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Tips for Parents

Finding engaging games to play with toddlers and preschoolers that are not excessively tedious for the adults can be a challenge.  Memory, Candy Land, and Chutes and Ladders are classics and likely in any collection with young kids.  I can vouch that they are in my kids’ collection too! There are many more games to choose from that are good for young players.  These games have are appealing, have cute themes, and you will enjoy playing with your preschooler.

Haba Games

My Very First Games Series

My Very First Games are for ages 2 and up. There are 17  games for sale on the Haba website in this set and some of the most recommended are First Orchard, Hanna Honeybee and Animal Upon Animal. Haba games are high quality and include wooden pieces.

First Orchard


First Orchard is a cooperative game where players are trying to collect all the fruit before the raven reaches the end of the path. The game has large brightly colored wooden fruit and a chunky wooden raven.  The path and orchard are easy to set up and reinforces sorting skills. This is a simplified version of Haba’s Orchard game.

Hanna Honeybee


Hanna Honeybee is a cooperative game were one to four players are rolling a chunky wooden die to find and collect flowers of that color.  Once collected it goes into the  beehive which flips the card so it comes out on the honey side.  A second way to play it to have the cards upside down and that adds a memory component to the game.

Animal Upon Animal


Animal Upon Animal has three ways of play.  There are two competitive variants and a cooperative variant. The animals are much larger than the classic game and they stack much more easily, so it accommodates the level of fine motor skills you find in younger players.

Standard Haba Games for Younger Players

Some of Haba’s games that are not only from the My First Game Series are also good for preschoolers.  Their pieces are slightly smaller and there are more rules to the game.

Animal Upon Animal


Animal Upon Animal has slightly smaller pieces than the First Game version. This game is for ages 4 and up. Players are asked to roll to determine how many animals they are stacking or they may be asked to add a piece to the base adjacent to the crocodile.

Unicorn Glitterluck


Unicorn Glitterluck is a roll and move game with some added components for ages 3 and up.  Players move their unicorns along the path and collect crystals.  If they land on a crystal image they have to roll a special die to find out how many crystals to take.  The player to reach the sun first ends the game and players count their crystals.  The player with the most crystals wins.  The back of the game board also has a counter track so players can lay out their crystals by the player and visually see who has the most.

Gamewright

Gamewright makes great family games! There is something for all ages and many of their games play well multi-age.  The themes are light-hearted and their games are easy to learn. For the youngest gamers, they also have developed a cardholder.  This is a great tool for little hands who struggle to hold a hand of cards.

Go Away Monster


Go Away Monster is a re-release of a game for the younger set with new art and prettier components. The main thrust of the game is that you have to fill up your card with different puzzle pieces to make up a child’s bedroom. You do that by reaching into a blind bag and feeling around for the piece that you need. The trick is that there are monsters in the bag. If you pick a monster out of the bag then you lose your turn.

Feed The Kitty


Feed The Kitty is a dice game where players roll the dice to see what they have to do with their mice.  At the beginning of the game, each player gets some wooden mice and some go in the Kitty’s bowl. The two custom dice have four other actions, and they complete both on their turn. Players may need to pass a mouse to the player on the left, or do nothing if there is a sleeping cat.  Rolling a bowl image indicates they have to put a mouse in the bowl, or a mouse image and they take a mouse out of the bowl. Players can not roll if they are out of mice, but they are not out of the game.  The game ends when only one player has a mouse (or mice).

 

Hiss


Hiss is a competitive game where players draw tiles and try and build the longest snakes.  Each snake has different colors and players need to match the colors for adjacent snake pieces.  To build a complete snake they need to have a head, at least one middle body segment, and a tail. This is a game that easily scales down to youngster players.

Educational Insights 

Educational Insights’ goal is to make games that are both fun  and educational.  They have infused an educational theme into each of their games, and also put a animal squeezer which develops fine motor skills and hand strength into a series of their games.

 

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game


The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is where you are collecting acorns to feed your hungry squirrel.  At the beginning of each turn you spin the spinner and that dictated the color acorn you can take or if another event occurs.  If a player lands on a storm cloud their acorns get blown back onto the tree. A sad squirrel means you lose a turn.  The thieving squirrel picture allows the player to steal one acorn from another player. The first person to fill their log with acorns wins.

Educational Insights have developed a line of games with a squeezer that also include: Hoppy Floppy Happy Hunt and Sophie’s Seashell Scramble.

Blue Orange Games

Blue Orange Games, the award-winning tabletop game publisher has a whole series of Spot it games in a range of theme.  Some other Spot it Games include: numbers and shapes, sports, Gone Camping, Frozen.

Spot it Jr.


Spot it Jr. is simple, inexpensive, and portable. Oh! And your Preschooler has a decent shot at beating you in it. This is a matching game with multiple variables of play.  There is one matching animal on every card so you are trying to be the first to find the matching animal.  This is great for even the youngest gamers and helps to develop their observational skills.

Blue Orange  preschool games released in 2018

Happy Bunny


“In this cooperative counting game, players work as a team to help the bunny pick the best carrots from the farmer’s garden. Each turn, one player picks a number of carrots from the garden and sorts them into two piles, one for the bunny and one for the farmer. At the end of the game, everyone helps line up the piles for comparison. If the bunny’s line is longer, the players win! The durable carrot pieces are firmly planted inside the box, so the self-contained game helps little hands develop fine motor skills.”

Where’s Mr. Wolf?


“A cooperative game where everyone pitches in on the farm! Players must work together as a team to help the farm animals get back to their barns before Mr. Wolf arrives. Every time a Mr. Wolf token is found, he creeps one space closer, and every time a farm animal token is found, players must remember which barn they belong to. The cute animal tokens, 3D barns, and shared goal help children work on memory and teamwork at the same time.”

Kitty Bitty


“Kitty Bitty is a remake of the beloved Blue Orange classic, Froggy Boogie. This adorable wooden game has little minds use memory and color recognition to help their kitten make it around the yarn balls and back to the basket. Each turn, players need to find the correct mommy cat and pick up one of her eyes; if it’s blank they can move on to the next yarn ball, but if there’s a kitten printed on the bottom they stay put and it’s the next players turn. The first kitten that makes it around all the yarn balls and back to the basket wins!”

Peaceable Kingdom

Snug as a Bug in a Rug


Snug as a Bug in a Rug is a cooperative game for player ages 3 and up.  The game is also designed with three levels of play to increase difficulty as players get older. The bugs in the game have multiple features.  They are different colors, have shapes, have different numbers of shapes, and have large or small eyes.

The basic gameplay has the players roll the specialized die to determine the attribute they are looking for in their bug and then spin the spinner to specify the attribute.  For example, if they roll the color attribute on the die, the spinner would tell them to find the blue bug.  Once they find a bug with that attribute it goes under the rug (the game board). If there are no bugs that match that feature a stink bug is placed on the rug.  The game ends when all the bugs are under the run, which means players win, or there are three stink bugs on the rug.

 

Count Your Chickens


Count Your Chickens is a cooperative game where you are trying to get all 40 chicks back to the coop before the hen reaches it.  On each turn, the player spins the spinner that has various pictures that correspond to picture on the path.  The player moves the mother hen to the next space with that picture and counts the number of spaces they travel.  The number of spaces is how many chicks they put in the coop. If the spinner lands on the fox one chick is taken out of the coop and put back in the farmyard.

Hoot Owl Hoot


Hoot Owl Hoot is a cooperative game to bring the owls back to the nest.  The goal is to get all the owls back before the sun comes up.  Each player has three cards dealt in front of them.  Players choose a color card to pla, and draws a card to refill at the end of their turn.  With a color car,d the player selects an owl and move it to the next corresponding space of that color. If a player has a sun card they must play it, and the sun moves one space on the tracker. The difficulty can be increased by adding more owls to put back in the nest.

Wonderforge

 

I Can Do That!



I Can Do That! is an active game that gets kids moving.  This takes some items from Dr. Seuss books and has made them into props to complete silly actions.  On each turn player pull one card from three different decks.  Deck number one is an action, deck number two is a prop, and deck number three is a direction to do with the prop.  There is also a Trick-a-ma-stick Foam Bar that players may need to go under or around.  There are Stop Card scattered in the three decks.  If a player draws one their turn is over.  On each card there are  stars.  Players keep the cards for all successfully completed actions, and the player with the most stars wins.

 

Thinkfun

Zingo


Zingo is a bingo game with a few twists by Thinkfun.  The game is for players ages four and up and can play two to six players, and game play is quick and a game take 15-20 minutes. Zingo is a great game to have for young players.  Thinkfun has also created  multiple versions of Zingo published by Thinkfun. They include: Zingo 1-2-3Zingo Sight Words, Zingo Time-Telling, and Zingo Word Builder.  These can be great ways to develop beginning reading and math skills, and for preschool and primary students the Zingo variations are a great fit.  The random nature of the game allow for play with the whole family.  

Proto Toys

Build or Boom


Build or BOOM is a block stacking dexterity game designed to be played by even the youngest member of your family. Your goal is to race your opponent to complete a tower out of uniquely shaped blocks and BOOM their tower to keep them from winning. This game is absolutely playable by everyone in the family. It is designed for kids 4 yrs old and over, but is still fun and playable by the more mature members of the family. The concepts are simple to understand and no reading is required. The plastic pieces are big enough for tiny hands to manipulate and the towers are challenging for all ages.

 


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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How Do I Tell All These Skylanders Apart?

Skylanders was responsible for the birth of the toys to life genre. Kids everywhere asked their parents, Santa, or anyone else who might listen to help them get in on the action. There were six games in the series  and dozens of figures.

It can be VERY difficult to tell them apart. This is especially true now that the figures are no longer sold in stores. The only way to find the characters now is to search at rummage sales, on Ebay, or on the Facebook marketplace.

Fear not! We have a quick and easy guide to figuring out how to tell all of those Skylanders apart and to figure out what games in the franchise you can use them in.

If the figures are in their original packaging for some reason, then your job is easy. You can read the box and find out what game it goes with. You can use that figure with all of the Skylander’s games released afterwards.

The Skylanders release timeline is as follows:

  • Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure (2011)
  • Skylanders Giants (2012)
  • Skylanders SWAP Force (2013)
  • Skylanders Trap Team (2014)
  • Skylanders SuperChargers (2015)
  • Skylanders Imaginators (2016)

Unfortunately, most of the Skylanders you find today will be loose. So you’ll need to find another method to identify them.

The good news is that all you have to do is turn the figure over and look at the either the color of the translucent base or its shape! That detail will give you everything you need to know to figure out where it came from.

Here is a handy chart to help you figure out which games a given figure can be used in:

Elemental Type

Another key characteristic of different Skylanders is their elemental type.  You can find that by looking at the symbol on their base.

The different elemental types are:

Special Skylanders – Giants

Skylanders Giants featured a new kind of figure that was between two and three times the size of regular figures. These characters are used in the game to do things you would expect giants to do like pull floating islands on giant chains and break down walls.

Special Skylanders – Swap Force

Skylanders: Swap Force brings in larger characters that disconnect with magnets at the waist. Their legs each have powers that help unlock new areas. The different movement powers associated with the different members of the Swap Force are listed below:

SwapForce

Special Skylanders – Trap Team

Skylanders Trap Team features special characters are also larger than the common Skylanders and have a translucent weapon or headwear.

The Skylanders line for Trap Team included:

  • 18 Trap Masters
  • 18 New Core Skylanders (Series 1)
  • 5 Returning Skylanders (Series 2-4)
  • 16 Minis

One of the other key components to Skylanders Trap Team is the ability to trap boss characters and use them as characters in the game. There are traps for each element including a trap to help capture Kaos (the final boss) himself!

Special Skylanders – Superchargers

Skylanders Superchargers introduced vehicles for the first time. There are three types: Air, Sea, and Land. There are twenty vehicles and twenty Skylanders available in the line for Superchargers.

It is worth mentioning that you only need a land Supercharger to complete the game, but it is a good idea to pick up and Air and Sea vehicle so that you don’t miss any content.

Traps from Trap Team work with the Superchargers game, but you can’t play as the characters. Instead they provide powerful elemental ammunition for Supercharger vehicles.

Activision also worked with Nintendo to create a pair of Skylander characters that are ALSO amiibo. All you need to do to switch between the two is to rotate the base. The Skylander/amiibo characters are Donkey Kong and Bowser. They even come with their own vehicles (Donkey Kong has a barrel themed racer and Bowser has a plane.)

Special Skylanders – Imaginators

Skylanders Imaginators is the last game in the series. The gimmick for this game is that instead of a large line of new Skylanders figures they released creation crystals for each element. You then use those creation crystals in the game to create custom Skylanders using one of 10 different battle classes. You then customize them with items that you can either find in the game or purchase separately in blind packs.

There are also 31 Sensei figures to purchase. Each of them provides a new power move for your custom Imaginators character depending on their class.

The 10 different battle classes are:

  • Bazooker
  • Bowslinger
  • Brawler
  • Knight
  • Ninja
  • Quickshot
  • Sentinel
  • Smasher
  • Sorcerer
  • Swashbuckler

Hopefully, this guide will help you to understand what Skylanders you are getting!


What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Unlike my parents, I grew up with access to a computer. I’m comfortable with technology. Most parents in my generation are more than comfortable with computers, mobile devices, e-readers, smart home devices, etc. However, there is still one area in the field of technology that has many parents stumped. That area of technology is video gaming, and all the technology that surrounds games. Games are getting more complex. Gamers, in general, are starting at a younger age. And, to make matters worse, many of these young gamers have parents who did not play games at all when they were younger. Talk about a perfect storm!

Gaming has grown so rapidly in the last decade or so that there is a huge population of kids that just don’t have the support that they need from their parents. These parents simply lack the experience needed to be of any real help.

These comments are not intended to be a condemnation of non-gamer parents. A lot of parents in my generation (including me) have been playing games for most of our lives. This gives us a strong base of experience and helps make finding solutions to some game puzzles a relatively easy task. But, my experiences are not necessarily the same as the experiences of all other parents. My wife, for example, was not a gamer as a child. She often gets stumped by the same puzzles my children get stuck on. As I tell her, all is not lost. You CAN find the help you need if your child is stuck. The internet is a vast ocean of information and the answer to virtually any question you can imagine is floating somewhere in it. You just need to know where to look.

I’ve heard too many stories where kids get stuck and their parents can’t help them. As a result their game gets “bricked” (rendered completely useless- the game may as well be built into the wall for all the fun it can bring).

My goal is to give parents who are not gamers a set of tools to help find the answers to their children’s questions quickly and effectively. I know that there are a lot of parents with no REAL interest in games. These parents buy games and let their kids play by themselves, without any engagement. Video games are a perfect babysitter, right? Nope. You really do have to be able to help your children while they play in order to prevent frustration from taking over and leeching any possible enjoyment and enrichment from the experience. This guide will help you ENGAGE with your child and show you several places to find the answers you will need.

 

1. Your Google-Fu Must be strong

This sounds obvious. Google is supposed to be able to help you find anything right? Yes. But, you can’t just type whatever you want into Google and get reliable information.

First, most games are broken down into levels or stages. You can often find the information you need by searching for the title of the game and the name/number of the stage you need help on. RPGs might be a bit more challenging, because things aren’t numbered, but each town, cave, dungeon, or boss fight will have a name associated with it. It can also help if you type the keyword “guide” or “walkthrough” into your search to help make sure you get assistance as opposed to reviews. For example, searching for “pokemon x gym leader guide” will bring up a list of websites that contain info regarding the different gym leaders and their pokemon in Pokemon X and Y.

Second, check your spelling. You might not know a lot about the game your child is playing, but you need to make sure that you know the correct spelling of things in order to have any luck finding them. Google might correct some of your misspellings, but it is possible to get lost and fail to find the information that you need. Ask your kids, or look at the game yourself to find out what you need to search for.

Lastly, there are a number of websites out their that are designed to lure people using information about popular video games and infect their computers with malware. When you are searching for a piece of information make sure to look at the search results and make sure you are going to a legitimate site before you click. (Pro-Tip: If the site appears dedicated to cheats and/or offers you ways to get ahead in games by downloading an unrelated program… its probably not legitimate. This is especially true with mobile apps.)

 

2. GameFaqs.com

It is possible that GameFaqs is directly responsible for the longevity of my time as a gamer. Every time I recall finding myself frustrated with a puzzle or battle in a game I turned to one of the walkthroughs on the site and was able to overcome the challenge. I cannot recommend this resource enough.

GameFaqs has been around forever and has several walkthroughs for just about every game you can ever imagine. Each walkthrough is written by a community of dedicated gamers and are rated by peers as they are released.

The only real weakness for GameFaqs walkthroughs is that they are written in pure text format. They do not include images, videos, or sound. They are essentially step-by-step instructions that are painstakingly written out. Fortunately, these documents are searchable (just like most text on the web) by hitting Control-F on a PC and Command-F on a Mac. This will bring up a small search box in your browser. Simply type in whatever you are searching for and it will bring you right there. (Be VERY careful with your spelling here though. Google won’t be able to save you here.)

 

3. IGN Wikis and Walkthroughs

IGN is a website that covers the video game and popular entertainment industry. They have a significant portion of their website dedicated to providing a home for user submitted walkthroughs, guides, and Wiki pages. These pages function very similarly to GameFaqs, with the exception that they will often include images and video. They even include mobile apps like in this walkthrough for Cut the Rope 2. (This walkthrough was actually written by a talented writer from my home state of CT who also happens to share my name, Stephen Haberman. He is currently working on a site dedicated to “Heroes of the Storm, a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game run by Activision Blizzard. Check it out!)

 

4. YouTube

YouTube has its share of challenges regarding content for children, but there is a massive community of gamers who post videos of the games that they play. You can find walkthroughs of virtually any game you can imagine here. This is an especially useful resource for parents who need help on action games and platforming games. (Also, some people are simply visual learners and having a video to watch will be of more use.)

 

These are my some of my suggestions. Where do you get your information? Are there any hidden gems on the web that have helped you find solutions to your questions? Sound off in the comments section!

 

 

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