Posts in Board Games
Spot It!

If you have very young kids who can't recognize numerals or read instructions, then some of the games I recommend are just a little too advanced for your kids.

But this week's recommendation is absolutely playable by a three-year-old, while still remaining fun for older kids. I liken it to an even more accessible version of SET. Big groups can play, the instructions are incredibly simple, and there are a ton of fun variations that you can try.

The game is a simple little card game called Spot It!

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Carcassonne

Among board game folks, Carcassonne is known as a gateway game. The gameplay is very simple to pick up, the game plays well with 2 or more people, and people of all ages can play.

I was introduced to the game by my friends the Schmarpenters (names have been changed to protect the nerdy). We didn't play with kids the first time around. But the game, which involved no reading and very basic math, felt like a perfect fit for some parent-child math conversation.

So I picked up my own copy and, sure enough, my son loves what he calls "The Castle Game." My older daughter, who is 4, has even enjoyed playing with the tiles, although she's still a couple years from playing the game in full.

I think Carcassonne is going to be a mainstay in the Haines household for quite some time.

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Pattern Play Blocks - An All-Ages Math Toy

Some of the games I recommend are definitely for older kids. 

But at the heart of Games for Young Minds is the idea that kids should be having mathematically rich experiences from an early age.

Which is why I'm so happy to discuss this week's recommendation. Pattern Play is a game that a two-year-old can enjoy playing with, yet the math ideas are rich enough to keep much older kids happily occupied as well. It's the first game that I've seen my 1 year old baby drawn to at the same time as my kindergartner.

Let's check it out!

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Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is a phenomenon for a reason: The game is just plain fun.

I remember when I first realized how enjoyable and versatile the game was: I brought it over to my dad's on Thanksgiving, and we played a nice, friendly face-up version of the game with my son and a couple of his cousins. Then I left the game over there that night, in case anyone wanted to play later.

The next day, my dad told me about the brutal, conniving, back-stabbing game of Ticket to Ride that the adults had played the night before. 

I figure that when a game is just as fun played face-up or face-down, it's a keeper. Ticket to Ride is definitely more expensive than the typical game that I recommend, so maybe it works best as a birthday present than an impulse purchase. But it's strategically deep enough to remain a big part of your board game rotation for years.

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Trouble - A Fantastic Pre-school Counting Game

Say you have a four-year-old. She knows how to count to ten or even twenty, but you don't know what other math topics you should be helping her with. Should she learn to count to 100? To do basic addition? What's next?

The answer might be surprising: Your daughter knows how to count. Now she needs to know when to count.

Perhaps she knows the sequence of words "one, two, three" and so on, but does she know what counting is for? Why do we count? When is counting useful? 

Maybe she does! But you'll never know until you ask her.

This week's game provides so many great opportunities for counting, I think it should be a mainstay in any family's playroom. It's also my daughter's favorite game to play.

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Blokus - Cooperative Variation

If you've been reading Games for Young Minds since the beginning, you know one of my absolute favorite games is Blokus. The game is incredibly easy to learn, accessible to kids of almost all ages, and still fun for adults.

I've been wanting to share the game again, especially since my readership has grown so much since November 2017! Fortunately, I have just the excuse: Over the winter holiday, I came up with a fun, cooperative twist on the game that has been a big hit at home. 

So let's visit, or revisit, one of the greatest little games out there.

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Monopoly (Part 2)

When you play Monopoly with your kids, let them be the banker. Yes, I know, this will make the game even longer. It's worth the wait.

Kids today need as much exposure to handling money as possible. Maybe you're unconvinced: with credit cards and Venmo, kids don't need to learn how to make change and count bills anymore, right?

I fully disagree. In fact, I think the opposite is true: In previous generations, parents and kids had numerous opportunities to talk about math while paying for groceries or settling up at the pharmacy. Kids naturally gravitate to these shiny coins and green slips of paper, and their questions gave parents a chance to talk about how pennies convert to nickels and how $1 bills compare to $20s. 

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Monopoly (Part 1)

As I type this, my son is playing Monopoly with his closest friend. I'm elated for two reasons. First, he's doing a ton of mathematical thinking right now. And more importantly, I don't have to play.

Maybe you've wondered why it's taken me over a year to write about the most famous board game of all time. Honestly, it's because Monopoly just isn't my favorite game. The first 20 minutes or so are fun, as you collect properties and try to negotiate trades with your opponents.

But after that, a sense of dread sets in as you realize that one player lucked into a much better set of properties than the others, and it's just a matter of time before they win. But when I say time, I mean time. Games can last two hours, and usually the person on the bad end of a bankruptcy feels pretty miserable for the last hour or so, as they barely pull their way out of poverty, only to slide back down due to a bad roll of the dice.

(It's almost like the creator of the game was making a point about capitalism!)

But my son loves the game, and his love of the game has made me re-evaluate Monopoly and think of ways to keep the fun and the math, while removing a bit of the grind. In next week's newsletter, I'll spend the whole time talking about the role of the banker. This week, I'll focus on the dice, the board, and the proper way to play Monopoly.

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Patchwork

Sometimes I am deeply grateful that my son is just as interested in board games as I am. Other times, I feel like I've created a monster.

The kid wakes up at 6am on the weekends and jumps on my bed, waking me up with "Chess?"

"You know, I'm probably going to need a second to wake up before we launch into any games."

"Ok, so then after you have coffee we can play?"

Clearly he understands the concept of checkmate.

All of that to say, my son's most recent obsession was the game Patchwork, which I got him for Hanukkah. It's a great game for us to play, since it's specifically designed for two players and has enough strategy to keep me guessing. We've probably played it between 15 and 20 times in the past month, and I'm still happy to play whenever he wants.

As long as I've had my coffee.

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Kingdomino

This week, I'm sharing one of the games from my Holiday Gift Guide. I hadn't intended to write about Kingdomino so soon, but my son just can't get enough of the game. As it happens, I was able to capture some great video of him thinking through some of the math in the game, and I couldn't resist sharing.

Kingdomino is a great game for two, three or four players, but my son and I both prefer the two-player version. The strategy gets harder, the scores go higher, and there seem to be more ways to win.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Looking for a gift for your kids that's fun, but perhaps a little more intellectually stimulating than the Nerf MurderGun 5000 or Princess Daenerys's Glitter-Shedding Dragon? Don't worry, Games for Young Minds has got you covered.

Below, I've shared two games for each age level: One game that I've profiled previously, and a new game that I haven't gotten the chance to write about. No matter what age your child or what games they've played before, you should be able to find something useful below. Enjoy!

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