Scrap the Workbooks & PLAY GAMES!

Over breakfast this morning, the hubs, son, and I (daughter was still snoozing away) discussed tonight’s plans for Family Game Night: what to have for dinner, dessert, which games to play, and when everyone will be around for the action to begin.

games avo
I might have a teeensy avocado obsession…

Let’s be clear: this is our plan. The reality might turn into daughter gets invited to sleep over at a friend’s house, son and friends turn online and play some Friday Night Dota, I cover myself in Modge Podge and work on my latest creation (details coming soon), and hubs plants himself in front of a couple of laptops and the TV and falls asleep on the couch. Anything is possible.

But, for now, the plan looks something like this:

Dinner = BLTA sandwiches. Bacon, lettuce, tomato and a slice of avocado. And by slice, I mean a big ol’ slab…because everything tastes better with avocado.

Dessert = Pots de Crème that the daughter and her friend made the other day.* Super delicious with a cup of decaf and a touch of whipped cream on top. And by touch, I mean a big ol’ whopping spoonful…because everything tastes better with a generous drop of whipped cream.

games cab1Games to Play = Hearts, probably. Spades is also possible. We enjoy playing chicken foot (a variation of dominoes). These are the three top contenders, though, to be sure, we have a cabinet full of other options. And by cabinet, I mean shelves full of boxes that have no semblance of organization…because a well-loved game cabinet is a messy one. games cab2

Son has a summer gig where the hubs works – and by “summer gig,” I mean he sits in an office all day and scans documents. Education well put to use. As these two head out the door this morning, they asked if I had an idea as to what I’d blog about today. I nodded, ever so wisely. Yes, I have something in mind.

And I did. Granted, it only came to be moments before the question was asked.


Are you playing them?

Honestly? We haven’t been. Between the hubs traveling, the kids camping, the son visiting friends in New York, the impromptu friends-stopping-by-for-a-glass-of-wine-on-the-front-porch, and the rain or mosquitoes or headache or various political conventions on TV that someone wants to watch, we’ve not played games but maybe once this summer.

And, I hate to break the news, but the summer is starting to draw to a close. (Gasp!)

Let’s pretend that isn’t true and continue on our conversation, shall we?

Games. Games are the reason our children go to school. Are you rolling your eyes? Well, it is kinda true. Think about it – they go to school to read and write and do a little math and figure out how to get along well with other human beings.

And WHY should they learn such things? To score well on a test? To obtain bragging rights? To move to the next grade level? No, oh, please, no, no. We teach them and they learn such things so they can function in the world.

~ So they can make grocery lists, get themselves to a store and estimate the cost of their groceries so they’re not shocked when the cashier rings up their final total.

~ So they can take measurements in their new apartment, read a map, get to IKEA, budget for and purchase furniture, and read the instructions to put their new bookshelf together.

~ So they can craft a clever email inviting new friends over to dinner, where they’ve planned and cooked and cleaned and created their first ever, most successful dinner party.

Games are the precursor to such events, are they not? They require reading (the rules of the game or in playing the game itself), math and strategy (keeping score, mentally figuring out who-has-played-what-and-which-high-cards-are-left), and that little something else, finesse, maybe? Learning how to have a poker face. Quietly holding one remaining card in your hand when playing Uno (and not being called out on it).games uno

Here’s something else: games teach us how to be gracious losers and well-mannered winners. Once again, such skills will help them operate in this world with much more ease.

~ So they can get turned down for the date without throwing an embarrassing and completely unbecoming temper tantrum.

~ So they can get the job promotion, beating out two other co-workers and still maintain a friendly relationship with them.

~ So they can have the expectation that sometimes, you get exactly what you want – and sometimes, you don’t. Both are inevitable, with separate but very real feelings attached to them. Coping and handling these feelings in a responsible, appropriate way (or not) makes all the difference in terms of how others see you – and how you see yourself.

Here’s a thought: instead of insisting your child complete a workbook over the summer (don’t even get me started), play games instead! On top of everything else, they’re usually social. Similar to reading aloud, when you’re playing games, you’re usually in the moment, dedicated to the action at hand. We are a social species, and it simply feels good to know someone wants to spend time with you. So, on top of the learning about numbers and the reading and the score keeping and the winning and losing, you get the warm-fuzzies, too!

Ask your friends, neighbors, teachers, and yes, even your librarians for game games applesrecommendations. Think Bingo for the kiddos who are learning their double-digit numbers. Apples to Apples Junior for your peeps who are reluctant readers. There are loads of different kinds of games you can play with a set of dominoes – great for spatial awareness, counting, score-keeping!

And, oh! I almost forgot to mention! Games can be fabulous fine-motor and gross-motor practice. Do they still sell Operation? Or how about Blockhead or Jenga? Is it too hot to get games setoutside? Need to burn off some energy? Go Old School and try some Twister!

Want more? I mean, seriously, quality games abound! Teach them about coordinates with a game of Battleship. Oh, the number of times we played Set with our kids (thousands), Spot it, and Connect Four (still playing it).

Ditch the flashcards and get in some number practice with a game of Yahtzee, Farkle, or Qwixx. Don’t take this to mean these are the only games for excellent math review – do some research on your own or ask your child’s teacher or math othelle

Play with letters and words with Bananagrams, Scrabble, Boggle. (In many cases, there are “junior” versions of these games, too!) Discover your strategic side with Mastermind, Othello, Checkers, Clue (in the parlor with Professor Plum and the lead pipe). Instead of listening to me go on and on and on about the options, go dig through your game closet! What hidden treasure is in there?

Tweens and teens also love games – and not just those online or on the Xbox. I am being games munchperfectly serious when I tell you that every middle school has at least one teacher who is well versed in what “kids these days” enjoy playing. Why? Because he loves playing them, too! If you don’t believe me, ask around – it’s true! (There is a middle school teacher reading this right now, chuckling. She knows I’m right.) As for my own peeps, we’ve gone through Apples to Apples (graduating from the Junior set) Risk, Settlers of Catan (and the various expansion games), the Munchkin series, and Killer Bunnies.

I tend to dislike book lists because they’re never complete. So, too, is this very insufficient list of games. I’m hoping to whet your appetite with these suggestions and inspire you to play tons and tons of games with your peeps (or to place tons and tons of games in your classroom). If you encounter something you love playing, please share! One can never have too many games in the cabinet – or too many wonderful memories of playing them with her family.

Keep Playing,


games rosemary*The pots de crème recipe? I know you want it. And I’ll share… It is a variation of a recipe found in what my mother would call “The Old Junior League.” The Houston Junior League has published some beautiful and award-winning cookbooks through the years. (I don’t own many games juniorleaguecookbooks anymore. Why should I? I have the internet, right? But, I use Stop and Smell the Rosemary often. It is beyond.) Anyway, The “Old Junior League” was published in 1968 and it is kinda the standby cookbook, with all the old tried-and-true recipes.

Here’s what we did:

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (or a combo of dark/milk chocolate chips, depending on your preferences)

2 Tb Sugar

Pinch salt

1 egg

1 t. vanilla

2 t. Kahula (or rum, if you prefer) OR 1 ½  t. powdered instant coffee

¾ C. whole milk

Combine chocolate (that’s right, throw the chocolate chips on in there), sugar, salt, egg, vanilla, and Kahula (or instant coffee) in blender. Heat milk juuuuuust to a boil. Pour milk over all the other ingredients. Cover, blend for one minute. Pour into ramekins (I don’t have ramekins, so we often use coffee cups or any small bowl), chill for an hour (or more). Serve with whipped cream. Lots of whipped cream!

Contact me at fplweb (at) frontporchlibrarian dot com

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