Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Unschooling Tools: Games

I am super late to this party, but Stephanie of Ordinary Life Magic started a series on "Unschooling Tools" back in February. I loved reading her posts and all the links from her readers (often scouring posts multiple times and making note of things that I thought might be interesting to Joshua and Lucy). So here I am, finally getting around to sharing a bit about some of the every day "tools" we have around the house to make life interesting and fun. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list or discussion in any way, just a glimpse of some of the things our family enjoys. I highly recommend checking out Stephanie's post on Games, and following the links at the end of the post as well.

We are big game fans around here--board games, card games, video games (though that is a huge category of its own). Most of the time Lucy prefers flipping over the board and scattering pieces under the couch, which is probably our biggest challenge when it comes to playing games. Joshua would love to sit down and play board or card games throughout the day, but it can be hard to find ways to make sure everyone is happy and occupied.  It helps if Lucy has her own dice to roll at will. It is also easier if she is napping (hey, just being honest here!).

Since our kids are six and two, most of these games are geared toward the younger set. I think we have a few board games like Monopoly and Life down in the basement, from our pre-kids days. I'm sure they will eventually migrate upstairs and find their place among the other board games once our kids are a little older.

games games games

Count Your Chickens - This is a cute cooperative game where you help round up all the chicks before mama gets back to the coop. Since it is cooperative, there is only one game piece and everyone works together, so it makes it a little easier to play this with very little ones.

Camp - Josh loves this game. It is neat because the questions have different difficulty levels and there are a lot of fun facts about animals and other outdoorsy themed topics.

The Ladybug Game - This is another simple game that is great for younger kids.

Fancy Nancy Hide & Peek Game - The major appeal of this game is that it is set up like a little dollhouse, so it can be fun to play with in other ways as well.

Trouble - What kid doesn't love popping the trouble bubble!

Great States Jr. - I'll be honest, I don't like this game. I find it soooo boring. Josh started playing it with the kids next door, and since they have outgrown the game they gave it to him. We haven't played it in months and months, though Lucy likes pulling it out to play with the timer. Josh did learn a lot about different states, and he enjoys it so I don't mind playing it with him...but I also don't mind having LOTS of other games to choose from so we don't wind up playing that one over and over.
(underneath that is a big USA floor puzzle)

Blokus (to go) - I got the travel version because I thought a two-player version would be easier for us to start out with. I really love this game. Sometimes Lyle and I play when the kids are both asleep. Josh is also really good at this game and often beats me even though I am honestly trying to win!

Magikus and Le Monstre Magma - These are Lego board games, more on them below, but in general I do recommend the Lego board games.

There is also a clock game, a memory card game (Life on Earth, very cute illustrations), Cadoo, Apple Letters, and a few other games tossed in there. The box on the right is Shut The Box, which is a fun dice/adding game and the rolled up paper above it is a game we made up involving legos (based on this idea).

Some of Lucy's favorite games are in there too, though they are hard to see in the photo. We have Connect 4, mancala, and a set of Dominoes. She's two, so most of the time these games are more manipulatives for her to play with than anything else. Lyle and I used to play the Mexican Train version of Dominoes but I'm not sure that we have a complete set anymore! I do tend to find dominoes all over the house (just like the legos!).  She loves playing mancala though. Our game mostly consists of randomly moving little stones around the board and saying, "Your turn," and, "my turn now!" I have to say, it is actually a lot of fun to play this way with her, and so cute to hear her talking about turns and counting randomly as she drops stones on the board.

games games games

Joshua loves the Lego board games. Most of the smaller games (in the white boxes) are very simple, which is good thing for us at this point in time. They also have interesting pieces so if the game itself loses its luster in time, they will find a home in the larger lego box for building. I have even found some of their games at Marshalls, and at the end of the year some of them went on clearance so I found some of  them as low as $3-4. Heroica is one of Joshua's favorites and it is definitely a more involved game. I think he loves setting it up even more than he loves playing it (though he loves playing it too). Again, it has really interesting pieces and I definitely recommend the Lego board games in general to anyone who loves Legos.

the ladybug game

I heard about The Ladybug Game when Shel first posted about the Unschooling Tools series, and the next time I walked into our local consignment store, there it was!

 working on her puzzle

I figured I might as well include jigsaw puzzles in with board games. We have quite a few smaller puzzles around. I seem to find them in dollar bins a lot and Lucy especially seems to like them. I have great memories of doing really complicated jigsaw puzzles with my mom so I am looking forward to a day when we can have a huge puzzle laid out on the kitchen table for days at a time. For now we'll stick to the 24 piecers though!

We also love card games. Josh likes Go Fish and I recently taught him War (which he renamed Card Battle, an improvement in my opinion). Lyle and I love Cribbage and Euchre (ahem, anyone local to us know how to play? It has been years since we had anyone to play Euchre with). I played a ton of card games when I was 12+ (summer camp!), so hopefully I'll be able to remember some of them when Josh and Lucy are a little older.


  1. Great list! And the story of how you happened upon the Ladybug Game will always be one of my faves! What can you tell me about the Fairies of the Great Wood game?! Looks like something that would totally be up our alley?

    1. That is actually a magnetic playset, not a board game. I got it at a discount place in PA so I have no idea where ou could find it, but it is cute if your girls like playing with fairies :)

  2. Thanks! Maybe I'll try Googling it! Fairies are huge here in our world! :)