Are we there yet?
What can I eat?
There's nothing to do...
What parent hasn't ever heard these words? Before you even heard them, you probably had twenty things on your to do list, right?
Looking back at my last post, it appears that I added more to your to do list, rather than less. The way I see it, though, is that a little time invested up front will pay off big time later on.
I'll give you an example. My daughter is on a restricted diet, and when she first started, I was spending a lot of time by myself in the kitchen. Gradually, though, she began to help me cook. A couple of years later, she now makes many of her own meals! I can't tell you how much time and effort she saves me by doing so.
Cooking and baking are so much more enjoyable when you do them with a friend or family member, though.Yesterday, she found a tomato soup recipe, wrote out the shopping list, and asked if we could take a trip to the supermarket. We not only had fun making the soup together but she saved me so much time by chopping up all of the vegetables!
Don't get me wrong, I still spend a lot of time in the kitchen. When you're trying to avoid eating out (so much salt) and processed foods (just look at those long labels - yuck!), you don't have much of a choice. When everyone pitches in (even my husband and son do sometimes), it's a win-win situation, and the road to a much healthier lifestyle.
Besides playing around with recipes (I rarely follow them exactly), we love to play all kinds of board and card games together. And we've done that ever since they were toddlers, really. There are games out there for all ages. It doesn't matter what kind of game it is, as long as it's unplugged. Video games can be educational too, but we have to limit them like any other form of screen time.
Sometimes, it amazes me how much out-of-the-box thinking can be packaged inside one game box. Even if you just have a deck of cards, there are probably millions of different games which can be played - not to mention ones you think up on your own. It doesn't matter which one you play, as long as you do take time out to play it! Just as my daughter started to cook on her own, children will eventually start to play games on their own as well.
As my sister-in-law is a very busy mom of three, I'm always on the lookout for toys, games, and books which will make her life a little easier. So, wanting similar gifts for my 8 year old twin nephews, I ended up purchasing ThinkFun Chocolate Fix and ThinkFun Rush Hour. They're geared to children over the age of 8, but people of all ages will love the challenge of them, as there are 4 levels of play.
Before I tell you just a little bit about each of these games, let me just tell you I love most about them: they can be played independently, or with a partner, AND they're portable and can be played anywhere - even in the car! What a great, unplugged way to keep children (and even teens) entertained and busy while you do something else.
Chocolate Fix comes with 9 "chocolates," a little notebook of different patterns to solve (kind of like Sudoku, but with colors and shapes), a game tray, and a bag to store it all in. As long as there aren't any toddlers around, who might actually try to eat the chocolates, it's a great game to leave out on the coffee table or in your car. Whenever a family member has a spare ten minutes, like when a child is waiting for you to finish something, what a great way to sneak a little fun and problem solving in there!
The same goes for the award winning Rush Hour, only there are individual cards, instead of a notebook, and there are 16 cars and trucks, instead of chocolates. This game is a little different, though, in that you arrange the trucks on the game board according to the cards (from beginner to expert). Then, you have to find a way to get the red car out of traffic. It's literally stuck between the other cars, and you have to move them around (forward and backward only) to clear a path. What a great way to keep children busy while you're stuck in traffic! Please note that ThinkFun Rush Hour Jr. is available for even younger children.
Recently, ThinkFun was kind enough to send me their newest game, ThinkFun Solitaire Chess, for review. If you're thinking about teaching your child to how to play chess, this is the game for you! It's also a one player game, and you have to know how each piece moves. If you don't already know how, it's great practice.
Like Rush Hour and Chocolate Fix, Solitaire Chess is all about the problem solving. As a matter of fact, when we first opened up the box, it was a challenge just to figure out how to get the mats out of the game tray! They were in there snugly.
The game tray is set up like a mini Chess board, and each mat has a different combination of pieces for you to set up. The object is to capture pieces until you're left with just one. Which one you choose to move first makes all the difference. Whether you use the "guess and check" method and just start moving pieces, or you move the pieces around in your mind before you actually move one, it's a great exercise in spatial perception, critical thinking, and logic.
I really enjoyed playing all three of these games, as did other members of our family. They're perfect for busy families, and can challenge people of every age. Whether you leave one out on your coffee table, or in the car, you can set it up and play within seconds.
So, the next time your child says, "Are we there yet?" or "There's nothing to do." and you need a few more minutes of alone time, one of these games might just solve your problem. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
You can find another opinion about ThinkFun games at the SmartPlay blog.
Please note that I will be donating my review copy of Solitaire Chess to the local library, which offers a weekly Chess Club. You can support your library too - just by checking out books and attending the great programs they offer. Please join me in supporting public libraries!
Would you like to recommend any other one player games?