There seems to be a lot of books out now about how to play -- games for kids, games for parents and kids, etc. etc. I consider this rather sad. Have adults really forgotten how to play, or lost the urge for some simple fun? Or is it that a lot of parents today are too stressed out and tired to get down on the floor with the kids and some Lincoln Logs?
Fortunately, we spend a week every summer at my folks' cottage. There's no TV, and while we do have computer access via laptop, it's not as easy as at home. So we've always played a lot of board games. But we also put our own spin on the games.
Take, for instance, that old classic, The Game of Life. What do we do that's not exactly in the rules? Well, for one thing, those Share the Wealth cards seemed too complicated for when the kids were young, so we don't use them.
When you get to the square where you get married? We pick spouses. Last game, my daughter got there first and had first dibs on Richard Armitage. I was forced to settle (ahem) for Gerard Butler. (I kept picturing him in his 300 ensemble in our lovely little red car. Hee.) Who knew Richard had such a thing for yachts (twice) and they also bought a helicopter. Fortunately, nobody landed on the "Write a bestseller" square. Because ARGH. It should be so easy.
When we play our older version of Careers, it's a real eye-opener for the kids on how sexist life in the workplace used to be. Gorgeous secretary, anyone? We have our own "rules" for that, as well. For instance, if someone lands on the Oscar square in Hollywood, an acceptance speech is required.
And then there's the getting to the cottage. We play a game we call "spot the thing", which basically requires keeping your eyes peeled for certain things we decide upon at the start - moving buses (there's a bus depot on the way, with many a parked bus), open convertibles, motorcycle sidecars, and (always) porta-potties. We may be the only family that gets excited by the sight of construction on the highway, because we know a porta-pottie will be coming up soon. We used to award points based on difficulty (a motorcycle sidecar was worth a lot more than a bus), but now we just award one point. The winner used to get to decide where and when we'd take a rest stop; now, it's just bragging rights.
One thing we've never done is cheated in favor of the kids. This can seem a bit harsh, I know, but when they won? They knew they won fair and square and deserved it.
There's something else we do that I think is a bit unusual, but I also think helps avoid some sour losering: winner always picks up the game, not the loser.
We've also discovered a great new game, Blokus, for ages 7 and up. It's fast, it's not complicated, yet it's also challenging. I heartily recommend it if you're looking to spend some fun time with the family. And it's a lot faster than Monopoly.