By Alyce Repko
I like playing casual games, especially with my adult children and grandchildren. For me playing games is all about bonding and being with family and friends rather than winning. Celebrations and holidays are about being together, food, and making memories. Why not combine the two?
Choosing gifts for holidays and celebrations should not break the bank or be stressful. I have compiled some suggestions for the homeschool family, intergenerational groups, games to play while visting the elderly or infirm, and games just for fun. Most are casual table games that can be played within a reasonable amount of time.
Before you purchase a new and unfamiliar game, peruse the many game reviews online such as BoardGameGeek, The Dice Tower, Amazon customer game reviews, and the many game reviews on YouTube that may even take you through a game step by step.
Games for the Homeschool Family
These could include grammar/language, math, quick thinking, history or geography based games, and quick reaction games.
Grammar games may include Boggle, Bananagrams (there are several variations), Scrabble, In a Pickle, You’ve Been Sentenced and Quiddler.
Math games may include Secret Code 13+4, a Haba game for kids 8 to 99 (division skills are necessary), Sum Swamp (1st through 3rd grade), Sumoku, 24, Rat a Tat Cat, and Dominoes.
Dominoes can enhance math skills. Some of the games that can be played are gathering twelves by matching tiles to add to twelve. The entire deck of dominoes can be used. War is a game that can be played with dominoes instead of cards. I have also played Dominoes with kids as young as three. If they can count in sequence, they’re in. While the three/four-year-old may create a Stone Henge out of the tiles while he is waiting his turn, he can find a match with the tiles for his turn. It works for me. The last time, however, the tiles were cars skidding across the table. It was still good fun. The tiles did make cool cars.
Catan (a bit pricey, and 60-minute playing time), Carcassonne Classic, Ticket to Ride (there are several variations), and the “10 days in Africa/Europe/USA” can easily be used for enhancing/teaching History and Geography.
Quick reaction games could include Blink, Pile It, Set, and Swish.
When my “local” grandchildren were getting old enough to play table top games I decided to purchase games to keep at my home rather than giving the games to them. I would pack a variety of games when I visited them and they would check the bag of games to see if their favorite game was in there. I was a traveling game grandmother, and it worked.
It is possible that the grandmother/grandfather in your life could use a few games to use for visiting, whether it is at their house or yours. Some of the successful games that worked for me are: Hisss, age 4 and up, a tile collecting game; Rat a Tat Cat, a fun numbers card game with cats, age 6 and up; Tier auf Tier/Animal upon Animal, a dexterity game, ages 4-99; and Monza, age 5-99, a car racing game that turns out to be an unintended cooperative game. Haba is constantly creating new and well-designed games—there are many to find!
Today I bring a combination of more adult games for the older grands and age appropriate games for the younger grands for my visits to their houses.
Games for the Elderly and Infirm
My game of choice for visiting the elderly and infirm is Dominoes or Rummy tile. I use a “tournament” size domino set. The tiles easily stand on end and make it easier to see the pips (dots). They are comfortable for the elderly to pick up, especially if they have neuropathy in their hands.
My mother-in-law was burdened with Alzheimer’s, but in the early- to mid-stages she was still able to play dominoes with some help. She also “helped” my husband with the Rummy tiles. She belonged to a mahjong group before she became ill and was comfortable handling the tiles. My father-in-law, alert and himself to the end, enjoyed playing Rummy tile (Manipulation Rummy) as well as Dominoes. This kept him happy, engaged and focused on something else besides the past.
My dad, 89, has neuropathy of the hands and is more comfortable handling the tiles than playing cards. While he misses Pinochle, he enjoys a fun game of “Fives.” During his several visits to rehab, I was able to gather other rehab patients to play Dominoes. If they were able to play, they did. I liked to joke around with them and, in all honesty, the games become rather jumbled of who was where, but I had a great time and so did the participants.
How about visiting a rehabilitation facility, a nursing home, or shut-ins (people confined to their homes because of illnesses) along with a set of dominoes? This can be a homeschool project as well. And don’t forget the score book. I have had a simple hard-cover, wired-spine book for a number of years, and I sometimes have the participants sign it. My grands, even the very young ones, love to keep score, along with gifting the occasional embellishment in the book as well. I think you will have more fun than those you visit!
Games Just for Fun
Lastly, there are games just for fun. Kids of all ages enjoy Shut the Box, Blockade, Dominoes, Rummykub/Rummy tile, King of Tokyo, Incan Gold, Chinese Checkers, Quarto, and Ingenious, to name a few.
Enjoy picking out a game for the people on your gift list and. More importantly, have fun spending time together making memories with your friends and loved ones.
Alyce Repko is the wife of a hardworking husband, and mother to six adult children who live in five different states. On their six-acre farm they raise rabbits, chickens, and sheep. She puts up food, creates water color artwork, plays with a local orchestra, knits, sews, and buys too many books.