Tag Archives: games

Pirates Liar Dice Game

Pirates Liar Dice GameThe reviews of this game on Amazon are terrific– kids and parents really seem to enjoy it. It’s a tad on the high side in price, but I’ll include it here as an idea for kids birthday gifts anyways as it can always be a gift given by more than one child.

Recommended for both ages 8 and age 10 and up, use your own judgement once you understand how the game is played.

This boxed game includes 4 dice cups and 20 dice, and the price tag comes with detailed replicas of props used in the Pirates of the Caribbean,  Dead Mans Chest movie on all the dice cups, the movie logo on the bottom of the dice cups and skulls and crossbones on the die.

The game would be fun with or without all these embellishments from the movie – here’s how it’s played. Using 4 dice each, all players turn their dice cup upside down on the table so all the dice are hidden under the cup. Each player looks at their own dice and makes a ‘bet’ about how many of some number are on the table, in total (meaning all the dice from all the players). For example, if my 4 dice have 2 fives, and their are 3 other players with 4 dice each, totaling 16 dice on the table, I might ‘bet’ 4 fives. Going around clockwise, each player has to raise the bet until it’s outrageous enough that some calls a bet “Liar”. You can see more complete game rules on WikiHow.com.

This is a game that actually teaches the math concept of probability, and is apparently a blast to play, so clearly it makes a nice birthday present.

This is a great game for family game night at your house too – just using any old dice cups and 4 dice each for as many of you as there are to play. Keep score with poker chips, and have a special treat like an extra scoop in an ice cream cone for the winner. Pull out the dice and cups when you need an engaging kids activity on a playdate or for brothers and sisters at home.

Got other great family games to share? Games that might also make good kids birthday gifts? Please tell everyone about it here with a comment.

20 Questions

20 Questions for Parties

20 Questions We used to play 20 questions with our young daughters driving in the car to vacations. They’d play for a solid hour, sometimes even more, without asking “Are We There Yet”?, so you know it’s an engaging game. With a couple of modifications, 20 Questions becomes a great addition to your planned birthday party games.

For those who can’t quite remember the game, it’s extremely simple. The Answerer chooses an object and the Questioners have to figure out what the object is by asking yes or no questions. The only real trick to the game is choosing objects that everyone has sufficient knowledge about to ask relevant questions and give correct answers.

The only tweak you need to turn 20 Questions into a successful birthday party game is to play it in teams- one person at a time from Team A is the Answerer and the members of Team B take turns asking the questions. After each question is answered, a member of the other team becomes the Answerer and the opposite team asks the questions, alternating back and forth until all the kids have had a turn as the Answerer. If you choose to make it a competition, just time how long it takes to guess the object and add up each teams total times to determine the winner.

So where do you get good questions so it’s all appropriate for the age group you’re entertaining? First off, you know your child and his or her friends, have a general knowledge of their interests and abilities, and with a little thought you can come up with a great list of objects. These might include animals, insects, people, books, movies, TV shows, or items related to your party’s theme (provided you can come up with enough good objects within the one genre so it’s not all too easy). The fun for the kids is in the thinking and being correct, so too easy or too hard just isn’t as much fun.

Alternatively, you can purchase this board game of 20 questions for kids and just not use the board when you play it as a birthday party game. And, of course, if you buy it for your party you then have it at home to play as a family or as a kids activity, so it’s a decent investment. This 20 Questions board game also makes a good and reasonably priced kids birthday gift. [If you make a purchase through the link on this page, I make a commission from Amazon. Seems reasonable to me…..]

It may be an old fashioned game, but 20 Questions is an easy and though provoking addition to your planned activities and the kids will enjoy the intellectual challenge.

Scrabble Slam

Don’t tell them they’re learning something

Scrabble Slam I saw an ad for this game on TV and immediately thought what a great kids’ birthday party gift it would be. Kids can play it with other kids like friends or siblings, as well as play with parents. At under $10 on Amazon as of this writing, it makes a very affordable gift. At this price, keep one on hand at your house to pull out the next time your kids need an activity, as well as keeping a few around for gifts.

For my money, any game that gets kids to use their brains is a winner. Anything that promotes literacy is also a winner. Spelling and words in general are important to improving literacy, and not always an easy thing to get kids to focus on learning. But make it fast paced, and it tends to get and keep their attention. Think how kids like the card game of ‘War’- it’s totally a game of luck with no skill involved, but because they get to do it quickly and slam the cards around, they love it. Scrabble Slam has the same attraction.

Read the Amazon reviews and you’ll see that all the real Scrabble lovers hate this game. True wordsmiths don’t want it fast and furious- but kids like that. And- the kids get their wordsmithing in just by playing the game. Kind of like getting your veggies in a can of ravioli- ‘just don’t tell them’.

The game is listed for age 8 and up, but the Amazon reviews indicate it works for younger kids too with a bit of tweaking to the rules.

Affordable yet interesting and fun birthday gift ideas for kids are what we look for to pass along to you.

Old Fashioned Marble Fun

MarblesSo old fashioned they’re brand new to today’s kids. Marbles. They make a good party gift because they’re a good game. They make a good gift because they’re not very expensive. They make a good gift because it’s a game that’s played with friends instead of sitting alone with a computer screen.

All today’s kids need is a little help with game instructions and they can find hours of fun with a simple bag of marbles. Hurray for the internet – where you can find most anything, including rules for a whole bunch of games that can be played with marbles. Print these off and include them with your gift of marbles.

Package your gift in any tin box you find in the attic or the craft store. Or paint a shoe box or cover it with contact paper (which adds both strength and water resistance). If you’re handy with a sewing machine, make a draw string bag out of a scrap of cool looking fabric (suede cloth would be neat if you’ve got it around).

Always interested in promoting literacy, I’m tempted to suggest adding a paperback copy of Tom Sawyer to your gift.

Birthday gifts for kids needn’t be expensive to be meaningful. With all the parties today’s kids get invited to, the gifts can become a significant expense. Anything that gives a child an opportunity to experiment with something new is valuable for just that reason, and makes a great and thoughtful gift.

Pin the Whatever on the Whoever

Pin the Tail on the DonkeyThere’s no need to spend your money getting a big poster professionally printed to customize your ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ game to your party theme. This is an old standby game for preschool and young elementary age children, and it’s easy to convert it to match your party’s theme.

Given that HP sells more printers than any other printer manufacturer, these instructions will help a lot of you. For those without HP printers, I’ll digress for a moment here to advise you of another option for printing large and poster sized items. It’s called Printmaster from Broderbund software, currently costs $20, and we used our older version for more school projects than I can remember, so it was definitely money well spent. It’s definitely not Photoshop, but it works for kids and what they need to do, and it makes large printouts.

HP’s Photosmart and AllInOne printers have the built in capacity to print poster sized projects – like your ‘Pin the Tail on it’ poster. Or you can print decorative posters for decorations to hang for your birthday party. Even to print those poster sized school projects.

There are complete poster printing instructions from HP on the web, but first you need to remember to be conscious of your image resolution before you enlarge it for poster sized printing. Resolution is defined by the number of pixels, and HP suggests you need 2700×1800 to get a good image for a 20” x 30” poster. A right click on your image will usually open a dialogue box with a ‘Properties’ button where you can find out the resolution of your image.

Classic games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey get new life when customized to match your party theme, and now you can do it inexpensively with your own printer.

Any Theme Bingo

BingoBingo is a classic preschool kids party game that you and your computer can customize to virtually any  theme you can think of. No major computer skills required and it won’t take you forever to do.

For purposes of illustration, let’s assume you’re having an animal themed birthday party. Preschool aged kids love anything about animals, so it’s a good theme. The trick is always to tie your games to the theme, and with Bingo, it’s easy.

Fire up your favorite graphics program that provides you with clip art you can use royalty free for non-commercial purposes. I ALWAYS start with Microsoft’s Word’s on-line clip art collection. (in my Word 2003 version, it’s the head-shot icon in the drawing toolbar.) Find and download about 30 clips related to your theme – in this case 30 animals.

In Word, insert a 5×6 table into a blank page, expand the boxes to be of equal size and then paste a copy of each downloaded picture in each box. Format each picture layout to ‘in front of text’ so you can size it to fit in each square of your table grid. These are your bingo tiles. Print them out on card stock (so they have a little weight to them to be manipulated without falling apart) so the ‘caller’ can randomly select them for the game.

On the next page of this document, create a 4×4 table, size the cells to be equal in size and randomly copy pictures to place into this second table until it’s full. Print on card stock, delete the pictures and repeat until you have a bingo card for all your guests.

To use for Animal Bingo or to physically see how this all works, you can download animal bingo from my website.

Thinking Skills that are FUN

Apples to Apples GameGood games that can be played with the family, with siblings and with friends are the just the best kind of birthday gift. With today’s hectic family schedules, it’s great to be able to pull something out of the closet on a moments notice that can get everyone involved when there’s a bit of time to be together having fun.

This “Apples to Apples” comparison game from Mattel is a junior version for kids age 9 and up. Complete with 576 game cards, the game provides hours and hours of fun play.

This game builds both thinking and language/vocabulary skills through fun. The point of the game is to convince the ‘judge’ that your card best fits the control card. To quote from Amazon’s website description:

“The judge starts each round by playing a GREEN APPLE card featuring a one-word characteristic such as Chewy, Amazing or Scary. The rest of the players must then look at the RED APPLE cards in their hands and select the one they think is best described by the judge’s card – will you play A Volcano, Unicorns or Burned Toast?”

But the fun doesn’t end here, it’s just getting started. Each player then tries to convince the judge that theirs is the best fit, and obviously many are real long stretches of the imagination. So the game also builds presentation and logic skills as well as pushing imaginative thinking. The wilder the matches, the more convincing is required, and pretty soon everybody’s into the discussion. That’s a whole lot of skill building from just one game!

Jump Start Pet Rescue

wii Game for Pre-Schoolers

Jump Start Pet Rescue For the family that has a wii, here’s a delightful gift for the pre-school set. The money for the expensive game system has already been spent, and the price of this Pet Rescue game is right in the ballpark for a party gift.

The term ‘edutainment’ fits this game. The game takes the pre-schooler through 5 stories where they search for lost pets and along the way they improve their motor, listening and pre-reading skills, their memory, use their creativity, and lots more. Each imaginative adventure includes storybook rewards the player can earn as they progress. These new stories are then read aloud to the player, extending and expanding the play.

With lost pets as the basis for the story line, most kids will be engaged in the play and learning right from the get-go.

The customer reviews on Amazon are both positive and negative, and seem to revolve around ease of use of this wii game by the pre-schooler. Many kids seem to have figured it our right away and really enjoy playing the game, while other parents seem to feel it frustrates their child and isn’t so easy to use. My recommendation would be to give this gift where you know the family uses their wii and there’s plenty of good help available for the child to get going with the game.

For about the same price as some plastic toy that will either break or never get used, this fun game that involves the child in learning as much as it does in play makes a great kids birthday gift alternative.


Games and Videos on Nick Jr’s website

TVLooking for activities for your pre-schooler? I certainly didn’t know that Nickelodeon had this great, interactive website designed around all their pre-school level TV shows. But they do!

Here’s the address: http://www.nickjr.com/kids

Click on any of the icons for their different shows across the top of the screen and you’ll get games and videos for your young child.

I’m no big fan of video games, or of TV for that matter, but both have their place in a family’s life. We parents need some help some of the time keeping our kids busy and engaged, and Nick Jr’s games and videos are far better for our kids than some of the alternatives.

Just learning how to play a computer game gives the young child computer skills that they’ll need and that can be built on as they grow. Playing almost any kind of game is a mind expanding, thinking endeavor. And games are interactive, rather than passive, and that too is a good thing.

Watching a video is more passive, but that also has it’s place- when a child is sick or very tired and cranky, it can be just what the doctor ordered.

Build your family’s rules for video game playing or TV/video watching early on and it won’t be as hard to control when they get older.