Our family is a wee bit game-crazy and consequently we think games make great gifts (say that three times fast). My friends know this and frequently ask me for games recommendations. If you are looking for a good gift for someone take a look at these suggestions. I hope you find something you like. TIP: My #1 game recommendation is listed under Games that Rely on Strategy and Logic.
GAMES FOR PRESCHOOLERS
Animal Bingo. Bingo has the unusual good fortune of being a game that young children can play with their older siblings. I like these eeBoo versions because of their lovely graphics, often done by well known children’s book illustrators like Keven Hawkes and Melissa Sweet. You could also try Life on Earth Bingo, USA Bingo, and the Spanish or French versions.
Richard Scarry Busy Town: Eye Found It!. What I like best about this game is that siblings and friends work cooperatively to find objects on the board and solve the puzzles. The addition of magnifying lenses is a fun touch. The board is huge, six feet long, so you can play on the floor: perfect for kids who have a hard time sitting still in chairs at the table. This game has won tons of awards.
Hisss Card Game. This is another game that can be played on the floor. Players take turns matching parts to build snakes. It is simple enough for everyone to play, but still enjoyable for older kids to play along. Hisss has won several awards including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award.
GAMES FOR BUILDING MATH SKILLS
Double Shutter. Personally, I find this game highly addictive. Players take turns rolling the dice to “shut” number tiles. The object is to “shut the box” by rolling an exact combination of numbers matching the remaining tiles. This game can be played alone of with others. Although the manufacturer recommends this for ages 8 and up, if your child can break down the number 12 into sums he can play.
Yamslam. Yamslam is similar to classic Yahtzee, but with a slightly different strategic edge. Players should be able to know how to add. This game is also fun for parents.
GAMES THAT RELY ON STRATEGY AND LOGIC
Rush Hour: Traffic Jam Logic Game. This is my #1 game recommendation when people ask me for a gift suggestion. Rush Hour appeals to kids who like cars and trucks (you may know one of those) and parents who want a game that helps build logical thinking and strategic spatial awareness. The player arranges the vehicles in a grid lock according to the challenge games in a deck of puzzle cards. Then player must move each vehicle one by one until he is able to drive the red car free of the traffic jam. It is primarily a solitary game (a trait appreciated by harried parents) but as the child tries to solve the higher level puzzles, parents can provide valuable assistance.
The game pictured above is for children ages 8 and up, but there is also ThinkFun Rush Hour Jr. for ages 6-8 (I think it is fine for older 4s and 5s, too, especially some of the lower level cards.) You can also get additional card decks which even come with a new vehicle to add to the set.
Gobblet Gobblers. There are several different versions of Gobblet, but I’ve chosen to feature this one because it is a bit whimsical and slightly less expensive than the others. Gobblet looks like Tic Tac Toe but players pieces can move around, “gobbling” up smaller pieces. The game relies on strategic thinking and memory skills. Children ages 4 and up should enjoy this game, but if you are buying for a slight older crowd, I’d say go with the original.
Qwirkle. Qwirkle is one of our favorite games and I featured it as a Game of the Month. We often play without scoring but it takes a lot of strategic thinking to score big. Parents should note that game playing time can be long: up to 45 minutes. Depending on your point of view that may be an asset or a drawback. Little kids will have fun playing around with the tiles, but this is a game for kids 6 and up. If you feel brave, you can take on Qwirkle Cubes. Qwirkle won the Mensa Select Award, you can can feel super smart while playing it.
GAMES FOR TRIVIA AND INFORMATION LOVERS
Scrambled States of America Game Card Game. It is an understatement to say my oldest son loves this game. Based on the book of the same name (pairing the book and game would make a great gift), players try to collect as many states as possible by matching the cards they are dealt with the clues given during each turn. Players do need to have good reading skills to play this game. The manufacturer suggests ages 8 and up but if your child can read at a younger age he or she can probably play this game.
10 Days In Europe Game. This is another Mensa Select Game for those days when you want to advertise your brain power. It’s best for older kids (about 8 and up) but lots of fun. Player plan their trip through Europe and race to see who arrives at the destination first. Also available in Asia, Africa, USA and The Americas versions.
Professor Noggin. The Prof. Noggin games are for hard core fact loving kids. There is not a lot of game play involved above rolling the dice. However, the advantage is that there are a million subjects to choose from including such narrow topics like Extraordinary Women and Famous Inventions as well as wider categories in Science and History. So if your child is really, really into… say Birds of North America… (like Kiddo) this game could be a good choice.
The great advantage to giving card games as gifts is that they are relatively inexpensive and very portable. The ones I’ve listed here don’t really need much explanation. Suffice it to say they are all winners in our games closet.