Our Favorite Games (right now)

I was telling Aron about my after-school routine at my elementary school—Lowell Elementary in Long Beach, in case there are any alumni out there for whom this will ring a bell: every day at dismissal, we’d race to the blacktop and line up outside the ball shed, waiting for “coach” (her name was really Mary), a kind, but no-nonsense 70-something woman who wore blue Keds and a whistle on a lanyard every afternoon. She’d walk up, keys jangling, and the checkout process would begin. There were double-dutch ropes, red bounce balls for four square (Hudson now calls it ‘old-fashioned four square’), checkers and sticks for playing some variation of a pool table game, lanyard material, and mancala boards.

“What’s mancala?” Aron asked. I was shocked. I was obsessed with it back then! Two players strategically move small stones (we used beans) down rows of holes the board, with the object to collect the most. It’s simple—in truth, you could play it without even knowing how to count—but to do well you need to think ahead and try to anticipate your opponent’s moves. I’d forgotten about it—but thinking about Coach and the ballshed brought it all back!

I taught Hudson the rules and he loved it, too, so we’ve taken an inexpensive travel version with us to Italy—though you can also simply dig holes in the earth to play! I’m hopeful that we’ll get Skyler playing against him before too long.

Here are some other games that we’ve been playing lately, and one that comes highly recommended… 

Uno, the classic card game of matching colors and numbers. We all love this one. (We find these card holders are helpful for the youngest players.)

Peaceable Kingdom Games, like Race to the Treasure, which relies on teamwork to create the gameboard path.

Outfoxed—cooperative whodunit game. Like Clue, for kids.

Sequence for Kids. It’s connect four logic, with a bit more strategy.

And finally, something we haven’t tried at home: Hudson’s first grade class celebrated the last day of school with everyone bringing in their favorite table games and then winner of the bunch was something called “Piranha Panic.” They all were obsessed! So if anyone spots one for sale, snatch it up!

I find games make for great birthday gifts. We love when we’re introduced to something new.

What are your favorites? 

P.S. A slamdunk toy gift and best presents for one-year-olds.

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