Thursday, January 6, 2011
This year I decided to do a 'family gift' of a few items that the kids opened together and was for everyone to share. I am wanting to actively promote the idea of doing things together as a family, but it can be tricky when your kids age range spans almost 10 years. So, I tried to come up with things that everyone could participate in. The gift contained three games...Jenga, Blokus, Apples to Apples and a complete season of the show 'The Waltons', which our family has been watching together at least once a week, (since there is almost nothing on TV today that I'm comfortable with each family member seeing).
I was particularly excited about the 'Apples to Apples' game in our family gift because it's something that all of us can play together, all at one time. It's a game we'd played before, but had a bit of difficulty 'meeting in the middle' so to speak on whether to play the adult version (because there were some 'inappropriate' words/topics) but a few of our kids felt the kid version was too 'baby-ish'. So I was really excited to see the 'family version' in stores around Christmas. It has a variety of topics and words, and plenty that are geared toward teens and 'tweens.
If you've never played the game, here's how it works, in a nutshell. Each player takes a turn being the 'judge'; they draw a card that gives a word such as 'happy'. Then the rest of the players submit a card with a word they think the judge will associate with 'happy'. Now, here's the tricky part....it's actually more about knowing and interpreting the judge rather than words that make sense. (As you can imagine, this drives an analytical person like Todd absolutle nuts!!) Because everyone has a random variety of words (5 words in each player's hand)...everything from snakes, to coffee, to Hannah Montana there may or may not be an option that makes any sense at all. It's a great game for families to play together, in my opinion, because it causes you to try to think about and connect with the other players more than the actual game itself. And, people of varying ages can play together (though, younger players will need help with reading their cards...but it's totally do-able!).
A funny story came from our one game last week. It was Luke's turn to be the 'judge'. His word was "painful". So we all had to submit words that he would associate with "painful". I looked at my hand and knew I was a shoe-in to win this round. The other words that were submitted were some things like 'blister', 'fire' and 'rock'...but my little gem was (*drumroll*) "taking a bath"!! Oh yeah...that five-year-old, rough-and-tumble boy didn't hesitate one second when we read him his choices. Over a blister, over being burned with fire (as his brother tried to argue him into agreeing would be much worse)...the choice of a terribly painful experience for this guy...bathtime. Oh yeah...Mama won hands-down!! :)
I'm really enjoying the fact that my kids are getting to ages where we can all play a game together. For a really long time, it seemed to only activity we could all agree on was a movie. And while I will admit, it's still a faithful stand-by, I'm relieved that we are moving on and able to enjoy other activities together. If you are looking for some 'less-painful' games to share with younger kiddos, that adults or older kids don't feel tortured to play, there are a few options...though you'll have to be willing to help out the youngers (and fair enough not to use against them the fact that you're seeing their cards or helping them make strategy choices!). We've found Apples to Apples (obviously) to be a great option. This year we also added Jenga and Blokus to our game collection. And Scrabble too, though, obviously there will need to be the ability to spell, so that does still leave out the very young ones. Sequence Jr. isn't too bad to play with little kids...I'd definitely take it over 'Candy Land' or 'Chutes and Ladders' and day! And with some help (maybe playing 'partners') even Yahtzee can be done. And there's always great card games like Uno, or even 'War', which all you need is a plain old pack of cards for kids that know theirs numbers through 10.
And even though we are trying to move away from so much 'screen' involvement in our activities, I would say that I do feel better about letting them play video games when it's several of them playing together. To this end, we've invested in a few extra Wii remotes, and one of the kids got Mario Kart for Christmas this year, so at least they are having fun together, as opposed to each one off, glued to their own little digital world. And I have to say...I kind of think Dad might be enjoying this one most of all!!
Oh, and one final word that can promote togetherness in a whole different way...Nerf Guns. But that's another post entirely. ;)
(Here's a shot of the fam playing Apples, and Maggie thinking, as always that she's one of us...)