Games Night: 5 More Games For Family Fun Night

board-games-family

The holidays are sneaking up on us, and my kids are making lists of all the things we’re going to do that don’t involve eating dinners out of Tupperware in the back of the minivan or needing to get out of our pajamas. They crave the change in routine as much as I do. We’re looking up family-friendly movies (and have a few we plan to see in the theatre, too) and piling up games and puzzles to take over the dining room table after Christmas dinner is cleared.

We are a household that enjoys games, both hands-on and screen-based. Each year, we put a new set of board games (see last year’s post for my top five suggestions) under the tree. Here are some family-friendly versions we’ve discovered this past year and a couple of new ones that we look forward to unwrapping during our holiday hygge.

blokus.png

BLOKUS
Just like one of our other family favourites, Bounce Off, this game requires minimal explanation or time spent working out the rules. It’s perfect for a wide variety of ages, and easy to pull out at playdates. It’s a hands-on Tetris like game and appeals to anyone who likes geometry and strategy.

sequence.jpg

SEQUENCE

Got a kid who could use some extra practice with math? This is the perfect sneaky way to make that happen, while still having fun. My parents love playing this game and my sister generously gifted our house and theirs with our own sets.

catan.jpg

SETTLERS OF CATAN

I used to love playing games like Risk and Survival when I was a kid, so it delights me to see my son and his friends gathered around a card table playing this very popular and strategic game. It’s great for communication and provides a good pace for hoovering back lots of snacks, too. There are also several add-on packs that can be purchased.

TICKET TO RIDE

I haven’t had a chance to play this game yet, but all the reviews I’ve heard from family and friends have been positive. Like, Settlers of Catan, it’s a game of strategy. It’s also a game that straddles several age groups and perfect for parents to play with their kids.

harrypotter.jpg

HARRY POTTER TRIVIA PURSUIT

There is a lot of Potter paraphernalia going under our tree this year. We’ve had the travel-sized Harry Potter Trivia Pursuit set of cards since two Christmases ago, but this year we’re going big with the full-scale version. I’m no longer able to compete with my kids when it comes to any Potter trivia. But it warms my heart to watch them tossing out facts about these beloved characters. All four of them are heavily invested in the series, and I know this is going to be a hit for our family.

If you have any MUST-PLAY games to add to this list, please send them my way. We have every intention of going into full hibernation this holiday season. It’s a great time to reconnect and catch up with each other, and I’m really looking forward to the slower pace now that my kids are old enough to hang out without squabbling (most of the time, anyway). Happy gaming!

New Year, New Traditions: Family Fondue

It's a new year and our family is a year older. When you are parenting young children, this growing up business can be really exciting. Moving past the cumbersome, workhorse days of babies and toddlers can feel like a liberation of sorts. For me, there's a mix of satisfaction (at getting through it) and sadness (at saying goodbye).

I can feel the magic of this time of year inching closer to an end. Sleepy faces wearing footed pajamas and poking us awake when it's still dark. Plates of cookies for Santa and wide-eyed wonder at the gifts he has left for us. The six of us rumbling around the house together in that quiet space between Christmas and the new year. I will miss all of it.

But having older kids means we can bring in new traditions. This year, I decided we would bravely and boldly try fondue for our new year's eve meal (I really know how to let my hair down these days). It hasn't been on my radar until now, because I couldn't imagine a meal made up of repeated safety warnings about boiling cheese and hot pots would feel very festive or relaxing. 

family-fondue-night

Most of the recipes I found for the cheese sauce had ingredients like dry mustard, garlic and Worcestershire sauce (which would probably be delicious, unless you're a kid), but I opted to keep it simple and plain-tasting and added a flavourful cheese to the cheddar instead.

  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • pinch of salt to flavour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk (or to desired thickness)

Pre-mix the two cheeses and toss with the flour and salt, then set aside. Heat the milk on the stove until it's bubbling at the edges and then slowly add cheese while whisking constantly. Once all the cheese has melted, transfer to the fondue pot.

  • boiled mini potatoes
  • cubed ham
  • cured sausage chunks
  • sirloin steak cubes (pre-cooked)
  • steamed broccoli
  • red pepper strips
  • apple slices
  • pear slices
  • chunks of fresh bread
family-fondue

Anyone who feeds kids knows it's hit-and-miss when you try new food, but not this time — everyone liked it! Being able to choose which items to eat and which ones to dip was a big part of the enjoyment. 

And we didn't stop with cheese. I had a smaller, ceramic and candlelit fondue set for dessert. I melted a block of semi-sweet baker's chocolate in a pot on the stove and slowly added evaporated milk until it was a nice consistency. We dipped pineapple, strawberries, gigantic marshmallows and chunks of pound cake. A friend of mine has since suggested melting a giant Toblerone bar: brilliant. 

family-fondue

It ended up being a fantastic way for us to ring in the new year as a family. It was interactive, silly and different from the usual meals we have around the table. I only delivered warnings about the hot pot about 10 times before JB's sideways look told me I had reached maximum safety nut levels. 

Family rating for family fondue night: FIVE STARS. 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Time For The Holidays: Thank you, Flipp

holiday-time

My sister and I made our way around the table—each of us folding the festive napkins just so—as we set the kids' table for the dinner ahead.

I looked at her when we met at the last seat and said, Feels strange and wonderful, doesn't it?

For the first time in over a decade, no kid in sight and no sounds of mooooooom being called from the other room. Between us we have kids old enough to watch out for younger siblings/cousins and wise enough to handle a lot of the moments that used to need a parent to fix.

One of our guests was there with her toddler and newborn baby, and as we sat down to dinner my sister and I tried to reminisce about those days and how it felt to eat cold plates of food and miss out on most of the adult conversation. But it seems our memories were blurry. We said, but it must have happened to us, even though it felt too distant to remember moments so recent. We laughed with an oh well and took turns holding the baby instead.

flipp-app

This year, I had a full day to dash from shop to shop finding the perfect ingredients for our well-planned Christmas feast. I was able to take my time making the best choices for staying within our holiday budget by using my favourite Flipp app, and that gave me some room for extra surprises (hello, crab legs!). 

But still my eyes wandered to the babies accompanying their weary parents through the shops and to the newborn in my dinner guest's arms. 

holiday-time

How can those days already be behind me? Why were they in such a hurry to leave? 

Where have those stolen moments with the weight of a warm, flushed child on my lap at the table (so I could stay in the company of the adults awhile longer) already gone?

The other night, I happily walked the hallways with that brand new baby, so her mama could eat a warm meal. And when I came back to my table and reluctantly handed her over, my dinner had gone cold.

As I ate it, those memories came back to me more clearly. And I knew why it was so easy to forget the taste of less-than-perfect food.

 It was made and served with pinches of love and then abandoned with dashes of love.

And that made it taste just as good.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + +

This post was sponsored by Flipp who helped me buy my holiday groceries this season. I am a long-time and weekly user of this easy-to-use app for planning my weekly grocery lists and saving money. I also use it to find the best prices for non-food items. I enter my list and instantly know where the best prices in my area can be found. I can clip from flyers and download coupons for added savings. It takes the same amount of time it does to scrawl a list (except now you won't lose it before you leave for the store). So, yes, even parents with young babies can add it to their smartphones. 

Stories about my family life, as always, are mine.