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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.

Panda’s Picnic

Panda’s Picnic in the Park is a matching game for players age two and up. The game comes in a picnic basket and players take turns pulling items out of the basket and matching them with things on their plate. There are multiple ways to play. Learning skills include: Color and Shape. Pretend play, turn taking, gross and fine motor skills, and vocabulary building.

Bandit’s Memory Mix Up

Bandits Memory Mix Up is a game for two to four players ages three and up which challenges memory. This game has players take the spy glass and placed five garden tiles inside then shake it up. One garden tile is removed secretly. The challenge: remembering the removed tile. The first player to identify the missing tile wins. There are also variants which support solo and large group play. Play reinforces the skills of turn-taking, visual discrimination, and memory.

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse is a cooperative game for 2 to 4 players ages 3 and up. In this game players are working together to find all the different Woodland animals playing hide and seek in the tree before Mr. Prickles climbs the ladder. Players worked together to remember the location of the different seekers when they think they have located a seeker they state who they think it is pick up the disk and smash it into the smash to to reveal who’s hiding. If they successfully find a hide or they place a token to show that seekers has been found. Game play reinforces memory, simple strategy, cooperation and fine-motor skills.

My First Castle Panic

In My First Castle Panic players work together to defend their castle during this cooperative game. The game is for one to four players ages four and up. This is a much simpler version from the original. My First Casle Panic takes away the reading and instead incorporates the early skills of identifying colors and shapes, simple problem solving, and turn taking. The path to the castle is a single path protected by one wall. To defeat a monster a card must be played matching the location of the monster. If the players can defeat all the monster before the castle is destroyed they win.

Dragomino

The game Kingdomino took the boardgame world by storm winning the Spiel De Jahres in 2017. Now there is a My First version that is for players ages five and up, with a dragon theme. Dragonmino takes the same tile drafting and placement mechanism, and simplified it further for younger players. With each match with the tiles players earn a dragon egg and are trying to collect eggs with baby dragons inside.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!”

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.

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.  

 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!

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Education has made a drastic shift, and distance learning has become a major instructional format. Parents and caregivers now must facilitating their children’s distance learning. Distance learning has evolved from the first versions in March and April, yet it still presents challenges. Any tools that encourage hands on work and engage children are more valuable than ever.

Below are some games that are easily available, or you may already have on your shelf at home. These games support educational concepts in a way that is more fun and approachable. Games by no means replace the schoolwork and instruction, but they are a nice supplement. Check out your game collection and see what games you have with educational elements too.

STEM Games

Roller Coaster Challenge and Gravity Maze are single player puzzle STEM games. Each game has a series of cards with challenges that get increasingly more difficult. These are all engaging with hands on, that encourage problem solving and flexible thinking. While these are single player families can create opportunities for collaboration. Kids and adults love to build and see their construction succeed.

See the reviews of Gravity Maze here.

Coding

Understanding coding is a critical 21st century skill. There are several great board games that teach the skills of coding.

The most well know is Robot Turtles, which hit the world by storm on Kickstarter in 2013. It is simple and super fun.  The goal is for kids to place directional cards on a board to get their turtle to a matching colored jewel. It starts out easy, but as your child learns, you can add obstacles to make it more complex.   The children get to be the programmers and take control by playing out cards.  See our review here.

Two other great coding games are Coder Bunny and Coder Mindz both created by Samaira Mehta as a second and fourth grader respectively.  Coder Bunny gives players thirteen variations of ways to play, which incorporate different elements of coding. Coder Bunnyz also has a strong educational benefit.  It introduces the basics of coding in a friendly and accessible format. Younger beginning players benefit from coaching and direct instruction on the best way to program the motion of their bunny.  Older and more experienced players can create greater challenges with the board layout to refine their strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

Coder Mindz presents the concepts of coding in an accessible format for a young player, but it is also engaging for older players.  Having three modes of play with two levels of difficulty at each level makes the game easy to scale based on the age of the players as well as the experience they have with creating code.

See the review of Coder Bunny here, and Coder Mindz here.

Reading

In Blurble, players race to say a word first that starts with the same letter as the picture on the card. There are lots of additional educational options with the cards too. Blurble contains a booklet labeled Educational Exercises. Within it explains other uses of the cards in Blurble as an educational tool for parents. The activities include Object Identification/Vocabulary, Spelling, Storytelling, Identifying Characteristics, Information Retrieval, and Group games. These activities range for ages 2 with object identification to age 11 with storytelling.  See the review here.

Spot It and Spot it Jr. are simple, inexpensive, and your child has a decent shot at beating you in it. This is a matching game with several variables of play.  There is one matching picture on every card so you are trying to be the first to find the matching picture.  This is great for even the youngest gamers and helps to develop their observational skills, and language. There is also an alphabet version that can develop letter identification.

Zingo is a bingo game that incorporates a Zinger, which distributes the tiles. Kids love using the Zinger and it adds a fun component to the game. Thinkfun has also created  multiple versions of Zingo. 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.  

Math

Cross Curricular Connections

Zeus on the Loose has players building up “Mount Olympus” which is the discard pile, to equal 100, but watch out, by playing a Greek God all kinds of special powers can happen. On their turn “Mount Olympus”, the discard pile and state the new total for the pile. This is a great way to practice mental addition to 100. The Greek gods themselves can also be a launching point for reading about the Greek myths, or other books incorporating Greek Mythology, such as the Rick Riordan books.

Number Recognition

Roll For It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play, which is perfect in building subitizing in young children. Subitizing is where you can look at the pips on a dice, or at a small group of objects and instantly know the number without counting. One of the best features of Roll For It! is its simplicity. Players who do not play games often will pick up this game and understand how to play after seeing one turn. See the review here.

Addition and Subtraction


Skyjo is a set collection card game for two to eight players were your goal is to get the least amount of points per around. The recommended age is for eight and up. The game does scale down especially once children can understand the negative cards by relating them to take away. Unknown cards in front of each player and fifteen different cards that can be revealed, gives Skyjo just enough suspense to provide just a bit of tension in the game.

Creating Sets and Probability

Dragonwood is a light set collection game with a fantasy theme and beautiful art. You take on the roll of an adventurer defeating monsters. Players have three different ways to defeat a monster and each attack requires a different type of collection. Players can collect sets of the same card, the same color, or numbers in sequence. These different ways to sort cards helps support flexible thinking probability, and sequencing.

Science

Life Science

Photosynthesis is a beautiful science themed game that features the tree life cycle and a rotating sun to collect light points. The trees are three dimensional and provide a beautiful visual as the forest “grows”. Photosynthesis plays in rounds. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase. The game ends after the sun makes three complete revolutions around the board.  Points are then calculated based on scoring tokens and unused light points. See the review here.

The Evolution Series by North Star Games has multiple games in this line. In the Evolution games you are evolving your creatures with various traits to help their survival. Each animal needs to have enough food or they die out and can go extinct. There is something for everyone in this series. For elementary age students you can start with Evolution: The Beginning. This is a simplified and streamlined version of the game good for ages eight and up. For older children: Evolution, Flight (which is an expansion), Climate, and Oceans.

Physics

Ice Cool is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. Players take turns flicking their penguin pawns through the halls. The goal is to get your pawn through open doorways to catch fish  and earn points. This is more complicated because each player takes a turn as the hall monitor who’s objective is to catch the other players. Ice Cool is more fun than I expected and the kids love it. You may be wondering how this helps with science, and this is where it helps to think outside the box. All the shots you are making involve Physics!

Ice Cool 2 is the sequel to the original Ice Cool game. If you combine it with the original Ice Cool game you can play up to eight players and set up multiple layouts. These new layout options can also become a learning tool for Physics may lead to finding which setup creates easier shots and which produce more complicated shots.


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

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As parents, we are all familiar with the world of edutainment. We are bombarded with choices daily- from the endless ABC Mouse commercials to the learning description at the introduction to every Noggin cartoon to the countless app ads on our smartphones. How do we know which choice is right for our children? Do these things even work?

Learning Styles

Before we go into the actual games, we need to discuss learning styles. Your child’s learning style will determine the type of game they will be most likely to enjoy and get the most out of. The three primary learning styles are Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Kinesthetic Learners. Visual learners are going to enjoy games with lots of graphics, bright colors, fun artwork, and maybe charts. Auditory learners will enjoy games where they get to listen to snippets of stories and hear others have discussions about different aspects of the game. Kinesthetic learners enjoy games where they get to be hands-on that have lots of pieces to move and manipulate. It’s good to think of the people you are going to be playing with to come up with the best game for your group.

Eduplay Games

While this article focuses on mainstream family-style games that are available at big-box retailers, we would be lax if we didn’t mention that there is a huge world of board games designed specifically for classroom learning. These games are designed to drill down and reinforce specific learning concepts like letter recognition, language acquisition, phonics, reading comprehension, storytelling mechanics and so forth.

Lakeshore Learning and Edupress are staples in the educational field. We’ve played a few games in this style, and they do not have the spark that we like to have in our games. Unless you were using your gaming time as a type of additional homework, we don’t find the replay value to be very high or the desire to play to be very high. But, there is no denying that this type of game is a useful learning tool. They at least add a skin of fun over traditional learning.

Here at Engaged Family Gaming, we have come up with 12 games that are a lot of fun to play that teach some of these Literacy concepts as well.

Games with Literacy Concepts

Scrabble 8+ (Vocabulary Development and Letter Arrangement)

Scrabble, by Hasbro games, is a classic for a reason. It has retained its popularity through the years (think Words With Friends) because it is fun to play and challenging. In case you’ve never played Scrabble, it is a word game in which two to four players score points by placing tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a gameboard which is divided into a 15×15 grid of squares. The tile must be placed in a crossword pattern (words flow left to right in rows or downwards in columns). The words must be standard and acceptable words in an agreed upon dictionary. Players score points based on the numbers on their letter tiles and can add bonuses from cues on the gameboard.

Scrabble has many variations, including a Junior version designed to help younger kids with letter matching and recognition. This is a great game for kinesthetic learners because there are small pieces to manipulate which these learners LOVE to handle.

Bananagrams 7+ (Vocabulary Development, Letter Arrangement, Time Management)

Bananagrams, by Banagrams, is a similar game to Scrabble, but it doesn’t require a game board, pen, paper, etcetera. It is a letter tile game that comes in a fun banana shaped zip up pouch. It is easily portable and gives you more freedom than Scrabble because you play independently for speed while making your individual crossword board. There are no complications from trying to get the perfect spot on the board, or waiting for a slow player to make a decision, or from losing out on the triple letter space. This game moves quickly because you are working against a clock. There are some unique challenges and ways to manipulate game play which add some fun elements into the game and can allow you to put a crimp in your opponents’ play. In our playtests of this game, we found that this game can be more of a challenge for younger players because it lacks some of the structure built into Scrabble, but some of your outside the box players will enjoy this one much more.

Much like Scrabble, this game appeals to kinesthetic learners because of the tile manipulation. Also, since there is no game board, please make sure to play this one on a smooth surface. The tablecloth became way more of a hindrance during play than any of us anticipated.

Rory’s Story Cubes 8+ (Language Development, Vocabulary Development, Story Sequencing, Storytelling)

Rory’s Story Cubes, by Gamewright, is a pocket-sized creative story generator. The original game comes in a box with 9 cubes (dice) with different images on each side. Players simply roll the cubes and let the pictures spark their imagination and tell a story out loud based on the pictures on their cubes. There are several expansions to the base game with different themes (actions, voyages, clues, Batman, intergalactic, etc.). There are infinite ways to play with Rory’s Story Cubes. The rules suggest playing solitaire or with others. The 8+ age suggestion is misleading. This game can definitely be played with younger players.

We’ve used this game as a party game or ice-breaker and I’ve used it to work with my youngest on speaking & listening skills. My oldest finds a way to use these as story starters for creative inspiration in his writing activities. They can also help early learners with literacy development and problem-solving. Again, because this game involves dice rolling, it is great for kinesthetic learners. And, because the stories are told aloud, we’ve had great luck honing our children’s auditory learning skills with this game. Finally, because of the creative images on the cubes, this game works as a great inspiration for visual learners. All around, these are a terrific learning tool to add to your arsenal.

Fitzit 10+ (Language Development, Vocabulary Development, Reading Comprehension)

FitzIt, by Gamewright, is a card based party game where you play a card with a simple statement on it. The player has to name an object that fits the attributes on their cards and then play them to the grid. The more cards you play, the faster you score. Gamewright has a few party games in this style, but we like this one because it is simple to play, plays very quickly, and the statements are easy to read for early readers. Again, the 10+ guideline is a bit misleading. Our early readers love this game because it encourages creativity, imagination, and helps them reinforce their reading comprehension skills. They players’ answers require your child to display an understanding of the words they read to come up an object that makes sense.

In a Pickle 10+ (Language Development, Vocabulary Development, Reading Comprehension)

In a Pickle, by Gamewright, is game of creative thinking and silly scenarios. Players try to win a set of cards by fitting smaller things into bigger things (there’s some juice in a pickle, in a supermarket, in a parking lot). Play the fourth word card to claim the set, unless one of your opponents can trump with a larger word. The player with the most sets at the end is the BIG winner! This game is more abstract than FitzIt and really encourages creativity and imagination. The scenarios get very outrageous and it requires players to think outside of the box and invent options that seem preposterous. The silliness is fun for kids, but we think the 10+ guideline on this one is accurate because of the challenges in making the words fit.

Last Letter 8+ (Vocabulary Development, Letter Recognition, Picture Cues, Time Management)

In Last Letter, by ThinkFun, each player gets five cards featuring intricate, fun, and brightly colored illustrations. Players must race to come up with and shout out a word from one of the picture cards in their hand. The word MUST begin with the last letter of the word previously called. The first player to get rid of all of their cards will win the round. This game is an awesome game for visual learners! The fast paced nature of this game might make it more challenging for younger players who are slower to process what they are seeing in front of them. If play around the table gets too excitable and loud, you may lose younger auditory learners as well. But, be prepared to be surprised by the creative words kids come up with from the images that adults would not normally think of.

Smartmouth 8+ (Letter Arrangement & Recognition, Vocabulary Development, Time Management)

In Smartmouth, by ThinkFun, players race to make the best word in 60 seconds. Players roll the die to determine the word category, slide the Letter Getter to reveal two letter tiles and, using those letters, shout out a word that fits the given category before the timer runs out. The player who calls out the first word and the player with the highest-ranking word both collect a letter tile for the round. Once all tiles are gone, the player with the most tiles wins.

The categories of adjective, verb, natural objects, famous people, man made objects, etc. help reinforce language skills learned in school. The game includes dice rolling and manipulating the letter tiles and the timer and slider which will appeal to kinesthetic learners, while the picture cues on the dice will appeal to visual learners. Because answers are shouted out loud, auditory learners will be engaged as well.

Zingo 3+ (Letter Arrangement & Recognition, Vocabulary Development, Picture Cues, Time Management)

Zingo is a new classic with a few different variations of the game available. It’s like Bingo with a fun twist. The original Zingo is a matching game that encourages pre-readers and early readers to match pictures and words to their challenge cards. The Zingo! Zinger dispenses tiles as players race to be the first player with a full card and yell “ZINGO!” With two levels of play, this matching game builds language skills through fast-paced play. This game is designed to develop early literacy skills for very young players. Zingo Sight Words and Zingo Word Builder are also available and these games introduce more challenging literacy skills. Our children request these games regularly and LOVE to play them. While these are learning games at their core, they use fun and exciting game mechanics to keep young players engaged!

Letter Tycoon 8+ (Letter Arrangement & Recognition, Vocabulary Development)

Letter Tycoon, by BreakingGames, is word game for 2-5 players that can best be described as a cross between Scrabble and Monopoly. Players take turns forming a word using a seven-card hand and a three-card community card pool, scoring money and stock rewards based on length and letter strength in their word. When enough of the alphabet has been claimed, players finish the current turn, then score all money, stock and letter patents owned. The game has an awesome antique look and style that really appealed to my family. Letter Tycoon’s game mechanics were easy to understand and fun to play, but our younger players had difficulty competing with adult players. The game aesthetic really appealed to us more than other games in this genre and encouraged discussion about some of the historical and antique aspects mentioned in the game.

PaperBack 8+ (Letter Arrangement, Language Development, Vocabulary Development)

Paperback, designed by by Tim Fowers, is a Word building/Deck building game with an aesthetic that completely immerses players in the world of writing and story building. The cards are uniquely illustrated and fun. Players are supposed to be an author trying to finish kitschy paperback novels. They compete to complete Westerns, Science Fiction, Romance or even a Crime Noir.

There is no age recommendation for the game, but we have found that the player should be at least 8 years old to grasp the game mechanics. Players start with a deck of letter cards and wild cards. Each hand they form words, and purchase more powerful letters based on how well their word scored. Most letters have abilities that activate when then are used in a word, such as drawing more cards or double letter score. Players buy wilds to gain victory points. This game functions similarly to the other word building games in this list and emphasized the same skills but it has the added game mechanic of a deckbuilder.

Dixit 8+ (Language Development, Story Sequencing, Storytelling, Picture Cues)

Using a deck of cards illustrated with dreamlike images, players select cards that match a title suggested by the “storyteller”, and attempt to guess which card the “storyteller” selected. Each player starts the game with six random cards. Players then take turns being the storyteller.

The player whose turn it is to be storyteller looks at the six images in his or her hand. From one of these, he or she makes up a sentence or phrase that might describe it and says it out loud (without showing the card to the other players). Each other player then selects from among their own six cards the one that best matches the sentence given by the storyteller. Then, each player gives their selected card to the storyteller, without showing it to the others. The storyteller shuffles his or her chosen card with the cards received from the other players, and all cards are then dealt face up. The players (except for the storyteller) then secretly guess which picture was the storyteller’s, using numbered voting chips. If nobody or everybody finds the correct picture, the storyteller scores 0, and each of the other players scores 2. Otherwise the storyteller and all players who found the correct answer score 3. Players other than the storyteller score 1 point for each vote their own pictures receive.

A large part of the skill of the game comes from being able to offer a title which is neither too obscure nor too obvious. The game ends when a player reaches the end of the board (30 points). Much like Rory’s Story Cubes, this game helps children to learn storytelling skills, story sequencing, and helps broaden appreciation for art and gives players the ability to articulate thoughts concisely and to comprehend metaphor.

Tales and Games (Series) 7+ (Various)

Iello games has produced a series of games based on classic children’s stories and fairy tales. The games are designed to look like beautiful hardbound storybooks with classically illustrated covers and spines. Each game takes about 20 minutes to play through and they all have different mechanics and designs. They and are designed to be played by players ages 7 and up.

We have included them here because they have sparked interest in the classic stories that they are based on in our household. I’ve had to bring my children to the library to find their own copies of these tales to read. The stories released so far are: The Three Little Pigs, Baba Yaga, The Hare and the Tortoise, The Grasshopper and the Ant, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Pied Piper. These are a great tie in to encourage discussing the stories and enhance reading comprehension.

For Additional Games to Support Learning

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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Amaze is a single player maze game from ThinkFun, and recommended for players ages 8 to adult. The maze board is changeable with 16 different mazes, and puts an interesting spin on maze games.

Game Contents

  • Maze board and an attached stylus
  • 16 challenge settings available on the back (with three difficulty levels)
  • Instructions included in the box provide further directions and also proved the solutions to all the mazes

Game Play

Amaze is extremely easy to set up.  There are red indicators on the left side of the board, and those indicators program to one of 16 mazes.  These settings make the maze progressively harder.  Once the player set the maze, you trace your path through the maze without lifting the stylus from start to finish.  During play, the player pushes the red bars left or right to open up a new path, or potentially trap you.  

Family Gaming Assessment

Amaze is a perfect travel game for families.  Amaze has the ideal design feature, attaching the stylus so it can not be lost.  Additionally, the maze itself is small enough to fit in a purse or backpack. For as simple as the design is the mazes are challenging and don’t present obvious solutions.  Being a single player game kids or adults can work on the maze for a while and put it away easily when they need a break.  Another advantage of Amaze is this is a battery free quiet game.  Amaze is perfect for a waiting room, since play is quiet.

Conclusion


Since this game has come into my house is has been played by children as young as five and up to adults.  The appeal is in the simplicity of the game, yet challenging nature of the mazes.  This is a great addition to a game collection for travel or quiet play and will appeal to anyone who enjoys mazes.

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Compose Yourself by Thinkfun is a fascinating product for those who are musically inclined or interested in classical music.  It is an intriguing activity where you can use the cards to create a composition using an website.  There is a great deal of focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) activities.  Compose Yourself is a product that supports STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math).

Contents

  • 60 Transparent Music Cards ( in Treble clef )
  • Composer Code Card
    • This code allows you to access the website to create your compositions
  • Instructions with Composing Tips
  • Online Tools and Resources
  • Travel Bag

Gameplay

Compose Yourself is played by arranging the cards on the table.  The clear cards allow them to be rotated and flipped to create the look and sound you want.  Next, you enter the code on the cards into the website provided.  As you arrange the cards you can place up to 4 in a row a create 4 rows.  That is the maximum you can input into the website. The cards have unique codes on each corner of the card so it can be input as  you have arranged it.  Once entered you can flip and rotate the cards digitally.  Additionally you can drag cards to rearrange them, and remove ones you do not want. Each card can be played to hear it individually. You are then able to play your composition using three sound settings: Marimba, Orchestra, or Both.   Finally, once your piece is complete you are able to print it and download it as an MP3.  

Family Game Assessment

Compose Yourself is an intriguing activities for families who enjoy classical music.  It has a great deal of potential for the family to create and share short compositions both together and individually.  The website is very easy to navigate and the cards are simple to lay out and arrange even with younger participants. To use the website you do need to register using the enclosed code.  There is one detail that is noteworthy; you need to agree to license it under a Creative Commons License.  Under the Help option in the Play page of the website it summarizes it well:

Please remember that you are free to share, sample, play, and have fun with your composition so long as it is not for commercial use.”

While this license can be considered a minor detail it informs the user of the nature of the music they are producing.  While it is your original work, it is not exclusively yours to do as you please and limits exist.

Compose Yourself is absolutely appropriate for  ages 6 and up as recommended by Thinkfun. The music is limited to the treble clef, and the tempo and the key signature can not be changed.  While there are some musical limitations for a more sophisticated musician, especially for children, it is a fun and easy way to play around with music in a very accessible way.

Conclusion

For the novice or less experienced musician, Compose Yourself allows you to dabble in creating original compositions.  I hesitate to call this a game in the traditional sense, however Thinkfun does lists it on their site as a game.  Regardless of what you call it, for those interested in music is a fun product that provides immediate reinforcement by hearing you music immediately.  

 

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Color Cube Sudoku by Thinkfun is a single player puzzle game.  It is a spin on the traditional Sudoku by utilizing colors instead of numbers, and allowing players to physically manipulate the colors to find solutions to the puzzle.  This is a logic game recommended for ages 8 to adult.  

Contents

  • 1Display Tray
  • 9 Color Cubes

Gameplay

The gameplay mechanics are quite simple, however, it is challenging to find a solution.  To play you flip, rotate, and rearrange the cubes in the tray until no colors are repeated in a row in any direction.  This follows the same core mechanics of traditional Sudoku by having there be no numbers repeated in a row.  Per the box, there are “2 trillion color combinations,  more than half a million solutions”.  For those who enjoy logic puzzles there are Bonus Pattern Challenges you can incorporate into the game, which include: No diagonals, Big X (creating a x using two colors), Outer Box( (two colors form a square diamond), and Long Knight’s Path (reference to the knight in chess, form 4 cubes in a row and one to the right or left with six squares of the same color).

 

Family Game Assessment

This is a fun puzzle that is appropriate for the whole family and can be done as a single player or cooperatively. This game is recommended for ages 8 to adult, and for the challenges of the logical reasoning involved and the abstract thinking 8 and up is a good recommendation.  However, since there is no reading involved and the pieces are large and easy to handle this could also be used by younger members of the family with support. This would be a good tool to play together and scaffold the logical thinking process for children. This would allow them to see the productive struggle through trial and error needed to reach a solution.  

 

Conclusion

Color Cube Sudoku is a kinesthetic logical reasoning puzzle game that is good for a wide range of ages.  For families that enjoy puzzles this is a great addition to their collection.  This could also be a light hearted way to introduce puzzle games and the Sudoku mechanics to the whole family.

To find more educational games from Thinkfun keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming!

 

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Introduction

Laser Maze Jr. is a single player logic game designed for ages six and up by Thinkfun. This game challenges the player to set up tokens to match a challenge card. The player then adds mirrors to the board. The objective is to reflect a laser beam so it lights up the rocket (or rockets with more difficult cards) light up.

Game Contents

  • Game Grid with Laser
  • 40 challenge cards
  • Instruction Manual with solutions
  • 11 Game tokens which include:
  • 2 Rocket Targets
  • 5 Satellite Mirrors
  • 3 Space Rock Blockers
  • 1 Beam Splitter

The components of the game are good quality solid plastic. They are designed with grays and blacks as well as bright red, green, and purple. These are the perfect size for an early elementary school age child to manipulate with ease.

Game Play

The player selects a challenge card. There are four levels of play: easy, medium, hard, super hard. The 40 cards are numbered and get progressively harder as they move within each level of play.

The player selects a card and it is inserted under the Game Grid to shows the player where the Rocket target as well as any Space Rock Blockers are placed. At the bottom of the card the additional pieces needed to complete the challenge are displayed. The player then manipulates the additional pieces around the Game Grid in order to reflect the laser. The challenge is successful once the Rocket Target is lit up by the laser beam.
The player can then select another card and complete an additional challenge or conclude their game.

Family Game Assessment

This is a wonderful game for early elementary school children to develop their logical reasoning and problem solving skills. This game is recommended for ages six and up, however my four and a half year old son was able to easily manipulate the pieces and begin working on the easy challenges with some parental or older sibling support. This is not a games intended for teamwork and collaboration, however especially for younger players it naturally modifies to a collaborative the format to make it a partner or group activity. If your child is interested in logic and problem solving activities this is a great game to sit down together with and work through the challenge cards. There are rich opportunities for discourse that can build their confidence and guide them to attempting different strategies as the difficulty level increases across the challenge cards.

Conclusion

Laser Maze Jr. is a wonderful STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Math) game to develop a range of skills including: logical reasoning, problem solving, and guess and check. The children I observed were motivated to get the Rocket Target to light up, and got quite excited when they are able to accomplish that goal. This game is a valuable addition to a family’s game collection for families with younger children.

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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.

Contents

  • 72 double sided Zingo Tiles (same image on both sides, 3 of each image)
  • 6 Two-sided Zingo Cards  (red, more competitive, and green, less competitive)
  • Zinger (Zingo Tile distributer)
  • Instruction Manual and Parent’s Guide

Gameplay

  • One player manages the dealer roll.  The dealer slides the Zinger forward and back to reveal two tiles.  
  • When a player sees a tile that matches an image on their card, they call out the image’s name and then take the tile. If two or more players call out the tile it goes to the person who called it first. Players put the tile on their board over the matching tile.
  • The dealer returns any unused tiles to the Zinger through a slot in the top.
  • The winner is the first player to cover all nine squares on their card. 

Family Game Assessment

Zingo is a great game for young players.  Each of the tiles includes both a word and a cute image representing that word. This makes the game playable for kids that are still early (or non-) readers. The cards are also great for building reading vocabulary with word recognition of the common items on the tiles (such as cat, foot, kite, etc).  The extremely simple rules can be learned in minutes even by young players.  

The game is recommended for ages four and up and that is a good assessment of the appropriate age range.  Zingo could also scale slightly younger based on the high picture support, especially when played with an older child or adult.  The random distribution of the tiles makes it anyone’s game, and the Zinger is a fun way to distribute the tiles. The Zingo boards are also two levels of competition so the game is easier to scale up or down depending on the age and competitiveness of the players.  The Instruction Manual and Parent’s Guide includes game variants.

Conclusion


Zingo is a great game to have for young players.  Thinkfun has also created  multiple versions of ZIngo published by Thinkfun. They include: Zingo 1-2-3, Zingo 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.  

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Gravity Maze is a single player logic game designed for ages 8 to adult by Thinkfun.  This game challenges the player to set up towers as indicated on a challenge card.  The player then adds towers to the game grid.  The objective is to create a maze so a ball can travel from the Start Position to the Target Tower.

Game Contents

  • Game Grid
  • 60 challenge cards (with solutions on the back)
    • (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert)
  • Instruction Manual
  • 9 Building Towers
  • Target Tower
  • 3 Marbles (only one needed per game, the rest are extra)

The components of the game are good quality, solid plastic.  They are designed with clear exterior framework and brightly colored interior elements that can direct the ball in a range of directions.  Each size is a different color, and the pieces are color coded on the Challenge Cards.

Gameplay

The player selects a challenge card.  There are 4 levels of play: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert. The 60 cards are numbered and get progressively harder as they move within each level of play.

The player selects a card and looks at the location and colors of the pieces displayed on the picture.  They set the Game Grid up to match the picture on the card. There are black dots on each of the tower pieces and those dots correspond to the picture on the cards to ensure you are orienting the piece correctly in the set up.  The interior of the tower has different sections which will allow the marble to either pass straight through, or the square in divided in half in a range of directions.  Next, at the bottom of the card, the additional pieces to complete the challenge are listed.  The piece that is the starting place for marble is noted with a white dot on the card, and the target tower is represented by a red box with a target on it. As the challenge level increases you need to be more and more creative with the placement of the towers, including putting them upside down.

Once the player has placed all the pieces where they believe they will allow the marble to travel to the target, they place the marble in the top of the starting town and see the path it actually takes. If the marble does not go into the target tower, the player simply revisits their setup to make the needed adjustments until they are successful.  If they are stuck, a solution is provided on the back of the card.  Once the marble has traveled into the target tower, the player can then select another card and complete an additional challenge or conclude their game.

Family Game Assessment

Gravity Maze is a wonderful game for children to develop their logical reasoning and problem solving skills. Gravity Maze is recommended for ages 8 and up, and has the potential to be frustrating for players in the younger range as they advance in the challenge levels.  While this is designed as a single player game, teamwork and collaboration could be incorporated into working though the problem solving this game demands.  Younger players especially could benefit from adult coaching to strengthen their perseverance.  Knowing the solution is on the reverse of the card, it may be tempting for them  to look to the solution right away.  In contrast, with older players, they may want to work through the challenge independently.  Then, they can share their results, and another player could solve the next card.  For a simple single player game, there are a range of options to incorporate other members of the family.

Conclusion

Gravity Maze won the Toy of the Year Award in 2015, and it is clear why.  Gravity Maze is a wonderful STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Math) game to develop a range of skills including: logical reasoning, problem solving, and guess and check.  Additionally, this game has the possibility to enable the player to experience a productive struggle as they work through the challenge cards. Being able to persevere through a productive struggle can make them more comfortable having to work through unsuccessful attempts to find a solution academically. If you or your family enjoy logic and reasoning games, this is a great addition to your collection.

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Publisher: ThinkFun
Genre: Card Based Word Game/Party Game
Players: 2 or more
Ages: 8 to Adult
Time: 5 minutes
MSRP: $12.99

Last Letter consists of a sturdy box holding 61 uniquely illustrated cards and a rules booklet.

The game will reinforce quick thinking, visual discrimination, imagination, and creativity.

Gameplay is very straightforward. The object is to be the first player to empty your hand. Each player is dealt 5 face down cards and one card goes face up in the center of the play area. The remaining cards are set aside. The dealer looks at the face up card and calls out a word for something on the card. All players the look at their 5 cards and race to find something pictured on them that begins with the last letter of the word called out. Once a player finds an acceptable word on one of their cards, they call it out and place it on the center pile. Players then rush to find cards that start with the new last letter. Ties are resolved by who physically got their card on the pile first. Gameplay continues until one player discards his last card.

Last Letter is an image based word game that is really quick and fun to play. The images and style of these over-sized cards was vaguely reminiscent of DixIt Adults can play through a hand at lightning speed, often leaving competitors completely speechless. Children play a little slower, but their take on the images is often surprising and insightful. The variations on this game are endless. Players can choose to eliminate certain categories of words to make the game more challenging. This game can also be a great vocabulary builder for foreign languages (what a great way to help your children practice their foreign language words) and we’ve also played with the cards as story starters and writing prompts similar to Rory’s Story Cubes.

Conclusion

Overall, we highly recommend Last Letter as an addition to your board game collection. The base game is fun as a stand alone game, but the versatility makes this worth every penny of the MSRP.

Disclosure: A review copy of this game was provided gratis from ThinkFun.

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