Best Family Board Games

The Bears have helped me write this post as part of their home-schooling this week. They selected which board games to include, staged and took the photos, agreed an order and have written some of the reviews themselves. We thought it might be a useful time for others to discover some new games to keep everyone entertained while stuck at home. With that in mind, we’ve selected the more unusual choices from our collection. For context, BB is now 10 and LB is 8. Without further ado, here is our top 11, as chosen by the boys.

11. Who knows where

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We’ve put this game in last place as although it is good, it is definitely aimed at a tween/teen/adult audience because it’s HARD! You basically have to figure out where in the world specific places are – either Capital cities or landmarks. You can use an easier map which marks the countries and borders or a harder one which is just land masses. Much trickier than expected but good for geography and a nice one to play with grandparents (when it’s safe to do so).

 

10. Yeti in my spaghetti

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A novelty twist on pick-up-sticks. Does what you’d expect but provides a bit of fun and fine motor skills practice for younger children.

 

9. Bug bingo

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An insect themed version of bingo. This isn’t a particularly popular game with BB but LB loves it and will sit and play for quite some time. Personally, I don’t think it’s as rock’n’roll as some of the others further up the list but the pictures are beautiful and sometimes a calmer, more regulating game is a good idea here.

 

8. Throw Throw Burrito

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This game is quite high tempo. It’s one where everyone plays at the same time which is good for children who struggle to wait and does make everything a bit more manic and fun. You basically have to make card families, getting your cards from your neighbour’s cast-off pile and discarding yours for the next player to pick-up, so everybody is manically picking up and throwing cards, trying to get the more matched ones than anyone else. LB says:

“When you have a full set of burrito cards, you can have burrito war or burrito duel or burrito brawl.” He’s right. It basically means that at random points in the game someone starts throwing a squishy burrito at someone else. We have had to add a ‘throwing gently’ rule as this could certainly get out of hand quickly. Great game, but comes with a side warning of dysregulation. Oh, and beware, dogs really like to eat the burritos, resulting in this terrifying spectacle:

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7. Klask

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I think he’s said it all really. A kind of wooden combination of football and air hockey. Really different, suitable for any age above little ones who would eat the pieces.

BB says: “This is one of my personal favourites. It is fast paced and a lot of fun to play. It is a two player game where each of you has a magnet under the table to control your player. Each of you are trying to get points by getting your player to hit the ball into your opponents goal. If you get 2 or more white dots attached to your character or if your character loses control and goes into the opponent’s half and if you go into your own goal/hole your opponent will get a point. It is first to 6 points.”

 

6. Tetris dual 

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A two player game, with play shifting between you, depending how well you do with fitting the pieces in (it tells you which shape to do next – you have to find the right place to put it to complete lines). If you leave a gap, play switches to the other person. It took us a while to figure out the settings but it’s a good game. All the addictive fun of the original game without the screen.

 

5. Genius square  

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BB says, “Genius Square is a fun, two player game where each of you will race to put all of their pieces on the board but it is harder than you think. You have to roll the dice and the coordinates that they all land on, you will put your wooden pegs on them. Then you can race with your opponent to be the first one to put all of your pieces in.”

Sometimes there is only one possible way to fit all the pieces into the board, sometimes several, but there is always a solution. I think this game is great and highly addictive. Probably more suitable for older kids as it could be quite frustrating if you aren’t evenly matched with your opponent, but it’s just as good for adults. My parents bought a set after playing at our house and are now using it a lot to entertain themselves during isolation. You can always play alone to improve your skills.

 

4. Crossfire

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Grizzly and I picked this game up at a vintage shop as he used to have one as a child so it’s probably one for eBay if anyone wants one. It’s another manic one, trying to shoot the little discs into the other person’s goal with the mini gun and ball bearings. I think you can tell it was made before anyone got too concerned about health and safety! Very easy to pick up. Can be tweaked to your own rules – for some reason I don’t understand the boys always have a Playmobil pig in the field, which apparently makes the whole thing better.

 

2. Bears vs Babies (joint second)

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There was some disagreement over which game should take the honoured spot of second place so a compromise was reached with both boys’ votes getting an equal footing. This is LB’s vote. Here’s what he has to say: “You can make a monster with any parts but when you have a weapon you can attach your tool what gives you more goes but takes some points away”

The basic premise is that you have to build monsters to fight baby armies. The babies are the baddies in this, but if you defeat them (by having monsters worth more points), you keep them. The player at the end with the most baby points wins. It sounds a bit crazy and it took quite a bit of getting our heads around the first time we played but once you know what you’re doing, it’s great. It says age 10 plus on the box but LB has picked it up really well, including all the wild cards and exceptions and is more than capable of strategizing to beat us. There is quite a lot of strategy involved e.g. if I do this, x could happen etc. You also have to keep running tallies of how much your monsters are worth, compared to other people’s monsters. It’s not straightforward, but as I say, LB has grasped it well.

I like the fact the box is small. I have been known to pop it in my (capacious) handbag to play in a café (pre-quarantine of course). Hours of fun and so different to anything else.

 

2. Bounce Off (joint second)

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While BB enjoys Bears vs Babies too, this one pipped it for him. He says: “Bounce off is an action–packed, entertaining game, where 2 players bounce their balls onto the grid, trying to make the pattern shown on the card. You will have 8 balls each, one set yellow, one set blue. The first player to make the shape on the card on the grid will win the card and after all the cards are won, the player with the most cards at the end wins.”This is very much a game of skill. You either have it (like BB) or you don’t (like me). It gets pretty fast, furious and competitive between two skilled players and anyone can have a go. There’s no hours spent reading the rules with this one – open the box and go.

 

And, drum roll….in at the top spot is:

 

  1. Carrom/karom

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No debate necessary with this one – an easy number one vote from both boys. This game originates from India apparently and, I can’t lie, the board is huge. Storage issues aside, the game is fun. It is meant to be a two player game, with each flicking their striker in an attempt to pot all their pieces before their opponent. Think pool, except it’s your finger controlling the striker, instead of a cue. However, we have invented various twists on the game to suit ourselves. Because the board is so large, four people can easily take a side each and work together in teams. We have also played a version where you don’t stick to potting one colour but you can have a free-for-all potting any colour you like with the person or team who potted the most at the end winning.

We’ve played at the kitchen table or outside on the grass.

It is a skill game really but it doesn’t matter too much if you’re rubbish at it, it’s still fun. It takes seconds to learn but you could certainly perfect your skills at it over time.

*The board looks dusty because it’s covered in Carrom powder – you tip it over the board to help the pieces glide over the surface better.

 

 

We hope we’ve inspired you to try something different – I’m sure many of these games can still be purchased online in the current circumstances. If anyone has any comments for the boys, I’m sure they’d be grateful to hear them and I’ll make sure I pass them on.

 

We hope everyone is well and staying safe,

The Bears xx

 

Best Family Board Games

Alternative Gift Guide

In a temporary departure from my usual content, I’ve decided to put together an alternative Christmas gift guide this week. I appreciate my usual audience probably don’t visit an adoption blog to go shopping but bear with me, it’s sort of relevant. This isn’t one of those posts somebody has paid me to write – instead it is a collection of links to companies/people/ items that I have discovered over the last couple of years that I think are doing something good (I don’t get anything out it other than the warm glow of being able to spread the word). Amidst the hyper-commercialism of Christmas, it’s nice to be able to give a gift which gives to someone else or to support a small business. Here are my alternative suggestions:

Masato’s Beanies

If you are after a warm, hand-knitted beanie for yourself or a friend, this is the place to go. We bought one each last year. They’re great quality and kept us snug as bugs in rugs even when it was minus 25 degrees in Lapland. The best part of the deal is that for every hat you buy, one goes to a person living on the streets. Imagine how chilly that would be.

You can also buy socks and a pack goes to someone homeless.

I know some people worry about transparency but the website lists which other companies they work with to get the hats to the people who need them. A very genuine charity, doing it’s bit.

Here’s the link: www.masato.co.uk

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Madlug

Did you know that for many children who move about the Care system, their belongings are moved in black bin bags? Madlug, like many of us, don’t think that’s appropriate and that young people should have the dignity of proper luggage at such a vulnerable time.

This is another ‘buy one, give one’ scheme – you buy a rucksack (lots of funky colour choices) and a rucksack goes to a young person in Care. You can also get gym bags or carry-on luggage. What’s not to like?

Here’s the link: www.madlug.com

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Centrepoint

Centrepoint is a charity for homeless young people. Unfortunately Care leavers are amongst the most vulnerable to becoming homeless – with as many as 14% spending time on the streets. On the Centrepoint website you can choose to give a gift to a vulnerable young person at Christmas. You can give anything from a hot meal to a jumper to a box of useful utensils to a room for a night. There is a wide range of options, from a £10 donation to much, much more for those who feel able.

www.centrepoint.org.uk

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Buddybox

I think the idea behind these subscription boxes is brilliant. They are dubbed ‘a hug in a box’ and are intended for people who are depressed or having a shit time for any reason. As a friend I tend to feel quite helpless if someone I know/ love is in a situation like that. I tend to want to do something but often, there is nothing practical you can do, especially if you are far away from that person. This is the solution to that uncomfortable feeling: send them a Buddybox.

You can send a one off box, as I have tended to, or you can buy someone a subscription for 6 months or a year. I heard about it because someone has bought a subscription for my friend whose baby had died. It was such a lovely thing to have done at such an awfully sad time.

You can even gift one to a stranger.

The contents are different every month and are always designed with self-care in mind. They describe the contents as ‘gender neutral and ageless’ so they are inclusive for all.

The perfect gift for a struggling adopter?

A lovely way to say ‘I’m thinking about you’ or ‘you are not alone’.

And if all else fails and you feel fed up, order one for yourself.

www.blurtitout.org/buddybox

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Steph’s Sock Monkey Store

This one is not so much a charitable cause as a small business trying to survive in tricky times. I found these sock monkeys totally by accident, fell in love with them and ordered one each for the boys last year. They’re great quality, bigger than you might think and make gorgeous presents.

There are currently some for sale whose profits are going to Marie Curie and ones where you can sponsor Yorkshire Air Ambulance. You can also buy gift vouchers so the recipient can choose their own monkey during the year.

www.stephssockmonkeystore.co.uk

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Books

I have read a couple of books recently which are relevant to my blog content – both to do with communication and both an excellent read. The first is this one by Cynthia Pelman:

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It is an account of a young boy, Joshy, who has DLD. It is told from the perspective of his speech therapist, his mum and him. It’s the only published account of DLD that I’m aware of at the moment.

 

The second book is written by an inspirational young man, Jonathan Bryan, who painstakingly wrote the whole thing by eye-pointing to an alphabet chart. This is a must-read for anybody interested in communication (especially alternative or augmentative communication) or those working in special education. It is also an inspirational read for anyone who is fascinated by people and overcoming adversity. Some proceeds from the sale of the book go to Teach Us Too – Jonathan’s charity which campaigns for schools to assume learning competence in children with profound disabilities and to give them the opportunities to become literate.

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You can follow Jonathan on Twitter @eyecantalk or read his blogs at www.eyecantalk.net

I’m not going to add links for buying the books because I don’t want to just assume Amazon is the only option. There are other booksellers out there!

Baby banks

Up until a couple of weeks ago I had absolutely no idea what a Baby Bank was or that they even existed. Think Food Bank but for baby essentials – nappies, formula, clothes, equipment such as prams and cots. It’s heart-breaking that in England in 2018 we have the need for such a thing but we do. Apparently it tends to be mothers fleeing violent relationships or those who are refugees and cannot access benefits who require the services. However, a recent documentary highlighted that women who work in low-income jobs can struggle to meet the costs of living and having a new baby can be the tipping factor into crisis. One family had been reliant on the Dad’s job as a painter and decorator. He was unfortunately in a car accident which meant he could no longer work as much/ do such heavy jobs and then a baby came along. Baby Banks are there for such situations.

I think many of us have a loft full of no longer needed baby or little people gear – perhaps this would be a good way of getting it to people who really need it. I know they don’t just want tiny things – coats for toddlers are particularly needed over winter. Some are also doing a Christmas campaign where you can help struggling families with Christmas gifts for their children.

I know that when I can finally face sorting out the clutter of my loft, this is where my pre-loved items will go.

Check out www.babybanknetwork.com   (they have centres in Bristol, Exeter, Aberdeenshire & Isle of Wight) or  www.baby-basics.org.uk who have many centres across the country. Both websites have maps which allow you to find similar services close to you.

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Thank you for persevering with my alternative post if you’ve read to the end! Do let me know if you know of any other organisations who are doing brilliant things – I particularly like the buy one, give one schemes so would love to hear about others if they exist.

Happy gifting!

Alternative Gift Guide