Friday, February 27, 2015

Koru Naturals Review


We received Pure Emu Oil and Manuka Oil and Honey Shampoo and Conditioner from Koru Naturals to review! These products are simply amazing and really helped our family! We have always tried to stay away from body products that are filled with harmful chemicals, because we all suffer from skin sensitivity and they are better for the environment, so I love that these products are all natural! 

Koru Naturals is a New Zealand company that brings the ancient traditions and natural recipes of the Maori culture to the rest of the world. Koru is the Maori name for a newborn, unfurling fern, which represents new life, growth, strength and peace. Many of their products use Manuka honey, lanolin and oils like rosehip, tea tree, emu and manuka. They use only the best ingredients and their products are certified that there was no animal testing. They believe in only testing their cosmetic products on humans. 

Koru Naturals Review
Emu Oil is a traditional Australian Aboriginal natural oil. The oil is milky white and thin. It spreads really easily and a small amount goes a long way (seriously! use less and see how it goes). The Emu Oil is an incredible moisturizer and penetrates skin and hair. You can use it as a topical moisturizer, it does not clog pores (which many lotions do!) and it's hypoallergenic (great for people who have extremely sensitive skin). You should always use this oil externally and only on unbroken skin. If you put on too much it will feel greasy. So always start off with a small amount (a drop or two) and then work more into it if you need. For example, I only use 1 drop for extremely dry hands or 2-3 drops for long hair (2 drops for long, thin hair and 3 drops for long, thick hair). We used it in the bath once and the directions suggested a teaspoon, but we only used about 5 drops. It also works wonders on dry feet! We added 3 drops to a bucket of hot water (not burning hot, just hot enough to be comfortable) and soaked our feet for about an hour - so relaxing! (If you cover your legs and feet in a thick blanket it will really lock in the heat and completely defrost you on a freezing day!)
My son, who has extremely sensitive skin on his face, was able to use the Emu Oil to help moisturize his skin. Usually we use a comfrey cream or lotion bar to help soothe it (we still use the comfrey cream before bed), but now we start the day off with a drop of Emu Oil rubbed into each cheek. The weather in our area has been really cold this winter and we happen to live in what is now the "snowiest city in America." They're now saying we may break a record for coldest winter in recorded New England history. So the combination of super cold air and extra sensitive skin means that Munchkin's cheeks are usually red, dry and feel like they are burning. The Emu Oil helps to keep his cheeks moisturized for much longer, usually lasting several hours. And on the plus side, it's really difficult for him to wipe off the oil. He doesn't do it purposely, but he uses his sleeve to wipe his mouth while eating (terrible habit, but he always forgets to use his fabric napkin). Which means that if he has any cream or lotion on his face, it eventually gets wiped off throughout the day. The oil is thick enough that it really sticks to his face. Water basically slides right off it. 

The Emu Oil is also great for extremely dry hands, which is a problem I have. I only use a single drop and rub the tops of my hands together. I typically do this before bed, because I don't want the oil to rub off on anything (like my crafts) during the day. The Emu Oil also works amazing on dry scalps, which is an issue Albz has. He uses it about twice a week, usually after a shower. I definitely do not suggest using this oil before you shower, simply because it will prevent you from using shampoo or conditioner and it feels really greasy when it's wet. I usually use it as a leave in conditioner. The directions say to use 2-3 drops and start at the tips and work your way to the scalp, but I usually start from the scalp and work my way down. It's just easier for me that way and I haven't noticed much of a difference. 

Emu Oil is available in a 2 oz, 4 oz, or 8 oz bottle. Prices start at $9.85.

Koru Naturals Review
The Manuka Oil and Honey Shampoo and Conditioner combines honey, lavender, chamomile, peppermint and rosehip oil into the perfect blend to improve hair health. The smell of this is shampoo and conditioner is so refreshing! It will really wake you up in the morning. 

I was especially excited to try out the Manuka Oil and Honey Shampoo and Conditioner! It has been really hard for me to find shampoo and conditioner that is sensitive enough for my skin. Most just leave my scalp itchy and that drives me crazy. For months I just used raw apple cider vinegar and baking soda. It worked and it was a relief from regular, cheap shampoo. But honestly, I much prefer an herbal blend. Not only does the Manuka Oil and Honey Shampoo and Condition smell great, but it works amazingly well! The scent doesn't set off my allergies and the soap is mild and doesn't cause any irritation.

Munchkin and Bean both love this shampoo and conditioner as well. Bean likes that it is made with honey and smells like "a garden." Munchkin likes the minty smell. Albz has used it a few times and has seen improvement with his dry scalp and dandruff. And the kids have all commented on loving the way their hair smells good after a bath.

Manuka Oil and Honey Shampoo and Conditioner can be bought as a set for $14.95 or separately for $5.75 each.

We absolutely loved both of these products and cannot wait to try others from Koru Naturals in the future. The Koolpurrie Restoring Balm would be wonderful on dry hands and feet during the winter, the Pure Lanolin Lip Balm would be perfect for chapped lips and the Pure and Simple New Zealand Lanolin Cream will stay on my list if I ever get pregnant again. Lanolin cream is a must for new mother's! Ok, not a must, but it definitely helps! And not just for mom's, but on babies too. It's very effective in preventing and soothing diaper rash. Nth to mention all the wonderful Manuka honey products! I absolutely suggest checking out Koru Naturals products!


Where to find Koru Naturals


If you would like to read other reviews on Koru Naturals written by the TOS Crew, click on the banner below!

Koru Naturals Review

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Monday, February 23, 2015

My First Carcassonne - Game of the Month


My First Carcassonne is made by Z-Man Games. Carcassonne was designed by Klaus-J├╝rgen Wrede and this kids' version was adapted by Marco Teubner. Much like the original Carcassonne game, you'll be placing tiles and claiming points with your meeples (those cute little player pawns). But unlike in the original Carcassonne game, the only way to score points is by finishing a road. So there will be no need to build cities or keep track of farmland. This version is much simpler and perfect for young kids.


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience.

My First Carcassonne game comes with 36 large tiles and 32 meeples in 4 colors (blue, green, red, and yellow). If it's a brand new game, you'll have to punch the tile pieces out before you can play. The meeples come in a plastic storage bag. There's a divider tray inside the box that fits all the tiles, so they won't be sliding around inside the box (unless you toss the divider). This is a high-quality game. The tile pieces are thick and sturdy, not to mention much larger, so there's no chance of anyone accidentally bending it in half. The meeples are made out of wood and are larger than the meeples in the original game. The rules can be read in a couple minutes and it takes 1-5 minutes to teach the game. Definitely read the fluff text, which explains what the game is about.

The gist of the game is that each player will be one of the younger inhabitants of Carcassonne. They are celebrating their national holiday, which involves letting loose sheep, hens and cows into the city streets. The children will run around the city searching for the animals to bring back.

Once you're ready to start, let each child choose which color they want to play. Have an adult or older child shuffle the tile pieces and stack them face down within reach. While the parent's are setting up, don't be surprised if your kids play with the meeples. We call it the Meeple Olympics. Munchkin loves seeing how high he can stack them!


You can place the tiles in one stack or separate them into stacks. We prefer two stacks so each child can easily reach for a tile. We space them about 3 feet apart so there is plenty of space in the middle to build up the city. And having two stacks means that there's less chance of someone reaching across the playing area and accidentally knocking over meeples. Anyone can choose from whichever stack they prefer.


Each player will have 8 meeples in a single color. The goal is to place them all.


Choose a tile and place it face up in the middle of the playing area.


The youngest player goes first. They will select a tile and place it next to the first tile. You'll notice that all the roads line up on the sides. Play continues clockwise. At the beginning of each players turn they will take a tile and place it wherever they want. The goal is to connect the roads and close them. Some tiles are illustrated with one of the children from Carcassonne (you'll notice that they are the same colors as your meeples). When a road closes, each of the colored children on that road claims a point. Place the matching meeples on those tiles.

Here are some examples of what a "closed road" looks like. In the top picture, you can see that the right road ends at a building and the left side of the road ends in a little house. In the second picture, the road doesn't end, but is still considered closed, because you can't build off of it. Top picture: blue scores 2 points. Bottom picture: 1 green, 1 yellow, 2 blue.


Even when playing competitively, people can end up helping you out by simply building up a road that your color meeple happens to be on.


As you can see in the picture, meeples are only placed when a road closes. Any children present on that road can now place a meeple and score a point. In some games you can focus on building roads with just your color meeple on it.



Or you can mix it up. :) When there are less than four players, you simply don't use the extra meeples. In this game, red wasn't used, so those are just empty points. 


In this last round, the road was huge! It had several players colors on it, so when the tile went down that closed the road, everyone scored points and won together! Blue was actually -1 meeple.


The game ends one of two ways: someone plays their last meeple or you run out of tiles and the player with the least amount of meeples played wins (the latter doesn't happen too often, but it is possible). You can absolutely play the game past this point, so younger players can continue playing and placing their meeples. Typically this is a pretty balanced game and it's usually a pretty close game.


While My First Carcassonne is recommended for children ages 4+, Munchkin, who is 3, was easily able to understand the rules to the game and has played with us several times. Because each tile has a road on each side it's impossible to make an illegal placement, which would likely happen if we tried to play the original game with him. We also always play with at least one parent, adult, or older child present, so we can help them place meeples when a road is finished.

~ Ways to extend the fun of My First Carcassonne game ~
(and use it as a tool for homeschool activities)

Literacy: If you read the fluff text on the last page of the rule book, you'll see that at the end of the day, all the citizens came together to share their adventures during the day. The children listen to tales from their elders about dragons, fairies, and princesses. And then they fall asleep to delightful dreams about such fantasy realms. With that in mind, you can end the game by taking turns telling stories about what animals or obstacles you encountered. You can, of course, make up tall tales, which just adds to the fun!

Math: Give each child a small piece of scrap paper and a pencil. Have them keep track of the animals they collect along the streets of Carcassonne. They can only collect animals on the tiles their meeples are on, even if there are other animals along the road. Players who share a tile can collect the same amount of animals or divide them equally. At the end of the game, see who collected the most sheep, cows, and hens. Then add up all the animals and see who collected the most!

My First Carcassonne is for:
Children Ages 4+
2-4 Players
20 Minutes to Play


Find more Carcassonne games to play! The original game and expansions are for children ages 8+.




Be sure to come back next month to see which game we feature as Game of the Month!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Playing Board Games with Kids


Gaming with Kids: Part 2

Yesterday I shared our suggestions on the Best Games for Kids. This list is obviously not complete, since there are so many games to choose from, but I hope it will help others find new games to play with their children! Now I am sharing advice and suggestions for playing games with kids. I asked other parents from various Facebook Groups to put in their 2 cents, so you will have more than just my own advice.

If you are just beginning to play board games, especially with younger children, try out a game that either interests them or highlights their skills. So if your child has great memory skills or loves to play puzzles, choose a memory or puzzle game. We have about 6 different memory games, each with a different theme, because my children love the game but their interest in the characters change. Introducing them to a game that will highlight their skills will excite and challenge them and make them want to play more. And once they are more familiar with playing games, they will become interested in other games.

Or perhaps you have a stack of board games at home, but you either never know what to play or your child always wants to play the same game. Rather than letting that continue, turn choosing a game into a game. Have each person write down the name of the game they want to play and put it in a hat. The choice will be random and if you decide to play all the games chosen, then they will still get to play the game they wanted, and so will everyone else.

We always play to the end of the game and wait patiently for everyone to finish. While we still encourage children to win, we also cheer on the players who aren't "first". That way they are taught to finish what they start, even if it means they came in last place. It's a good life lesson in the making.

Munchkin and Bean are luckily pretty laid back gamers. Sometimes they are impatient to get through a game just to get to the next one, but they rarely ever argue or get upset at other players. When there is a disagreement, we stop the game and ask what the issue is. When they are acting impatient, we remind them that they asked to play this game first and we will finish with or without them. Sometimes that means one of them leaves for 5 minutes to play or do something else. We leave their player piece on the game and when they eventually return, they pick up where they left off. If they have no interest to return then we simply finish and put everything back in the box. Sometimes they just need to stretch their legs and do something else for a minute, and we work around that (especially Munchkin, who is 3 and does his best to keep up with his sister, who is 5).

Keep gaming stress-free. If there is a meltdown, we try to talk it out. What is the issue? Why are they upset? What can we do to fix it? Sometimes that means going over the rules again or giving them suggestions. We have actually only dealt with meltdowns with other children who are visiting, and Munchkin and Bean are really supportive and try to help out the player who is upset. Bean is especially supportive of new gamers and younger kids, and will show them how to make moves, how to play, when to draw a card or roll the dice, etc. We just try to smooth out the issue and get back to gaming when everyone is in a better mood, but we won't continue until everyone is on the same page. And if the issue cannot be resolved, we simply put the game away. Then we occupy ourselves with something else and there are no hard feelings.

Playing games is also a great way to learn manners (can you hand me a card, please? thank you. you're welcome), how to take turns, how to be respectful of others, how to be supportive whether you are winning or losing, etc. Gaming can be an educational and fun social experience.

We put emphasis on whose turn it is, especially with younger kids, by saying their name (now it's K's turn) and letting them know what to do next (draw a card, roll the dice, choose where to place the tile, flick the spinner) and when they are finished we say whose turn it is next, so they start to understand the play order.

When it comes to making mistakes or changing their mind, we try to be lenient to a point. When it comes to being an over-enthusiastic spinner (Bean) we try to remind her only to spin once. If they flick it and it barely moves, we tell them to try again. But if they get a good spin, we'll move the spinner away and let it finish, because sometimes they want to flick it 5 more times. As for cards, if they draw a card (like in Candyland), they have to move to that space. But cards in games like Robot Turtle, which they are still getting used to, we allow them to change their mind (which also happens to be allowed in the game - you just tap the bug and you're allowed one change per turn) and choose a different card. In games like My First Carcassonne we usually let them place their tiles wherever they want, but we will also show them where they can place it to earn points (placing their meeples when the roads close). We typically let them make their own decisions unless they ask for help or it's near the end of the game and they want help to score a couple more points.


We also allow them to play with their pieces - the meeple Olympics! :)


We don't "let them win," but I'll admit to helping them win. I don't do this with just my kids either. If we are playing with new gamers and I happen to have an abundance of resources (Catan), I will offer them a trade (3 rocks and 2 wheat for that sheep you don't know what to do with). I can be a very generous player and it's not against the rules. However, when I help out the kids in games (like playing tiles in Carcassonne that specifically builds their colors' road or closes it), they almost never actually notice.

I tend to play for the sake of having fun and less for the idea of winning. I try to model this for the kids. We welcome competitiveness, but only if it's good-natured. I feel like when they are older they will likely become more competitive, because they will also be watching the way Albz plays, and he is very competitive. If your children are naturally competitive, then I suggest teaching them how to be a good sport about it. It's ok to be upset if you lose, so long as you're not mean to the other players, and you should always be supportive of the other players. When my kids play against each other, they still cheer each other on.

I can't remember where I saw the quote, but it went something like, "families that play together, stay together." Update: Found that quote at: The Board Game Family. Playing board games builds family bonds and lasting memories. You may have a dedicated family game night, play once a month, or only on vacations, or perhaps even more irregularly than that, but regardless, your children will have memories of playing games with their family growing up. And if you play board games often, you'll probably notice how much they learn, considering that there are so many games out there that build strong learning skills like logic, memory and strategy.

We never try to limit the length of a game or hurry it along. If it's near to bedtime, we simply let the game continue. Staying up a few extra minutes is not going to make much of a difference and children often make mistakes or become upset if they feel like they are being hurried. If we start a game, we finish it.

Let your kids choose the games they want to play. Let them browse the games at the store, let them watch reviews online (TableTop is a pretty good source, but please be advised that some game reviews don't mind their language - if that's an issue for you), let them discover new games. Chances are they will discover awesome games that they will love and want to play for years to come. Our kids love visiting the comic store (it's called that, but is also a game store), because they enjoy checking out new games with us. They ask us what games we like, why we want to play them, when they will be able to play them. They also get to choose games for themselves (though usually game stores have a limited selection of "kid" games). We typically find games for them at Target, educational stores at the mall, or online.

My biggest suggestion is to just let them play. They will appreciate the time you spend with them and they will have a ton of fun. If you are playing a game with older and younger children, feel free to alter the rules to include younger players. Rule books will sometimes have suggestions or different rules on how to play with younger kids. So long as everyone is having fun, that's all that matters.

And if you're busy and don't want to play, and trust them with the pieces, let them play by themselves. Sometimes they play Candyland and make up their own rules, like draw two cards or collect the desserts, or play Spot It! like dominoes. Letting siblings play together will also build bonds between them and you can expect them to create some pretty crazy new rules.

I fondly remember playing Monopoly with my sisters, even though it was the only game we owned growing up, because we always had so much fun with it. Although, to be fair, we usually took turns making up new rules for the game. Like, if you rolled a natural 12 on getting out of jail, you could actually "break out of jail" and rob the bank instead. Whenever you "pay the bank" your money is put in the center and when you land on Free Parking, you can collect that money as if you "won the lottery."

~.~

Some fellow bloggers and parents have chimed in with their two cents to share what gaming is like at their house and what games they love.

~.~

Ticia M. shared -
1. Find games you love and simplify them to your kids' level, so I love Carcassone, so I simplified it when my kids were 4 to completing cities and roads, but not worrying about points as much, and now at 8 and 9 my kids are playing Touch of Evil and multi-hour games that many adults don't understand.
2. Since we've played games since the kids were little and talked about how no one enjoys playing with a sore loser OR a bragging winner, that's cut down on the problems. We also play several cooperative games, which my daughter much prefers.
3. Most popular games in our family: Touch of Evil, Castle Panic, King of Tokyo, Kings of Israel (that's a new favorite just in the last few weeks).
What Can Be Learned From Role Playing Games
10 Days of Using Games in School

~.~


Jen W. shared -
We LOVE Orchard Toys Ltd (here is why Perfect Games for Children) as they are often both skill, tactical and luck based. So the oldest doesn't always win! My boys are only 14 months apart so ultra competitive even if we are not. Losing with grace is the hardest thing to learn for any child and we are not there yet. But we all play together and sometimes even the adults win. When they were younger we often paired one child with one adult. The youngest always goes first. Here are some of my post on the games we love:
Family Board Games Currently Playing
Screenfree Family Games Night

~.~

Anna M. shared -
We play a lot of board games, but to give my younger children practice in playing without having to deal with the competitive element of siblings I used to play a lot one to one with each child. That was a much more relaxed and less frustrating atmosphere for them to practice those turn taking skills and get used to the process of playing board games, rather than throwing them in at the deep end with older siblings. When they are starting out, we also verbalize "mum's turn, t's turn, z's turn" using their names to reinforce the turn taking and get them used to waiting. Playing one to one also gives them less time to wait in between turns when they are starting out. My middle boy is Autistic and these skills like turn taking are not something that always came naturally to him, so it's something we have had to really work on and teach and board games are perfect for it!

~.~

Liska M. shared -
We do not play any board games with my son yet, so I have only experience with playing with nieces and nephews. I do have a list of our favorite games to play with children (mostly 7+, but have a few for younger kids): Board Games for Nurturing Creativity

~.~

Tiffany from Stuff & Things blog shared -
I'm not great at playing games with my littles, but I like playing with my older kids. When we play board/card games I try to choose games that are a challenge for me as well so it will be fair. We don't let each other win, because that's no fun for anybody. We make the kids stick with the game until the end, even if they're losing, and we don't allow gloating. Good-natured celebration is fine, though. Our favorite pre-teen/teen games are Munchkins, Clue, and Farkle.

~.~

Kendra P. shared -
My husband wrote this guest post about how to raise a gamer. Your Turn Guest: Paul Peterson - Raising A Gamer

~.~

MaryAnne K. shared -
We simplify the games to start off to keep them going smoothly. Here's a post on our simplified version of Monopoly: Simplified Monopoly (Dada Post)

~.~

Debra H. shared -
We play games almost every day, if my daughter melts down about losing, we immediately stop playing and explain to her that nobody wants to play when someone throws a tantrum, the same thing if she tries to cheat. She doesn't do much of either anymore because she knows that it ends up the fun. We also come up with games as a family, we made one called muffin ball that she loves.

~.~

Elizabeth D. from Just Sayin' shared -
We love games at our house and are very competitive! We do prizes often (candy bars, whoopee cushions, silly string, etc.) and normally make a big batch of popcorn and sometimes do rootbeer floats.
When they were little if someone was sad that they lost we'd explain "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose." When they were younger we'd team up, but now we play individually.
Some of our faves: Pit, Aggravation, Yahtzee and Ticket to Ride seem to be played the most often. But we have tons and it's hard to choose!

~.~

Natalie F. shared-
We play a lot of games with our 8 year old daughter. Basically, we don't let her win just because she is young, but let her take back wrong moves. When she was younger, we dealt with loser upsets in a similar way that Debra (see above) outlined.
I wrote about our favorites here: Game Recommendations for Brainy Kids

~.~

April L. shared -
I love to play monopoly Jr with my preschool daughter. We use it as a math lesson and we play by the rules she just turned 5. My advice consistency and fun. Also use age appropriate games. Always play to have fun and if you don't win maybe you will next time. In addition to homeschool time we have family game night.

~.~

Pegi T. shared -
Our favorite family games are Parcheesi and Monopoly. We have game night once or twice a week.

~.~

Christy K. from Houseful of Chaos shared -
Homemade Educational Games for Homeschoolers

~.~

Jenny U. shared -
Our favorite game right now is Scrambled States. My daughter is 10 and we play it at the dinner table at least 3 times a week.

~.~

Heather J. shared -
Our favorites are Scrambled states, Battleship, Monopoly & Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.

~.~

Meg G. from Homeschool Gameschool shared -
An entire area of my blog is about board games, mostly reviews and make your owns: http://homeschoolgameschool.com/boardcard/

~.~

Meegan Z. shared -
We started having a family game night about four months ago with our three and five year olds. We all love it! It's become a highlight of the week. We play a Frozen board game similar to chutes and ladders, Ants in my pants, Don't Spill the Beans, Thomas the Tank Engine version of UNO, Bingo and a Jack & the Neverland Pirates board game. It only lasts about 20 minutes because that's the attention span of our youngest. And we do follow the game rules. We actually started game night as a way to encourage our littlest to follow rules, take turns, etc. I see us doing game night for many years to come.

~.~

Carlee R. shared -
We have played games with our kids since they were 9 months old. We would even make up silly games with coasters on the tables at restaurants. Our favorites for K and under were memory (we often made our own Memory using characters they loved--like who fought who in Star Wars!), Sequence Jr., and Blokus, and card games like go fish. In lower elementary we play Risk, Monopoly, Acquire, and Chess, and card games like war. Now that we have middle schoolers, we play "adult" strategy games: Settlers of Catan, Allies and Axis, King of New York (our 8 year old plays this one too), Battle Cry, Samurai Warriors, etc. And, card games like Pinochle.
We play for fun, but, when a game coincides with school, like Battle Cry is all about the Civil War, we play it for school too.
We always have played by the rules, even when they were little. The first few times they play, they are on a parent's team so they have help. We do read them cards they can't read, and then "forget" they have that card.
We have NEVER, EVER let our kids win. We modeled winning graciously when we won, and insisted on excellent sportsmanship for losers and winners. We will play all the way through--to last place (like Candyland--just keep going until everyone has finished). It's a good winner who will stick around and cheer for the last place person. Our kids are now excellent winners and losers, and we are all very competitive. If you play some "luck" games (Candyland) and some strategy games (Sequence), everyone will get to win at some point.
I would tell parents to play, play, play. Games build math skills, reading skills and life skills, and often fine motor skills. They are fun and bonding. They give rise to great conversations. I am convinced they develop higher level thinking skills too. We don't let them win because that's not real life. Learning how to lose at games with their family helps kids learn how to be a good loser in sports, competitions, and in life in general. Same for learning how to be a gracious winner.

~.~

Olivia S. shared -
My son is 5 and we are very much into board games. Mostly for fun but they're also educational. Hoot, Owl, Hoot!, Race to the Treasure, Pet House, Sum Swamp, Memory, Obstacles, Community, Harvest Time, Stone Soup, Count Your Chickens, Swish, Acuity, Bible Trivia, Rivers Roads & Rails, Addition Bingo, Boggle Jr, Zingo, What's Gnu, Starfall (the board game), and Quiddler Jr. We rarely play Chutes & Ladders or Candy Land because my son hates to lose and just gives up if it's looking like he's going to lose. He doesn't complain, just loses the desire to continue.

~.~

Dave P. from Bloke School shared -
We use lots of board games at our place. Here are a few posts I have written about them: HerbalistGolden Eggs, Their Drills Were Bloodless Battles.

~.~

Jennifer S. shared -
We play board games and non board games with our boys. My 4 yo loves games and is currently working on learning all the rules to Uno. He likes to be included in the family game night. If we are playing a game that is too advanced for his age, we will team him up with someone else to help him learn and include him. We also do tic tac toe and the connect the dots to create the most squares with them. We see this as quality family time. Yes, there is educational aspects to the games but that's not why we buy the majority of them. (I have two which we bought primarily for educational reasons: Rummy Roots and Boggle Jr.) We will try to include my sister and her family and/or my parents on family game night.

~.~

What advice do you have for parents who are introducing their children to board or card games? Do you ever create your own rules to include a younger player in a game? How do you deal with a child's frustration or anger if they don't win?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Best Games for Kids


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

 Gaming with Kids: Part 1

We own many board games and we play them often. I mean, besides playing games throughout the day with Munchkin and Bean, Albz and I play games most nights with our friends. Many would call it an addiction, but by our standards, that's not a bad thing. We are always on the lookout for new games to try. TableTop, Kickstarter (we recently backed Tiny Epic Galaxies, Conan and Spirits of the Rice Paddy) and our favorite board game reviewers (Shut Up and Sit Down, The Dice Tower, Toys Are ToolsBoardGaming, Dad's Gaming Addiction) are our go-to sources for new games. Not to mention Amazon, because Amazon is always eager to share similar board games to the ones we just bought... which means we have an ever-growing list of over 200 games on our wish list.

So needless to say, we love board games! And one thing that I want to do is share our love of board games with our kids. Board games are a great way to work on social and communication skills, build strong strategic and logic skills, practice linguistics, math and science, among other wonderful learning experiences. The best part is, if your child is a reluctant learner, they may be more inclined to play a game and not even realize they are learning!

For young ones, I absolutely recommend playing games made by Peaceable Kingdom. They have many award winning cooperative games, meaning that everyone works together to win. There is no one winner, so hopefully there will be no tears at the end of the game. This will also help children learn how to work as a team to overcome obstacles. We love these games because the main emphasis is on play, instead of competitiveness. Learning how to be a respectful player is important. No one wants to play with someone who rage quits (and those people certainly exist).

Simply Fun, eeBoo, Educational Insights, Asmodee, ThinkFun, Gamewright, SmartGames - These are the companies we love the most (for children's games). They make artistically beautiful, challenging, interactive, interesting, and wonderful games. I highly recommend checking these companies out if you haven't already. In particular, SmartGames creates logic games for one player, which may be an ideal game for a child who prefers to play independently.

So here is a list of some games that I would absolutely suggest. I grouped the games by age range, but honestly use your own judgement of your child's abilities. With most games you can tweak the rules to include younger players. I also provided the suggested age range on the game, the number of players required and the play time.

Games for Toddlers

Here are my suggestions for children ages 18 months to 2+ years old. 


Roll and Play Board Game from ThinkFun


Move and Groove Game from ThinkFun



Hello Sunshine Game from ThinkFun

These three games are AMAZING. If you want to start playing games with your kids at a really young age, these should be on your list. Each of these games comes with a plush and a deck of cards. The learning possibilities are endless. These games encourage creativity, active play and gross motor skills. Toddlers can work on their color, image and word recognition skills while moving around and playing. There are many prompts that will gently ease your toddler into gaming, like learning to take turns and follow rules.

Games for Preschoolers




My First Carcassonne Game is a tile placement game. Much like the original Carcassonne game, each player will take turns choosing a tile and placing it somewhere where the roads line up. In this version, you only place your meeples when a road closes. You will either play until you run out of tiles, in which case the player with the least amount of meeples wins. Or you play until someone runs out of meeples. My First Carcassonne is simply awesome and it's a super fun family game of strategy.
4+
2-4 Players
20 Minutes to Play


Robot Turtles is a game that teaches children the fundamentals of programming. Yep, that's right. Programming. And considering most 4 year olds can already operate a smart phone or tablet, it seems only fitting that you teach them a little bit more. So whether you homeschool or simply want to incorporate some fun STEM activities into their day, I highly recommend Robot Turtles. It's really easy to learn and there are different difficulty levels. You can get really creative with this game and each time you play will be a different experience.
4+
2-5 Players
10-30 Minutes to Play


The Ladybug Game was created by a 6 year old in 1st grade. It's a cute game that introduces math concepts like counting, addition and subtraction. Each player will choose a ladybug and make their way to the finish line. Along the way you will collect bug tokens which will help you move forward or send you back if you don't have enough.
3+
2-4 Players
15+ Minutes to Play



Boggle Junior Game is a classic. I loved Boggle growing up. One neat thing that works great with Boggle is having flash cards with sight words on them. Because then you are not limited to the words that the game comes with. It opens a lot of doors, but you are limited to 4 letters unless you play without the base. Keep in mind that the game already comes with plenty of words (in two levels) and if they master them all then you might as well move on to the regular Boggle game (they have 5 and 6 letter options). We love playing Boggle because it's a fun way to practice spelling words without making it feel like a chore. They can work on picture, letter and word recognition.
3+
1-2 Players
10-30 Minutes to Play




Zingo! Sight Words is another great way to practice sight words, but instead of spelling them, you will be matching the words. Zingo plays like Bingo and is easy to learn. They also have other games, including Numbers, Word Builder, Time-Telling and the original Zingo game. These games are great for supplemental learning activities.
4+
2-6 Players
15+ Minutes to Play


Haba Animal Upon Animal is a fast paced animal stacking game. You roll the die and that tells you how many animals you can stack. Players race each other to be the first to stack all their animals. Animal Upon Animal works on developing fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. The game pieces are cute and fun to play with, even if you aren't playing it as a game. Little ones will have so much fun stacking them and seeing how high they can get the creatures before they topple over.
4+
1-4 Players
5 Minutes to Play



The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game from Educational Insights is a super popular game, and for good reason! Toddlers and preschoolers will love this game! Simply flick the spinner and use the squirrel tweezers to collect the corresponding color. Each player will have their own tree stump to store their acorns in. The acorns come in 5 colors and the player who fills their stump first wins!
3+
2-4 Players
10 Minutes to Play


Frida's Fruit Fiesta Game from Educational Insights is similar to The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game, but instead of collecting acorns, you are collecting letters. Your child will be working on important fine motor skills and letter recognition. The player who create a line of fruit first wins! Think bingo, with fruit and a cute toucan.
4+
2-4 Players
10 Minutes to Play


Froggy Boogie is an adorable memory game. Players will choose a baby frog to play and the goal is to get to the last lily pond without being spotted by their mommy. The mommy frogs are sleeping in the middle. When you roll the dice and move, you'll have to choose one of the eyes in the matching frog and see if they wake up. If they do, then you cannot move. Otherwise you move forward. Players will race to the finish and have a lot of fun!
4+
2-4 Players
10+ Minutes to Play


Sunny Patch Verdie Chameleon Beanbag Toss from Melissa and Doug is a game that works on gross motor skills. There are two sides with two difficulty levels to play (vertical - harder, horizontal - easier). This game works on hand eye coordination, number recognition and counting skills. You'll be tossing the bean bags into the holes. This game can be played indoor and outdoor.
3+
1 or More Players
10+ Minutes to Play


eeBoo Categories Game is a game of looking, sorting and set-making! This game focuses on observational skills and logical sorting skills. The goal is to collect many sets of cards with something in common. The categories include musical instruments, sports, groups of the same animal, food, bugs, wheels, etc. The players who collects the most sets wins. 
5+
1-4 Players
10+ Minutes to Play


eeBoo Preschool Lotto Game is a simple game for beginners that combines the classic memory game with bingo. There are 6 player cards to choose from and each features a different theme, like pets, vehicles or food. Each card has 6 tiles to match. If you are playing with two children, you'll want to play with the 12 tiles that match their cards. If you want to make the game slightly more difficult, simply add in a few extra tiles. They will be face down, so they will have to use their memory skills to find the matching tiles. Player to complete their card first wins, though we usually play until everyone is finished.
3+
1-6 Players
10 Minutes to Play


Trucky 3 is a really unique game and your children may not even know they are playing a puzzle! Basically the object of the game is to fit the pieces inside the truck without any edges sticking out. It's truck-tetris. Children can play with it as a toy or a puzzle. There are 48 challenges that come with the game.
3+
1 Player
Play Time Varies


Castle Logix and Camelot Jr. are similar, with Castle Logix being more suited for children 3+ and Camelot Jr. for children 4+. We are quite fond of puzzle games that challenge the mind and there are many challenges that come with this game. You'll be playing to create interesting castle designs. When we first began playing, we simply showed them the pieces and asked them what they could create. Once they were more familiar with the pieces, we handed them the challenge book. The challenges range from easy to complex and we keep children entertained. These games will help to develop logic and spatial reasoning skills.
3+/4+
1 Player
Play Time Varies


Richard Scarry Busy Town is a huge game that I suggest playing on a floor or a large table (seriously, the game is 6 feet long). Children will have fun solving mysteries and matching objects. They will work on their observational skills by counting and matching objects. This is a game that builds teamwork skills, though is still competitive.
3+
2-4 Players
10+ Minutes to Play


Bamboo Quattro Game is a strategy game of growing bamboo. Simply put, you'll be growing bamboo and trying to grow 4 in a row. Children will be working on their logic, reasoning and concentration skills. It's easy to learn and understand.
3+
2 Players
10 Minutes to Play


Stone Soup by Peaceable Kingdom is a cooperative memory matching game. Players will work together to make the soup by matching ingredients. Everyone wins or loses together. If you've ever read the book, then you will love the game!
5+
2-6 Players
15-20 Minutes to Play


Spot It! Educational Set is a set of 4 card games. These games are also sold individually. This set includes the alphabet, animals, basic English, and numbers and shapes game. There are different ways to play, but we typically just shuffle the cards, place them in the middle and draw two. That player will then make a match and then the next player takes their turn. If a player cannot spot the match, then they voluntarily pass. Children will be working on their letter, numbers, and picture recognition skills.
3+
1 of More Players
10+ Minutes to Play


Hi Ho Cherry-O is a game of picking fruit. You'll use the spinner to determine how many fruit to pluck. The first person to pluck all the fruit from their tree wins. This version of the game also includes a puzzle. Children will be working on their fine motor skills, counting skills, and color recognition skills while playing.
3+
2-4 Players
10+ Minutes to Play


Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game is a cooperative and educational game. Children will learn about 25 edible and medicinal herbs along with ailments that can be healed with those herbs while playing. Children will be working together to make their way up the mountain and back home to grandma before nightfall (otherwise grandma will come find you). The illustrations are beautiful and extremely detailed. It's a great game to introduce to children, especially if you love spending time outside in nature. If you take your children hiking, you can quiz them about the herbs they find and see what they learned!
4+
1-4 Playes
20+ Minutes to Play

Games for Children 6+


Some of the following games are recommended for children 8-12 years old. But if they are familiar with playing board games, watch a play through or download the rules and see if they are ready. You may be surprised by their capacity to understand the rules of games that are aged above them. For instance, Bean (age 5) loves playing My First Carcassonne and when we tried out Tsuro (8+), it was pretty similar and she totally beat me!


Tribbit is a fast-paced game of sorting and matching sets. It's easy to learn and quick to play. Children can even time themselves to see how many sets they can complete before the buzzer goes off. Sets can include frogs with vests, canes, hats, glasses, mustaches, etc. A set includes 3 cards with a similar feature. The first player to complete 5 full sets earns 2 tokens. Then you set a timer and the remaining players have time to score too. The player who earns 5 tokens first wins. You can play this game with younger children by omitting the timer and tokens and first person to 5 sets wins.
8+
2-6 Players
Play Time Varies


Catan: Junior is a must-have for any game collection. Catan is basically the grandaddy of Euro games and the Junior version is a wonderful introduction to the Catan family (seriously, there are so many). In Catan Junior, you'll be playing as pirates exploring the seas, setting up hideouts, and collecting resources. Each island you build a hideout on produces a different resource, which can be used to build more ships to explore more and you can collect gold... all while trying to avoid the ghost pirate captain! The player who builds 7 hideouts first wins!
6+
2-4 Players
Play Time Varies - 30+ Minutes to Play


Ticket To Ride is all about building train tracks! You'll start out with a main objective card which tells you the major route you need to complete for points, additional routes which are shorter and earn you less points, and some colored train cards. Use the matching train cards to build train tracks on the routes you choose. There are many variations of this game, including Europe, Asia, Nordic Countries, and The Heart of Africa, just to name a few. This version of the game is based on the railways in America.
8+
2-5 Players
30-60 Minutes to Play


Tsuro: The Game of the Path is a tile placement game. Players will take turn choosing which tile from their hand they want to place and then move their dragon stone to the end of the path. Your goal is to be the last dragon on the board, though you may run out of tiles and tie with other players who managed to stay on the board. Some of your tiles may make other players dragons move forward and possibly throw them off the board (some competitive players do that).
8+
2-8 Players
15-20 Minutes to Play


Bananagrams is an anagram game. You can play competitively or cooperatively (for instance, pairing a younger child with an adult who can help them spell words). Players will take turns placing tiles in crossword grids to spell words. This game is especially great to take on the go or on vacation, since everything fits inside a small banana shaped pouch. Preschoolers can also use the tiles to practice spelling on their own.
7+
1-8 Players
Play Time Varies


Qwirkle Board Game is a strategy game of mixing and matching. Play tiles of the same color or shape and score points! This is an easy game to teach and is a fun party game. It's also great for children or adults who are not as familiar with playing games. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins!
6+
2-4 Players
45 Minutes to Play


Blokus Game is a fast paced strategy game. Each player starts off with a pile of tiles in their chosen color and one at a time places a tile on the board. The player at the end of the game with the fewest tiles wins! This game only takes a minute to learn and varies each time you play. Children who love puzzles will love Blokus!
7+
2-4 Players
30 Minutes to Play


ThinkFun Rush Hour is a single player logic game. There are 4 levels to play, from beginner to expert, to keep things fun and interesting. Choose a challenge card in the level you want to play and set up the cars in the grid. You'll be playing to slide the cars out of the way to let the red car get through and escape the traffic. There is also a junior version for younger players: Rush Hour Jr. (5+).
8+
1 Player
Play Time Varies


Rummikub is a tile-laying game of rummy. The game includes tiles in 4 colors, ranging from 1-13 and includes two wild tiles (with moon faces). You are playing to create matches (3 or 4 of the same number in different colors) or a run, like 1-4 in the same color. You can use the wild tile to substitute numbers. You can also take other players tiles, so long as it is a legal move (for instance, if they have a red, orange and blue 3 and you need the blue 3, you need to replace it with a black 3 because you can't leave it with only two tiles) or you can replace the tile with another one. It's a fast moving game and easy to learn. I personally prefer Rummikub over playing rummy with cards.
8+
2-4 Players
30+ Minutes to Play


Morphology Junior is an incredibly creative game. Your job as the morphologist is to create a word like "bike" using the pieces provided. There are easy and hard words to choose from, so this game can easily be played by children and adults. The other players will then guess what word you created. The game is not limited to using pieces (like cubes, strings and peg dolls) to create words. You can also use sounds and other methods to give them clues.
8+
4 or More Players
30+ Minutes


Rory's Story Cube Complete Set - Original - Actions - Voyages is a dice-rolling storytelling game. I'd personally go straight for the complete set, but they sell them individually. You'll roll the dice and create a story based on the images. Keep in mind that just because the image may be a cactus, it is not limited to just being a cactus. It could represent a desert, a dry place, some thing with spikes, etc. Your imagination is your only limit in this game. It's a great party game and is easy to learn.
8+
1 or More Players
15 Minutes to Play


Once Upon A Time is a storytelling card player. Once you've finished shuffling the cards, cut the deck and look at the card on top. The player who looks the most like the person on the card begins (if it's not a person, simply choose another card). You'll deal out a hand of cards, including a card that is the final line to your story and should be your goal. You'll choose a card from your hand to begin. You have to use the word from your card to include it in your story and you can continue telling your story so long as you have cards to play. If you ever start rambling, you should pass to the next player or someone might interrupt you (with an interrupt card). It really is a fun storytelling experience and will absolutely promote literacy skills.
8+
2-6 Players
30-60 Minutes to Play


Dixit is a game of wonderful illustrations. Each player will start with a hand of cards and on their turn they will choose a card and either make a sound, say a word or phrase, or do something that would clue the other players to what could be on their card. They will then place their card face down on the table and the other players will choose a card from their hand that is the most similar to that thing. For example, you could say "Hansel and Gretel" and your card could show a picture of two children in a candy village. Another player could play a card with an ugly, troll lady with children in jars preparing to cook them, another player could play a card with children taking a walk in the woods. The main player will then shuffle the cards and turn them face up in a row. Players will then vote on which card they think is the main players. You basically want to make them guess it correctly, but not all the players. Other players will get points if their card is chosen too. It's super fun and easy to learn and is a great party game. Each game is different and it's even more fun with the expansions!
8+
3-6 Players
30 Minutes to Play


Timeline Inventions is a card game that is based on real life discoveries, events and inventions. You will literally be creating a timeline as you guess the dates of each invention. If you love history or simply need an easy way to memorize dates, this is a wonderful game for you! Timeline has a ton of varieties: Historical Events, Science and Discoveries, Diversity, Music & Cinema, American History, and Americana. You can play them separately, or you can combine them with some of the other sets.
8+
2-8 Players
15 Minutes to Play

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There are so, so many wonderful games to choose from. I hope this list has given you a few good ideas on where to start! Please let us know if you ever have a question about games. We would be happy to answer your questions or help you find the perfect game for your family!

I'll be sharing our own advice and advice from others parents on playing board games with kids in our next post!

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What are your favorite board games? What games would you absolutely recommend for someone else? What games do you consider "essential" to a collection? What games do your kids love? What games do you play on family game night? We'd love to hear!
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