Can You Spot It?

Damien has a new obsession: Spot It. This game, designed for ages 7+, encourages players to find matching pictures between their card and the main deck. Each card has a match, but only one match. We have the standard edition, which contains 3 simple words in addition to pictures, but which doesn’t pose too much of a challenge for my 2.5 year old. I would say it’s easy to skip the Junior version. 

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Spot It comes in may different themes, from Animals to Alphabet, and is a super small and portable game. Damien is surprisingly good at the game, though not always very fast. In his first week playing it, he would often call out matches that didn’t exist, but now he only calls out accurate matches. He seems to memorize the deck card in the process of finding the match in the other, an interesting strategy that, while sometimes time consuming, results in perfect recall of that card. For example, if I find my match first (say I had the anchor on the card below), and the next card had an eye, he would yell out ‘eye’ and hand me the card, since he remembers it would be my match, even though I’m careful to keep him from seeing my cards. 

So, it’s a funny game to play with him. It has really gone a long way to improving his memory and observational skills. He is now, quite logically, also obsessed with I Spy books for the same reason.

Damien Learns Board Games

It’s that time again! With a 2-and-a-half-year-old now running around our house, we are looking for some quiet ways to tame those crazy moments. You know those moments where there is so much roughhousing that someone sprains his fingers. True story. Poor Aiden. 

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Anyway, we recently started revisiting early board games with Damien. When Aiden was about this age, he was beyond obsessed with the Curious George Discovery Beach game. Damien will play it a little, but is honestly more interested in throwing the cards around after just a couple of turns. He has no interest in spending an hour looking for every last object. 

More to his taste are Perfection (honestly he’s so patient with it!), Uno Moo and Candyland. In all honesty, Candyland is the only game he will “play,” whereas the others he just wants to make up his own games with them. He wants to smash in the animals on Uno Moo, fill up the board on Perfection then turn it on and anxiously wait for the pop, or put together some of the other games such as putting together the hammock on Who Shook Hook, but never actually playing the game.

Damien is a much more “open ended” kid than Aiden was. Aiden has always loved the rigidity of rules and instructions. Whereas Damien will happily build his own sets using Hexacus or Mega Bloks, Aiden wants to follow the booklet or design a specific ‘thing’. Each way of thinking is so amazing, and I am endlessly fascinated with the variability in the development of our (and all) children. 

At this age, I rarely enforce ‘rules’ and would rather Damien explore materials on his own terms (as long as he’s not destroying them). When we sit down to play a more formal game like Candyland, he seems fine following the rules and waiting for his turn, even if he doesn’t yet understand exactly how to play. 

Modifying Adult Board Games for Kids

Aiden was about 26 months old when he first became obsessed with board games. His first board game was the Curious George Discovery Beach game that was all about finding shapes and colours hidden in the ‘sand’ and he played it all the time. Since that very first board game, we have been modifying game rules to suit his age. Now that Aiden is older, he still requests to play a board game almost every day, except now the games are much longer and more involved. 

I have spent far too many hours researching board games for kids and more often than not find them too stupid or not well made or boring after a few plays. Even after my research, some of the games we’ve tried have been duds. The most successful games for Aiden (who is now 4.5) have been adult games, modified to suit his ability level. I find that adult games, being longer, are more easily suited to the enjoyment of the process of playing, rather than winning vs losing

Aiden’s favourite game right now is Carcassonne. Thankfully, it’s my favourite game too, so I don’t mind playing it a few times a week. This was an extremely easy game to modify for Aiden, as it simply involved taking out whole sets of rules. For example, when we began we took out the cloister cards and didn’t build farms. Instead, we focused on cities and roads only. Since Aiden has experience playing dominoes, he found it very easy to understand this game – indeed, he won against me fair and square the first time (I rarely dumb down my abilities). I sometimes have to remind him “Do you want to claim that city / road?” if he forgets, but the placement of the cards has been very easy for him. 

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Aiden has only once been upset playing Carcassonne, because he “didn’t get to flip his card to 100”, not because he lost. He’s won a couple of times, but usually I win and he’s ok with that. We have already added in the cloisters, so only the farms are excluded from our games now.

Here is Aiden playing “the train game,” aka Ticket to Ride. This was not quite as straightforward to modify, since there are a lot of cards and rules involved. You can find ideas for modifications here, though we went further and removed the destination tickets, instead just having fun building the train segments. 

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The next came on my list is a children’s game specifically simplified from the adult version, Catan: Junior. Given that Aiden’s 5th birthday is coming up, we’re trying to be patient ;)

How to Make the Treasure Bottle Game

For Damien’s 1st birthday party, I decided I would try to include some homemade items in the goody bags to his friends. Having some experience doing crafts with Aiden and making both boys several toys and games inspired by Pinterest (check out my boards for the extent of my addiction), I felt confident I could come up with something! To add to the challenge, I wanted to make something that would be interesting for both the babies (+/- 1 year) as well as the older siblings (age 3+).

I decided to make a sensory / discovery bottle (closed bottles that contain pretty much anything that moves, shines or makes noise!) that made use of sand we already had (that went with our beach theme) and created an I Spy-like game inspired by our Curious George Discovery Beach game. And voila!

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Treasure Discovery Bottle and Game

I filled the bottles with sand and a variety of items I picked up at the dollar store including gems, beach-themed confetti items, beads in bright colours, bells, other trinkets. I attempted to find a variety of items that could be spotted in the bottles but which came in a variety of colours. 

The cards feature most items in the bottles, and you can be creative on your cards to expand the game:

  • Name and draw the item
  • Have “any item” cards that illustrate items that come in a variety of colours. In my game, I had fish in a variety of colours, so I wrote “any fish” and to win the card, the player had to find any colour
  • Have “any colour” cards that could refer to multiple objects. An “any blue” card in my pile could refer to a blue bead or to a blue gem, for example
The game I supplied in my gift bags included about 15 cards, though you could easily expand this based on what you decide to put in your treasure bottles. 
The more sand you add to the bottle, the harder it will be to find the items, so you could vary the challenge in the game. I left the bottles with only half sand, since that made the bottles lighter for the babies who only care about picking them up to roll or shake them!

Treasure Discovery Bottle Game Instructions:

  1. Select a card, youngest player first
  2. Shake the bottle, then look for the item. If you can’t see it, the next player takes a turn. If you can see it, keep the card in your pile and select a new card for your turn.
  3. Take turns, one shake per turn, until all items have been found
  4. The winner has the most found items

The ‘Games’ Kids Come Up With

This sketch by Louis CK rang true on so many levels. One of the sketches is about how his daughter would play Hide & Seek by simply crouching near a wall. Like a good Dad, he would pretend not to know where she was while ‘finding’ her. We have had a similar experience with Aiden, who likes to yell out “Here I am” as soon as we come to find him. He’s so enthusiastic about it though, so it’s hard not to just love him for it. 

Kids don’t always seem to get that their games are lame. 

One such game that Aiden recently made up involves his submarine in the bath. During one bath, he asked me “What’s coming out of the water?” and I presented not to know it was his submarine. I guessed some other thing that goes in the water. He thought it was hilarious. Unfortunately, he insisted we repeat the experiment over and over again. For many days. So, I have to pretend that I have no idea what is coming out of the water, over and over again, always suggesting some sort of boat or aquatic life. I am not allowed to deviate from these ‘rules’ or he will correct me. I act surprised each time: “Submarine!” I need to exclaim.

What kinds of games have your kids come up with that you think are stupid?