Growing up in a big family, there was a lot of competition. We played neighborhood games like Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, and Two-Hand Touch. Outdoor games like Hopscotch and Jump rope. And indoor marathons of Monopoly, Cribbage, Jigsaw Puzzles and Jacks. Cards were a staple from War to Crazy Eights to Spoons to Solitaire. Games and competition and trivia were part of the fabric of my childhood. I share that lifestyle with my children. We play a lot of games. I didn’t know we did, until I met people who didn’t.
There is something really basic about hopscotch and jump rope. I taught the boys a hopscotch version that involves a four by four grid with 16 squares, where balance and core strength are emphasized. A girlfriend and I made dozens of hula hoops out of PVC pipes and colored duct tape. We donated them to the school, where a decade later, they are still being used. There are lots of games to play with a hula hoop, from rolling them, to using them as a target, to their intended use. Having them around had the unintentional benefit of promoting skilled hoopers. Asher won a hula hoop competition at our local KOA where he ended up keeping four hula hoops going, knocking out dozens of competitors.
When Lucas was small, he played Monopoly every morning for years. He couldn’t read but you wouldn’t know by playing with him. He had memorized every Chance and Community Chest card in addition to all the properties, the price of houses, and cost of rents.
Settlers of Catan is our latest craze. It is a great game that works for all ages, allowing enough luck to keep the strategizers at bay. Playing games at our house can be fierce. Competition abounds and for the newly introduced it can appear overly contentious.
Charades is a family favorite. When I was a child, we had two teams and kept close track of time to determine a winner. In an effort to be more inviting to guests who hazard to play, we dispense with the timer, try to minimize the “sounds like” and relax the rules. The goal is “fun” after all.
I am constantly trying to encourage my boys to put their media devices away and communicate with the humans in the room. I have found food… and games seem to work. Luckily, both are in my wheelhouse.