How many times have we told our kids to “Use your words!”? These great new games will give kids some extra practice doing just that.
Word Rush (Tactic Games)
Another game where you come up with words that match a certain category. But this one has a few new twists. First, once a category card has been selected, players turn over nine letter cards and then take turns listing words that start with one of those letters. Second, the instant you’ve said your word, you flip over the sand timer and the next player has to say a word and flip the timer back over before time runs out. The faster you answer, the less time you leave the next player. Of course, you can adjust the rules to make things easier or more challenging. Under $18. For 2-6 players, ages 8+. http://www.tactic.net
Escape the Room-type games are all the rage, and for good reasons: They’re challenging, fun, often educational, usually require cooperation and teamwork, and are all-around wonderful activities to do with family and friends. This week we review several new entries into this growing segment. We’ve enjoyed them, and know that you will too.
We Detectives (Tactic Games)
This easy-to-learn board game is a great way to introduce younger kids to the idea of cooperative crime solving. Players draw WePhone cards (which look like mini text messages), which either send them around the board to gather evidence that will be used to keep the “bad guy” in jail, or report an obstacle that sidetracks the detective. Each piece of evidence has a corresponding tile, which is placed in the center of the board. The object is to gather all the evidence before the WePhone tiles run out. If you do, the crook stays behind bars, where he or she no doubt belongs. If you don’t, well, shuffle the WePhone cards and try again. You’ll need about 20 minutes to play. Under $15. 2-4 players, ages 7+. www.tactic.net
Some games are designed to educate, others are just plain fun. Some manage to do both. Here are five that are so entertaining to play with that you won’t even know you’re learning.
Balance Beans (ThinkFun)
We love how ThinkFun takes a well-known concept—in this case, a see-saw balancing game—and adds a new twist to make something unique and engaging. You start by turning over one of the 40 challenge cards, each of which shows a different pattern of red beans arranged on one side of the see-saw. Lay out your red beans to match the card and then try to arrange your other beans so the two sides balance. Besides having fun, you’re learning some basic algebra skills (balancing equations) as well as physics (for example, two beans in the first row of one side of the see-saw are balanced by one bean in the second row). The cards range from really easy to really, really hard, and always include the solution. For single players, but it’s an especially fun parent-child activity. Ages 5 and up. Under $18. http://www.thinkfun.com/
Chances are, your kids are back in school. But summer definitely isn’t over yet, which means that if they hunker down and finish their up their homework, there are still plenty of well-lit hours in the day to play outside before bedtime. Here are some of our late-summer outdoor favorites.
Crush-It bat (Tucker)
Think baseball bat meets tennis racket (with the high-tension strings running parallel to the bat), and you’ve got a rough idea of what this great new toy looks like. Twist the adjustable power knob and you can smack the ball incredible distances. Dial it back, and you’re ready to play in smaller venues. That clever adjustable feature and the bat’s light weight levels the playing field (so to speak) and allows players of all ages and skill levels to play together. Just be sure to keep your camera ready to record the look of pride and joy on your little one’s face as she smashes the ball over the outfielders’ head. Comes with a special foam ball that’s dense enough for long-distance homers but soft enough to catch without a glove. For ages 5 and up. Available at your favorite toy retailer for about $10. http://www.tuckertoys.com