January-February 2009 Selected Content
Old Games, New Tricks - Angela Smith
Nothing gathers dust quite like a closet full of old board games. They've lost their novelty--and a handful of pieces. They're too old for the younger kids or too young for the older kids. Our game closet was in just this lonely, forlorn state until we started homeschooling. We still had all the same games, but we needed some new fun. So, we threw out the rule books and reinvented some of those old classics. Here are a few of our new favorites:
For preschoolers, ditch the board. Put the tiles together in random order and try to "sound out" your new words. It will crack up everybody while it communicates the idea that each letter has unique sounds assigned to it.
As children become readers, use the tiles to spell out family members' names; then, add up the points to see who has the most "expensive" name. Play with other categories, too, like favorite foods, place names, or this week's spelling words.
Play traditional Scrabble using only words in a foreign language you're learning.
Get the youngest players imagining: Exercise storytelling skills by inventing a persona for the driver of your car. Embellish the details of each space landed on for the story of a lifetime!
With older children, pass out LIFE tiles, which describe unique accomplishments--from receiving a Pulitzer Prize to inventing a new ice cream flavor. Take turns giving impromptu speeches about the specifics of your amazing deeds. Reward those with the most creative--or most believable--narratives.
You can also play this board game in a way that allows players to carry debt on a variety of purchases clear into retirement with no interest. Or decide up front on interest rates for some math practice and a taste of the real world.
Ants in the Pants ®
For younger children: These bugs make great math manipulatives. Use them for counting, sorting, graphing (blue ants vs. red ants), or measuring. For example, "How many ants are the same length as my shoe? How much do 10 ants weigh? Or how many ants will make our cup of water overflow?"
For older children: Traditionally, the ants flip into a set of plastic trousers. Instead, lay out a world map and flick the ants north, south, east, and west and create a hands-on geography quiz.
Connect Four ®
What kid--big or little--can resist the "click" of Connect Four pieces falling into their slots, or the thrill of spilling all of the pieces out the bottom once it's full?
For less messy fun, pair older and younger children to play "Match the Pattern." One player fills a Connect Four column with a pattern of red and yellow checkers. Then, the other player follows with a column that looks identical.
Another idea is to fill the board randomly with red and yellow checkers. Then, challenge those visual discrimination skills by scouting out "four-in-a-row" patterns. How many times do they appear for each color? Don't forget to look horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.
This math game, which we call "Take out the Trash," can be adapted to any age. Give each player five cards and leave remaining cards in a draw pile. Players take turns finding a match, either in their hand or using a card from the draw pile. But, matches are not identical cards. Instead, decide on a target number; matches are two numbers that add or multiply to reach the target number. This game is called "Take Out the Trash" because cards that match are deposited in the back of our plastic toy garbage truck. This game can also be played with any deck of numbered cards.
Candy Land ®
This beloved preschool classic is quickly outgrown at our house. Re-pique the interest of older children with these questions: Do all of the colors appear the same number of times on the game board? Do players land on each color the same number of times in a game? This line of thinking can be the beginning of a rainbow-colored graph or probability study!
Kinesthetic learners of all ages--this one's for you! Tape a quiz question to each over-sized dot. Play the game as usual, with the spinner dictating body part and color for each round. But, players must answer the question on each dot where they want to place a hand or foot. A wrong answer means that hand or foot has to go somewhere else.
Anyone can teach old games new tricks. After trying these ideas, turn your kids loose. Encourage them to think in terms of patterns, math drills, spelling, or anything that they're studying at the time. After a bit of experimenting, they'll be game lovers and game creators.
© 2009, Angela Smith