Category: games

Our Best Unplugged Travel Game

By , August 14, 2009 7:33 pm

So you don’t think a four piece puzzle could ever present a challenge? Then you have obviously never played Safari Undercover by Educational Insights.

A recent happy find before our last big trip, Safari Undercover is a wonderful logic game!  The goal of the game is simple:  use the four differently shaped pieces to mask out certain wild animals while leaving others exposed according to the challenges illustrated in the booklet.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  The challenges are organized from “Starter” to “Master” and most of them really require a lot of thought, even for an adult!

The “Starter” level has hints to get you started if you need them.  After that you are on your own.  Each puzzle has only one answer and the solutions are included in the booklet.

What I like best about the game is that it has only four fairly large pieces and a booklet (not much to lose).  The pieces and booklet store neatly in a drawer under the game’s top.  Perfect for travel.

We played it for hours on the airplane and I was as eager for a turn as my kids were!

The game is also available with pirates.

The recommended age is 7 to 9 years, but I say 7 to 99 years!

PS: This is not a paid review (none of my reviews ever are). I am simply sharing my thoughts about a game that I bought myself and like.

Words – Language Bingo (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , April 5, 2009 9:50 pm

First of all, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Lynn of Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile for doing an excellent job of hosting the weekly Unplugged Project last week while I was away on vacation.  I really appreciate it and I hope it was fun for you!

We had a lovely time in Mexico.  The kids ran around on the beach and swam in the pool non-stop.  This was our first vacation with my youngest in tow where I was actually able to relax a bit.  My three year-old was finally independent enough to allow me to read two and a half books.  What a luxury.


Surprise!  We finally got to the Unplugged Project this week.  Although I hadn’t picked the theme words for any particular reason, it actually fit in perfectly with what we have been doing lately:  learning French.

I haven’t blogged about this yet, but this summer we are all going to France for three weeks where my two oldest children (6 and 8) will attend a language class.  I used to live in France, and am determined that my children learn French.  This is step one.  I’ll write more about it another day.

Anyhow, inspired by this wonderful French bingo game by eeBoo that we bought and love, I decided to make our own version.  I designed our own, changeable bingo game for learning lots of French words.

We gathered up some heavy cardboard, card stock, scissors a ruler and some old nature magazines.

First I cut the cardboard into three equal squares, one for each of my children.  My squares ended up being about 8 in. by  8 in. (about 20 cm by 20 cm).  It doesn’t really matter how big they are, as long they are square.

Using the ruler, I penciled a grid of nine approximately equal squares on each piece of cardboard.  These became the bingo cards.

We cut strips of card stock that were the same height as our rows of three squares, and slightly longer.

Next we cut some narrow ribbon in lengths just long enough to be slightly wider than the cardboard squares.

We put one piece across each vertical line on each card (two per card):

Then we taped the end securely onto the back of the bingo card:

Finally, the really fun part.  We searched the nature magazines to find some common animals to cut out, making sure that each animal photo would fit inside one of the nine squares on the card.

We pasted three animals on each strip keeping enough space between each animal for the ribbon.

Finally, we slid the strips under the ribbons to fill in the bingo board. The strips pass easily underneath the ribbons and the slightly longer length makes a nice tab for easy insertion and removal.

When the boards were done, we cut pieces of card stock into squares that were close to the size of our animal squares.  I wrote an animal name in French on each card.

Play proceeds like this:

The cards go into a bag.  The caller pulls out a card and says the name of the animal.  Whoever has it on their card says “moi!” (me) and places the card on top of the corresponding picture.  They also must say the name of the animal in French.  The winner is the first one to fill up his or her card and must then say the name of all the animals on their card in French.

One thing that is really fun about this is that you can rearrange the strips so the cards change combinations.

You can also make new strips for other categories of study.  We did animals, but you could do words having to do with the home, the body, school – whatever you want!  As vocabulary knowledge increases, you can mix the categories or words to make play more difficult.

The picture finding and cutting is fun and also provides an opportunity to learn the words before play.

For more advanced players, you could even do verbs and conjugations.


For those of you who did a word Unplugged Project this week, here is the linky.  Please link only if you did a word Unplugged Project.  Please link to your project post rather than simply your blog (I am trying build up an easily searchable archive).  If you did not do a word project, but want to learn more about how to join in, please read about it here. We’d love to have you!


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:


Have fun!



Fun Wooden Math Game (Toy Recommendation)

By , February 26, 2008 5:58 pm

Santa gave the 4 Way Countdown Wooden Game to my 7 year-old daughter because he was hoping it might be a fun way to work on memorizing math facts.

The board consists of a simple square wooden box. Each side has ten wooden numbered bars that flip up and down. The object of the game is to be the first to flip up all your numbers. Players take turns rolling two dice. They can add, subtract, multiply, or divide the two numbers appearing on the dice in order to equal a number on one of their bars. They then flip up that bar. To make things a little more interesting, if you roll and eleven, you can of course flip up the 1 (6-5=1) or, instead, make another player flip all their bars back down. Fun, but beware: if you roll a twelve, then you must flip down all your bars!

This makes for a surprisingly entertaining game. What I like best about the game is how it can grow with your child’s abilities. Younger children can play by simply adding and subtracting. Multiplication and division can be added later as math skills progress.

I must also mention that even I like playing this one. Since many games aimed at children are deadly boring for grownups, I am always excited to find one that is at least tolerable, at best fun.

So, did Santa pick wisely? Yes! This game makes basic math facts easier to memorize and is way more fun than flash cards. Thank you Santa!

4 Way Countdown is also fairly practical as a travel game. The box is about 10.5″ x 10.5″ and 1.5″ thick, doesn’t weigh much, and the only loose pieces are the two dice. Dice are rolled inside the box, so are unlikely to escape during play.

Great math practice for 2 to 4 players (or you could even play alone). It would also be a great addition to a homeschool classroom.

PS. My daughter just saw me writing this post and wants to play 4 Way Countdown now.  I’ve got to go so we can get in a quick game before dinner!

Blokus (Toy Recommendation)

By , February 18, 2008 9:08 pm

This game may be very well-known, but I had never heard of it until I read this post over at Celtic Mommy’s blog.

I told myself at the time, that it seemed like a fun game, even if only for the kids to play with in creative ways. Well for Christmas this year, I decided to buy it as a family present. What a fun game!

It says it is for ages 5 and up and my 5 year-old can certainly play it, in fact he often beats us all.

Players take turns placing different shaped plastic pieces on the grid (tokens are composed of squares stuck together and remind me of Tetris pieces). The winner is the one who succeeds in placing all his pieces, or who has the fewest number of squares remaining. The rules are very simple, in fact there really are only two major ones: 1) you must always place your piece so its corner touches the corner of one of your other pieces. 2) your pieces may only touch one another at a corner.

Easy to learn and play, but very complicated to master! A great family game night choice.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons and photographer Roy Levien Aldaron for this photo. View license information here.

Zigity (a Cranium game)

By , December 1, 2007 9:06 pm

We had a family game night tonight with a card game (by Cranium) that my 7 year-old daughter got last Christmas from a friend. It is a game that we had not really focused on before.

Zigity is such a cool card game! It is supposed to be for ages 8 to adult, but my 5 year-old, 7 year-old and two adults played happily together without problem (the 5 year-old enjoyed it, but needed some assistance though).

The play is a bit like Crazy 8’s or Uno, but instead of just matching cards, players must complete certain puzzles at each turn. Puzzles involve either matching images, completing a visual puzzle, forming words, or adding numbers.

It is really quite educational and fun (and challenging) for adults too! Always a HUGE plus in my book. The cards are made of a transparent plastic which adds to the “wow factor.”

This is a game that is very unpredictable. It involves just the right proportions of skill, strategy and luck to make it interesting and fun for all ages. A player with one card left really has just as much chance of winning (ie. getting rid of all their cards) as one with 6 cards left!

If kids can’t spell simple words yet or do addition, then they will need some help. But we had no problem playing with my kindergarten-aged son. I just looked at his cards and helped him when he needed it. And once, he actually beat us all!

I highly recommend this card game. It would even make a great stocking stuffer, which is always nice.

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