Game On!

With the holidays right around the corner and three weeks of break headed my way, one can imagine long, peaceful days reading next to the fire with warm cups of cocoa as I watch the snowflakes fall. Did I mention the word “imagine”? Because, let’s face it, holidays are nowhere as calm and peaceful as the Christmas songs make them out to be (chestnuts roasting on an open fire, my ass!). Instead, the holidays can often vasicillate between crazy, hectic, sugar-fueled madness to the long, slow, he’s-breathing-on-me insanity.

While the electronic screen can easily provide hours of distraction, there are others to pass the time slightly more peacefully and productively- games! Simple, straight-up board and card games can provide golden family time without ridiculous theme songs. While they may not always be peaceful, they can give families the opportunity to enjoy some quality time together and have a little fun.
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Looking for some diamonds in our midst? Consider these:
Old Maid (Schwarzer Peter): A simple card game that can be played with young and old alike. Basically a game of chance that helps younger children recognize pairs and older children attempt to strategize their picks.
Snail’s Pace Race (Tempo, kleine Schnecke): Made for little ones but there is definitely added fun when you get bets going with older kids :)
Chutes and Ladders (Snakes and Ladders): Another simple game that relies on chance and builds with excitement in the hopes of making it past the snakes to reach the top.
Monopoly: The original version is actually crazy complicated (did you know you could take on mortgages in the game?) but simpler kid-friendly versions are out there too. We love the Monopoly World Edition that has kids collect stamps on a passport instead of purchasing properties (kind of like our lives, too!).
Trouble: I just cannot help popping that bubbble over and over and over again. Plus, there is something so deeply satisfying about landing on someone and sending them back!
Sorry (Mensch Aergere Dich Nicht): Another classic that also includes satisfying sending of opponents back.
Enchanted Forest (Sagaland): An 80s game that I love to this very day involving story book characters in a forest with trees. Essentially an elaborate memory game where you get to peek under trees.
Candyland: Always makes me a little hungry but the visuals alone make it appealing.

I could go on an on with games that my family loves to play together and there are thousands out there. What they all have in common, however, is that they offer the possibility of family fun that does not revolve around a screen and probably teaches some other skills while you are at it. Whether it’s building memory, developing number sense or building a sense of fair play, games give us all room to grow. Years in early childhood education has shown me over and over again that play is critical to learning- and this goes for older children and adults as well. We can tell our children about fairness and being a good sport, but it is actual practice that teaches. We can practice rote counting all the way up to 1000, but it is the movement of the little marker around the board that often makes it stick. While life lessons taught during gaming are often not pretty (my son ends many a game with tears, time outs and, “I’m never going to play with you again!”), they are indeed lessons to be learned in between the victories and losses. When it comes to gaming, we all have something to win.

TIPS: On the go for the holidays? Many of the little travel versions of the games are great for on the go and for restaurant visits. Most toy stores here have a seciton dedicated to them and they often run great sales.
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Looking for new game ideas or a way to kill time during the cold winter days? Head over to the Spielebox in the 8th district. http://www.wienxtra.at/spielebox/ With over 6,500 games to choose from, kids can play in the location or you can rent games to take home and try out.

Gaming with adults? The raunchy and oh-so-revealing Cards Against Humanity can be loads of fun (especially with a few drinks!). More subdued games like Mexican Train with double 12 dominoes provide fun for all ages. And if your family is anything like my loud and vibrant Italian-American crew, Pictionary can be an all-out war!