Fun Gift Ideas, Games, Things to do during COVID closures

Dominoes!

During quarantine, we all repeatedly heard how it was a great time to find a new hobby or develop a new skill. Well, Nugget listened and has taken it to an extreme. He found the world of toppling dominoes and I’m not sure he will ever leave.

I had stumbled across a cool video by Lily Hevesh and spontaneously showed it to Nugget and he was hooked. Much to their dismay, Chicken and Nugget are not allowed to cruise around YouTube, but I did give him permission to watch Lily Hevesh’s videos because not only are they amazing, but she seems like a truly delightful and inspirational human being.

After several videos, he begged and pleaded for dominoes for his birthday, and so dominoes he was given. He has never been a Lego or building kind of kid, so I was skeptical and pretty sure nothing much was going to come of this. So, I found a relatively inexpensive set of wooden dominoes and he was off! He was building towers and walls and all kinds of cool things. About a month later, I got him a book with colored photos of how to build even more domino tricks and he was in heaven.

And then Lily Hevesh came out with her own line of dominoes, H5 Domino Creations. And of course he had to have those. I drug my feet, because how different could they be from the ones he already had, right? But I eventually caved and I have to say, they are significantly better. I’ll save you the nitty gritty details of the differences, but in general they are much more stable and it really has made a difference in the success of his building and he now uses them exclusively, shunning his wooden ones to they toy bin and pulling them out only in times of desperation.

Nugget now spends hours each day building things and knocking them down. He has so much fun and I love seeing his skill, confidence, and creativity grow. He now incorporates other elements, making his own chain reaction machines. We have dominoes lines winding throughout the house and down the stairs. Heaven help you if you knock it down by accident. He even started his own domino YouTube channel (all videos have to be approved by me first), and he loves it. Dominoes go with him to the park, to daycare, on picnics- pretty much anywhere he goes that has a flat surface.

He’s surprisingly patient and persistent when structures fall before they are supposed to, usually only getting upset if he’s hungry or right before bed time. I could see it being a source of frustration for some kids, though.

For us, dominoes have been a great way to keep Nugget busy while building fine motor skills, being creative, learning indirectly about physics and engineering, increasing patience and persistence, and just plain old having fun.

If you think dominoes might be for your kid, give them a try! There are lots of inexpensive plastic and wooden domino sets that come with a large number of dominoes. If you are more convinced your kiddo will be REALLY into dominoes, I highly recommend the H5 Domino Creation sets. They are more of a money investment, as the price is higher and they come with fewer dominoes, but the building experience really is better.

So… dominoes…

What the are: fun, educational, easy to store and easy to take places, creative, a great way to fill time and learn new things

What they’re not: for kids with low frustration tolerance

Do we recommend them? For a kid with a building mind and determination, 1000%!

Games

Uno!

Uno. Where it all began. We didn’t used to have very many games. One of the few we had was an ancient deck of Uno cards. One afternoon when we were all a bit bored, I made the mistake- I mean choice- to take it off the shelf and teach the kids how to play. They were hooked.

We played Uno after school. We played Uno before school. We played Uno on the weekends. We played Uno at coffee shops. They randomly shouted “Uno!” in public places.

Finally, I could not take uno more round. I began purchasing other games. And it was great! We have gotten pretty good at picking out games that are fun, family friendly, and easy enough for them to eventually play on their own when I have stuff, like dinner, to do. Uno became part of our game repertoire, not the sole star.

And then Christmas came. Enter Harry Potter Uno. And we are back! It’s just like regular Uno but with a Sorting Hat card that you can use to torture other players. The rules say to choose a player and they have to draw cards until they get a Gryffindor card. We have used the Sorting Hat card in a variety of ways to keep the game more interesting.

Even when I am sick of it, there are lots of things I appreciate about Uno. It’s simple, fun, compact, fast, portable, and flexible. You can do the traditional score keeping, or just do round-by-round winners. If you are not into Harry Potter, there are a bunch of specialized ones- 90’s (picture the Clueless characters), Super Mario Brothers, and jungle animals, just to name a few. And the old school original is a classic for a reason.

Overall, the kids love it, I love it (depending the day), and we bet you will, too.

Harry Potter Uno is of course available on Amazon, but it is usually cheaper at Barnes and Noble. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/harry+potter+uno?_requestid=3610834

Games

Outfoxed: A Game Night Favorite

We always host Thanksgiving, which means I am always looking for ways to keep
Chicken and Nugget entertained while I get things ready. This year, enter Outfoxed.

Outfoxed is a fun, engaging, cooperative game geared for the younger crowd. A wiley fox has put on a disguise and you must figure out who the thief is before the fox escapes out the fox hole. If he does, you lose. I know, sounds weird, but it really does make sense once you start to play.

The game consists of a board, three dice with paw prints and eyes on them, a stack of suspect cards, a stack of thief cards, token-esque clues, 4 hat-shaped player pieces, a fox figure, and a decoder. Yes, a decoder. The main reason the game is such a hit.

A thief card is selected at random (don’t peek!) and is put inside the decoder to be revealed at the end of the game. The suspect cards are laid around the edge of the board. Players take turns rolling the first three dice. Prior to rolling the dice, you must state if you are going for a clue (paw prints)or a suspect (eyes). If you match all three dice with the correct symbol, you get to flip over a suspect card or move toward a spot on the board that will allow you to put a clue in the decoder. If not, you have to move the fox three spaces down the path on the board, bringing the fox closer to his escape.

The goal is to use the clues and deductive reasoning to figure out who the thief is before the fox escapes. For example, if your decoder tells you that the thief has a necklace, and good old Mary is not wearing one, then you know Mary is not your gal. Conversely, if Alice IS wearing one, she is still in the running.

The cooperative aspect comes in several guises. Players will start to encourage (or shout out, whichever) others to go for a clue, or point out we don’t have enough suspects. Players have to decide whether to listen to their teammates or go with their gut. Near the end of the game, players must also make decisions as a team. Are we confident enough to take a guess as to who the thief may be? If we are wrong, we lose! Do we want to risk rolling the dice, not getting a match, and letting the fox escape? Because we all win, or we all lose. Oh, the drama and the negotiation! I feel obligated to point out here that Chicken recently convinced Nugget and I to listen to her, which resulted in us losing the game. Thanks, Chicken.

We started playing this game when Chicken and Nugget were 7 and 5, respectively. I played it with them a few times, and they were soon able to play independently. Like get it out, set it all up, play multiple rounds, and put it away all by themselves. Hallelujah! So I can be up to my elbows in mashed potatoes and apple pie, and they can happily play away without an iota of help from me. It really is a Thanksgiving miracle.

It’s also a game I actually enjoy playing with them, and it is a frequent star of our family game nights. The concept is simple but fun, the decoder brings an unique aspect to the table, each round is completely different, I like watching them negotiate the strategy, and for a kids game there are moments of drama- are we going to figure it out? Will the fox get away?!?

So….

What it is: fun, cooperative, easy for kids to play independently, a great way to practice those logic and negotiation skills, unique (decoder!), visually attractive, nicely illustrated, reasonably priced, probably best for kiddos ages 4 to 9 maybe older if they are a really kind older sibling), a game that stays fresh because it is different each time you play

What it isn’t: Meant for tweens and up, travel sized (although if they make one I would totally get it- hello, restaurants!), heavy on requiring academic skills that require lots of adult support

Would we recommend it?: Totally! My kids absolutely love it, and so do I. It’s great addition to any game library for the younger child. And I would have said this even if it hadn’t completely made my Thanksgiving prep way easier today.

We were introduced to this game at a local independent toy store and I have seen it popping up more and more at different places lately. However, should you not have a store like that near you or they simply don’t carry this game, it is, of course, available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Gamewright-418-Outfoxed-Game-Board/dp/B00UB7P0XY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1542867294&sr=8-1&keywords=outfoxed+game+board+game