Growing up, our family didn’t play a lot of games. There were adult games of dice and cards that the kids would listen in on, and eventually, as a sort of rite of passage, be granted a seat at the table for the first round or two before bedtime.
I have now played more games in my six years as a parent than I did in the rest of my life! Winter’s cold can’t keep us indoors all day, but my, how it does limit our adventures. Most days I will find some combination of kids cozied up around a game. This will be the first in a short series of posts on some great family games – and though they can be family games, one thing I do love and appreciate about them is that all of the games I’ll feature here are games that the children can play on their own once they learn how.
Bug Balancing Game
The very first game we purchased for our children was the Plan Toys Bug Balancing Game, which has affectionately come to be known as The Ladybug Game in our home. Players take turns rolling the die and placing a ladybug from their pile on the corresponding colour on the tree. As more ladybugs make their way onto the tree, it’s harder to balance them all; smiles widen and little fists clench with excitement. When the branch goes off balance, the ladybugs tumble to the ground.
The rules say that if you cause the ladybugs to fall, you have to add the fallen bugs to your own pile. The goal is to be the first to successfully find a home in the tree for your pile of ladybugs. We prefer more cooperative games, and so we often play as a team, and our goal is to work together, providing advice and encouragement, to get all the ladybugs cozied up into the tree.
We bought this game at our favourite neighbourhood toy store, Toad Hall Toys, but it can be purchased through various online stores.
A couple of years ago we ordered a cooperative game by Family Pastimes called Harvest Time. This game wins the hearts of all the children that play it. I can’t help smiling to myself when I hear our children and their friends yelling in excitement that they should probably harvest some more corn or they won’t have much corn over the winter!
Players plant their garden plots with corn, peas, tomatoes and carrots. The die has colours that correspond with the vegetables – yellow, green, red, and orange. If you roll green, you harvest a pea plant out of your garden and store it for winter. Get orange, and you harvest carrots. The die also has black which is a wild card allowing you to harvest whatever you feel your winter root cellar will need, and white which brings you closer to winter. There is a homestead in the centre of the board, and with each roll landing on white, the player places a winter puzzle piece on top of summer. The goal is to harvest, together, as much as you can for your community before winter comes.
We love the cooperative nature of this game. The kids love that they aren’t competing against each other, and if they have already harvested all of their peas, but roll green, they can harvest peas from another player’s garden to put in the community root cellar. It’s all going to be shared among friends anyway!
Happy bonus: as we harvest veggies from the gardens, we place them in rows in the box lid. What a great math lesson to have a bar graph growing as we play, so we can easily see which veggies are abundant in our cellar, and which we should focus on harvesting when we roll a black.
We’ve had children ages 2 through 12 enjoy this game. We ordered Harvest Time from our favourite waldorf toy source, Nova Natural, though you may find it at other local or online toy stores.
What are your family’s favourite games? Share them in the comments!