Happy Birthday, Baby

I hear the sound of the stepstool being scraped and shoved across the tiled bathroom floor. I'm in another room helping your big sister with her homework. Your dad is somewhere else in the house, trying to tackle a science fair project with your brother. 

I don't stand up. I don't go to you. 

I'm a different parent than I used to be. Maybe you've benefited from that or maybe you were always this way and we both got lucky because I was ready for you.

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Games Night: 5 Games Guaranteed To Make Your Family Laugh

family-games

When I was a kid, there was a shelf in our family's spare bedroom that was filled with board games. My sister and I made a lot of trips in and out of that room to grab games that would have us spending hours at our kitchen table with bottomless bowls of chips. We played them with each other, with neighbourhood friends and with our cousins during epic sleepovers.

I knew I wanted a board game shelf when I had my own kids and we have built a pretty impressive collection, stocked with a lot of the classics from my childhood (Sorry, Monopoly, Twister, Trouble, Boggle, Scrabble). But, thanks to the creativity and genius of today's game designers, we also have several lesser-known games that are fantastic. 

Here are my family's top five favourites (for now, because we're always looking for more). They are games that suit the number (four) and ages of our kids (six to fourteen).

BOUNCE OFF

You flip a card and both players try to recreate the pattern by bouncing their balls into the grid. Whoever does it first, wins the card. Truth be told, this is a great game when my youngest is out of sorts and needs a good redirect and a way to let off some steam or spend some one-on-one time with me. It's also a great playdate game because you don't have to spend a lot of time explaining rules. 

APPLES TO APPLES (and APPLES TO APPLES JUNIOR)

Photo from mattel.com

Photo from mattel.com

This is a hilarious card game that actually works on descriptive language and writing skills the sneaky way (by making it fun!). One player acts as the judge and chooses a descriptive card for each round (with adjectives). Each player has a hand of cards from which they choose a thing they feel best fits with the descriptive card. The judge chooses the best combination (and some of them are pretty hilarious) and that player then wins the card. Everyone gets a chance to be judge. This game was so popular that several versions have since come out, including Apples to Apples Junior (age 3+) which we added to our collection so our youngest could play, too. 

TELESTRATIONS

Okay, so the video above shows a pretty tame round of this family favourite. When it's played at my house, there is a LOT of whooping and hollering and laughing until we have to dry our eyes and blow our noses. My kids LOVE this game (and so do the grown ups). It's become our go-to game when we have friends over, too, because it's the perfect icebreaker. It's easy to teach and so fun to play.

**We recently bought the Telestrations After Dark version (ages 18+) and brought it a holiday gathering — I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. 

SLEEPING QUEENS

Photo from gamewright.com

Photo from gamewright.com

This card game was recommended to us by another family with four kids. We managed to find it in an educational store (for teacher supplies) and it's been a game that goes everywhere with us since. The best part about this game is that it was dreamt up by a real life six-year-old, when she couldn't fall asleep one night. And because of that, the game makes perfect sense to its pint-sized players. It strengthens math, memory and strategy (you've got to wake those sleeping queens!) skills without your kids even realizing it. Two parenting thumbs up!

EXPLODING KITTENS

This hilarious card game made its way to us via the business section of the weekend newspaper. JB read an article about the Kickstarter campaign and how wildly successful it had been for the creators of this game. When he read more about how the game was played, he decided to would be a good gift to put under the tree last year — he shares a really good sense of humour with our kids. From the moment they opened the box and heard the "meeeeeoooooooowwwww" they've been hooked. This is also a highly portable game that always comes camping with us and always ends up being tons of rowdy fun.  
 

We've got a few more days to come up with this year's under-the-tree family board game idea, and I would love to hear your suggestions. I hope this post has given you some good ideas. Feel free to ask any questions you might have. Happy gaming, everyone!

Why You Should Say Yes To That Birthday Party Invitation

Why You Should Say Yes To That Birthday Party Invitation

I don’t know your child, and I don’t know you. But I do know there are parents who find this hard. I do know there are parents who lie awake at night wondering if their child will have the courage to hand out the invitations in the morning. I do know there are parents who hope there are other parents teaching their children to have the compassion it takes to show up.

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How To Find Books Your Kids Will Read

Lined up at midnight for the  Harry Potter  release. He finished it the next day.

Lined up at midnight for the Harry Potter release. He finished it the next day.

There is nothing that gets me into my minivan and pulling out of the driveway faster than a refrigerator without eggs or a kid who has "nothing to read".

All four of my kids are readers, but my twelve-year-old son is an avid reader. He's exactly like me and one of his uncles at the same age: buried inside a book whenever possible. When he gets desperate (after he's already re-read his own collection for the billionth time and can't take it anymore) he'll wander into his sisters' rooms in search of anything that has a cover and some words.

He reads the newspaper on the weekends and the back of cereal boxes and yogurt containers in the morning. And as much as I'd like to keep adding to his humongous collection, I haven't been able to find a money or book tree anywhere (we do buy series that all the kids will read and everyone in the family gets books for birthdays and Christmas). So whenever there's a plea for more books, I go from library to library hoping they've ordered new ones.

Today, I stopped in on my lunch hour and it was quiet. There's a humour series a friend of mine had mentioned, and I asked the librarian at the information desk if it was available. I do my best to stay current about what kids are reading, and I also rely on word-of-mouth from other parents. But there is so much out there, and I often wonder if I'm missing out on books that would really appeal to their individual interests. Of course, each of the kids has a preference for book style and it's hard to keep tabs on all those genres.

The librarian looked at me, took in the fact I was there on my own and then asked if I had a few moments to spare. She proceeded to teach me the best way to find books my kids would read. My tried-and-true method has always been to set the kids loose with a basket, so they can choose their own books.

This time, I sat down at the computer with a very skilled librarian and learned about databases and Read Alike lists. GAME CHANGER. See also: RABBIT HOLE.

I'm always skimming articles about best book series and I read the book review section of the weekend paper looking for suggestions, but it all ends up cluttered in my to-do list. Read alike lists are so easy to use and something the kids can do themselves.

I also learned about the hidden resources on our library's web page. Did you know many communities purchase access to specialized databases?

Go over to your library's homepage and look for digital resources. And then look for databases and/or research. Scroll through and look for links related to kids. For example, our library has provided the community with access to the Novelist K8 database, which can be searched by age group, genres, sub-types and (this is the best) categories like "funny & gross". To access the database, you do need to enter through a library or school.

Before I left the library yesterday, I was handed a pile of new books to bring home (already knowing they would appeal to the kind of humour he appreciates) and some lists of other books to explore when he's ready. The librarian also put a hold on the humour series I had originally come in to find, and I'll be receiving a call when they're ready to be picked up.

If you have a reader in your home (or if you are looking for books for yourself), go introduce yourself to a librarian.

Seriously, they are wizards in disguise.