It’s time to refresh our inner child. And there’s no better way to do it than by embracing a summer night. Remember the magic of staying up late because it was still dark even though the clocks said it was bedtime, having no pressing homework, and seeing the sky as a field of possibilities? Look up! On August 10th, there’s the Super Moon, when the moon’s closest approach to Earth coincides with a full moon and makes it appear super big and bright. The annual Perseid meteor shower happens on August 13th, when the stars come raining down on us. But if you want to make your own magic, stage a family game night. With TV shows on hiatus, and an extra hour or two to play, you and your kids can fill the time together. In addition to family bonding, playing games is actually a great way to keep children’s executive function skills intact when they’re out of school (and a lot more enticing than summer math worksheets). It’s also a good way to get back in touch with what kids regard as fun.
According to Jessica Lahey’s article in The Atlantic, play may be one of the most effective ways to foster a curious and intelligent child. “Matching up cards and planning the next chess move can help develop a child’s executive function—a set of skills that may be more important for success than IQ points.”
Even celebrities are getting into the gaming fun. NBC’s Hollywood Game Night gathers celebrities for a rousing hour of competition and party games. If their fun doesn’t inspire your own, here are a few of my favorite games to get you started.
Spot It! is a matching challenge from Blue Orange Games. The fast-paced card game, similar to Eye-Spy, has players pairing the symbols on their cards to the symbols in a group pile. With only one matching image between any two cards in the game, Spot It! is a visual challenge for any age (including non-readers). If you want to take it out of the living room, the Spot It! Splash version includes seaside symbols and laminated cards that can survive beach outings, camping adventures, road trips, and washing machines.
I’ve recently been introduced to an “everything old is new again” smartphone game that kept the entire family glued to the game instead of their own phones. “Heads Up!” is a charades-like game that The New York Times called a “sensation.” It captivated my twenty-three year old daughter, my teenage niece, and me for hours. The app is based on a game that Ellen DeGeneres uses on her show. One person places her smartphone on her forehead for the other members of the group to see. Then she tries to guess the words on it from the clues the other players give. The digital twist captures the attention of all those kids who wouldn’t be caught dead playing old-school charades.
Last year, on a trip to San Francisco’s Exploratorium, I found that the Marble Wall was one of the most popular places for intergenerational play. Mattel’s Hot Wheels Wall Tracks is a variation of the play pattern, attaching tracks on a wall to create a racecar run. Building and rebuilding speedways is surprisingly exhilarating. And putting it on the wall adds the element of taboo that makes it even more fun. For the true enthusiast, a Power Tower addition gives you a motorized elevator that moves cars back to the top for non-stop play.
Brain teasers are a particular favorite of mine (and my family’s). ThinkFun’s Shell Game is a thinky-version of the classic switch-and-bait street game that hones memory and logic. Although it’s a solitaire set up, playing together is definitely more fun. For those who want to learn to code, Robot Turtles is a playful intro to coding for young kids…or coding-challenged others. Like most of Think Fun’s games, the challenges get harder as you progress, giving you night after night of play.
E-books, library books, picture books, interactives. The format doesn’t matter as long as you’re reading something. Reading aloud together is even better. Don’t waste a second of that extra hour of daylight.
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