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Columns

August 29, 2009

Bored kids content with board games

We've shopped for sneakers and backpacks and stockpiled 15-cent notebooks and glue sticks.

Now, as we count down to earlier bedtimes and new routines, my kids are getting a little stir-crazy, and I'm running out of creative responses to my 5-year-old's perpetual question: "What can I doooo?" If not for board games, we'd be climbing the walls. Fortunately, we've got a large and varied collection that has served us well on rainy camping trips and long summer afternoons.

There's a reason why the tradition of family board games has survived the cultural changes America has seen since 1934, when an unemployed heater salesman sold handmade copies of his version of Monopoly (which had existed in various forms since the early 1900s) at a Philadelphia department store, getting the attention of Parker Brothers and officially launching an international phenomenon.

Board games are affordable, portable, durable and incredibly versatile. There's a board game for every age, skill level and attention span. Board games can be played one-on-one, in teams of two or in large party groups; in serious competition or just for fun; to pass a few minutes or a few hours.

Board games are also a great way to get kids ready to go back to school, because they combine entertainment with learning, teaching kids everything from counting and colors (think Hi-Ho Cherrio! and Candy Land) to more-complex logic, reasoning and spatial skills (a la Mastermind and Blokus).

During a recent game date with Grandpa, my 5-year-old daughter, Allie, read the rhymes on the Uncle Wiggly cards and added up Yahtzee dice. Big sister Abby honed her powers of deduction in a game of Clue, and we all brushed up on geography with 10 Days in Africa.

And that's just a sampling of the skills and knowledge kids gain from board games. Games like Scrabble and Boggle help kids build vocabulary and practice spelling; others teach them about history, economics and even science. Who knew that the reason ladybugs are bright colors is so their enemies will know they taste bitter? That's one of many facts I learned in a recent round of Allie's Bug Blast! game.

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