Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 28, 2010

Ask Evelyn: Break out the board games

By Evelyn Petersen, Local columnist

---- — Q: Every year after the enjoyment of opening gifts, all we all want to do is get out the old family games or the cards and sit around the table and laugh and play together. It's as much a tradition as our decorations and feast. I know you strongly support the values of family games; can you also tell us if there are any new worthwhile games out there that we might enjoy? — P. W.

A: I'm glad you brought this up. Families need to remember that games not only teach children educational skills. Family games also teach honesty and fair play, how to follow rules and cooperate, how to make choices and be responsible for the choices you make and how to win or lose graciously. They teach how to concentrate and be patient and how to stick it out and finish the task even when things are not going well. Best of all, it puts children and adults on a face-to-face, fairly equal playing field where they can relate to each other in new roles and have a whole lot of fun together.

Go to The National Parenting Center,, and click on the Seal of Approval Report for 2010. Then choose and click on games in the category box. The annual Seal of Approval Reports are based on thorough testing by real children and parents as well as experts, and cover all ages and categories of games, toys, books, software and more. Here are my favorites:

n Spelloker (Home Toys and Games, $19.95, ages 8 and up) is a game that borrows the best of Scrabble and Poker and creates captivating ways to make vocabulary and spelling lots of fun.

n Konexi (Zimzala Games, $19.99, ages 10 and up) is an ingenious game that combines the dexterity skills of Jenga with word-building skills.

n Spotcha! (Zimzala Games, $19.99, ages 10 and up) is full of excitement, and includes problem solving, attention to detail, and concentration in the race to win.

n Dr. Seuss What's in the Cat's Hat? (I Can Do That Games, $19.99, ages 3 and up) is a wonderful way for families to personalize this famous cat's guessing game by using objects in their own homes with sensory action cards.

n Hogwarts (Lego Systems Inc., $29.99, ages 8 and up) is a fabulous way to promote small motor and problem-solving skills by using Legos to construct the Hogwarts castle setting for the game play. Can be modified for older or younger kids.

n Sounds Like a Plan (GameWright, $19.99, ages 10 and up) Check out this one for problem-solving fun that engages all ages in the family. Testers said this one generated the most laughter of all games.

n Go Fish for Ancient Egypt (Birdcage Press, $10.95, ages 6 and up) is a new take on "Go Fish" that is inexpensive, travels well and teaches interesting facts about Egypt.

and its culture.

Evelyn Petersen is an award-winning parenting columnist and early childhood educator and author who lives in Traverse City; see her website at For more columns from Evelyn Petersen, visit