Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
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Entries in Games (10)


Learning tools: Games

The games we play:

The Amazing Mammoth Hunt (Mindware, review)
(Education Outdoors, review)
Carcassonne and expansions (Rio Grande Games, review)
Chess (Science Wiz, Once Upon a Pawn a time)
The Magic Labyrinth (Playroom Entertainment)
Mancala (example set)
Math War (School Zone, but this could be played with any deck of cards)
(Hasbro, post)
Pattern Play (Mindware)
Professor Noggin's Ancient Civilizations Card Game (Prof. Noggin)
Professor Noggin's Prehistoric Mammals Card Game (Prof. Noggin)
Shut the Box (we have the Melissa and Doug version)
Set (SET Enterprises)
Tangrams (our set is a book by Chris Crawford)
Totally Tut (Learning Resources)
Upwords (Hasbro)
Qwirkle (Mindware, review)

I've never been a huge fan of games, which is unfortunate because I know they are such a great learning tool, and afun  way to spend extra time. It's not that I have anything against games themselves (most games, that is), it's just that I personally do not enjoy playing them. There are a a few I've always loved—Trivial Pursuit, Boggle, and Scrabble, to be exact—but the rest I find tedious, especially games of chance. 

Over the past couple of years, though, I've learned to enjoy a game or two a day. We usually play during lunch, or late, as the day and our energy is waning. Currently we play very few of our games competitively. Dominoes, Set, Totally Tut, Upwords, and the Professor Noggin games we play cooperatively. The Amazing Mammoth Hunt we play as individuals, but we don't tally at the end. Shut the Box is made for individual play, though we help each other along. Pattern Play and Tangrams are individual games that we often do together. Only with Camp, Carcassone, Chess, The Magic Labyrinth, and Monopoly do we actually tally scores, but even with these we help each other out. The goal to me with these games is to have a good time while learning a bit in the process, be it about math, geography, good manners, or how to think in and around the rules.

I've reviewed a couple of our games on the site, so I linked those comments in the list above. (As a side note, I have recieved no compensation for reviews of these products, nor even been asked to write about them.)

The Amazing Mammoth Hunt






Stop by OLM (to whom we owe big thanks for many of our own game ideas) to see some great lists of games linked up.


Carcassonne (review)

We've been happily playing Carcassonne for quite some time now and I've always meant to mention it here but kept forgotting. We picked it up last spring when we were looking for something new to do on vacation. Since it is recommended for ages 8-12 we thought it might remain a parent game for a while, but actually Calvin (at two months shy of five years old) took to it pretty quickly and we've been playing ever since. It is a family favorite, and we often get it out to play with friends, too.

The main premise behind Carcassonne is the building of a medieval map. Two or more players take turns drawing tiles (with roads, walled cities, monastaries, and fields) and using them to create the map. Each player has little wooden figures that they place on tiles of their choosing in order to own cities, roads, farms, or monastaries, thereby earning points. Points are kept on a small gameboard using an additional wooden figure.

For young children, simply creating the map is great fun, and the rules are easily alterred for varying degrees of difficulty. When we first started with Calvin we played it more as a cooperative "create a map" game. We introduced the rules and point system as he gained understanding of them. Since the game uses a combination of luck and strategy it can be played cooperatively, lightly, or competitively depending on the players and their skill set.

The basic original game consists of a number of sturdy cardboard tiles, wooden figures for up to five players, and a sturdy cardboard scoring board. It is enough for getting started and has a great replay value as is, but the company also sells expansion packs that are great either for adding depth to game via additional story lines (like dragons) and additional rules and strategies, or can be used simply to expand the map and make the game last longer. We have the original game along with The River, the Inns and Cathedrals and the Princess and Dragon expansion packs.


Camp (Education Outdoors game review)

We picked this game up from a local toy store when we were looking for an indoor activity on vacation last summer. It was an impulse purchase. It caught our eye because it claimed to be suitable for a variety of ages, and because it wasn't strictly a luck of the draw game. Besides, I'm fond of trivia and wildlife, so this game seemed to have it all. We have been pleased with the game. Calvin loves playing, and it's something that we can enjoy right along with him.

Camp is a fun trivia game. Participants roll dice and move forward as many squares. The square they land on determines whether they get to answer a trivia question, are sent (forward or backward) to the club house square and read a factoid, or sit and wait for their next turn. Each trivia card has four questions, each from a different difficultly level but all related to the same topic. The game can be played with three people in less than 30 minutes.

The cute game pieces and the board are very well made, and the questions are fun and interesting. Questions from the easiest difficulty level are extremely easy, while questions from the top level are challenging and at times obscure, but not on a par with Trivial Pursuit. Calvin is able to answer questions from the first two levels, and sometimes even the third.


The Amazing Mammoth Hunt

Another new game on our shelf, just as highly recommended as the last. The Amazing Mammoth Hunt is a geography game, challenging players to identify a variety of (mostly) countries on the world map; land on a square and properly identify the location of that square's country in order to collect a token, the goal being to collect the most. In general this is my kind of game, but it was a little too advanced for Calvin (something we expected when we ordered it).

We started talking more about continents this week, along with our focus on Africa and African folk lore. This afternoon I got the game out and played we with alterred rules, focusing on identification of continents instead of countries; I asked Calvin to correctly identify the continent of the country on his square in order to collect the token. A few of the countries he's already familiar with, like the US, Egypt, China, and Russia, so I ask him to identify these entirely on his own. We had a great time playing this afternoon and I think it's a great way to build his exposure to map use (and for added fun I keep a globe on hand for clarification).


Becoming pawns

We've been playing with Chess for a while now, getting to know the board, the pieces, the history. It's exposure that counts here, and a fulfillment of Calvin's interest, which is vast in its sweep. He has grasped the goal of the game, and the abilities of each piece, but it will be some time before he glimpses the deeper strategy I think. Right now we enjoy playing for fun. We brought home from the library sale today The Kids' Book of Chess, by Harvey Kidder. The Usborne book we have touched on the game's basics while the book we brought home today joins good story telling and illustrations with a general education on the game. Calvin loved it immediately and I see some King Arthur reading in our near future. He and Jon spent the afternoon creating swords and shields and then chasing each other around the house with them, acting out the role of pawns, better known as pikemen, or foot soldiers. I see the creation of a miter on our horizon as well.