard while playing Monopoly and they tumble off the table, that player goes directly to jail. When someone plays a word in Scrabble that begins with the first letter of their first name, they get an extra turn. Instead of yelling “Yahtzee!”, you could yell “Pumpernickel!”

Anything wacky or weird is sure to be remembered and could become a family tradition your kids will pass on to their own children.

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Posted: Jan 7 2015 2:29 pm
Filed in: Kids & Families
Edition: Toronto