Great Family Games

We love to play a good family game, and we’ve acquired a number of great ones over the past few years.  My husband likes to give a new game to each of our sons on their birthdays, and we often add a new one at Christmas.  If you’re looking for a gift, here’s seven of our favorites (with links to Amazon).

1.  Castle Panic – my favorite thing about this game is that all players are working together on a common goal – to defend the castle and slay the monsters.  It’s more about cooperation than competition.  In the end the whole family either wins or loses.  Should you need a little competition, in the end, you can recognize a “Master Slayer” who has earned the most points by defeating the most monsters.  Although the box says “ages 10 and up,” we have played this game with our boys since they were 5 and 6.  The other day my 7 year old taught his 8 1/2 year old friend how to play.  So it may require adults to learn and play at first, but this is definitely a game for kids of all ages.  Also, the box looks a LOT scarier than the actual game is.  The monsters (orcs, trolls, etc.) are on game pieces the size of a quarter.

2. Quirkle – This is such an easy game to play.  Like Scrabble, you pull tiles out of a bag.  You either match the color (with no repeating shapes) or match the shape (with no repeating colors), and earn points.  It’s challenging, but not too difficult.  We help our 7 year old when we play as a family, but the other day he took it upon himself to teach his 8 1/2 yr old friend how to play, and did so with great success.

 

3.  Q-Bitz – This game can be played independently or as a group.  You try to match the pattern on the card by turning the cubes on your own little wooden coaster.  There are different levels of challenge that adults can engage in so that they are evenly matched against kids.  I like that this can be a quick game – play the best out of 5 cards – if needed.

 

4. Ticket to Ride – My boys love trains, so this was a no-brainer. It’s expensive (at nearly $50 in most stores), but has many levels of fun.  The object of the game is to earn points by building train routes from city to city as assigned in the “Destination” cards.  Since we play with young children, we leave our cards face-up and try to collaborate and suggest solutions for and with one another.  There is a lot of strategy to this game, but it also involves an element of chance.  Bonus: it familiarizes players with geography!

 

5.  Blokus – This is a great spacial reasoning game that appeals to the OCD in me.  If you every played and loved Tetris… if you like to pack the dishwasher (or the trunk) just right, this game is for you.  My husband and I got this one pre-kids, but have found that they love it.  The object of the game is to play as many of your pieces as possible; the rules are that you pieces may only touch on the corners.  Again, we coach and suggest with strategy, but allow them to make their own choices.

 

6.  Sequence – This is another game we started playing pre-kids (with other adults), but found the kids enjoyed it.  You play on teams of two or three.  Each person get 5-7 cards marked like a deck of playing cards.  The board has two occurrences of every card, except Jacks (which are wild).  The object of the game is to make a sequence (or two) of five-in-a-row… or block the opposing team from doing so.  It’s like a cross between matching and bingo, with a fair deal of strategy.  There is a kids version, which we gave as a birthday party gift once, but have never owned.

 

7.  Ravensburger Labyrinth – This is a fun “treasure hunting” game that involves an ever-changing maze.  Players each get 5-7 cards with a variety of objects or characters (a dragon, a princess, a ghost, a genie, a bat, an owl, etc)… each person must travel through the maze in search of each object, and be the first to make it back to the starting square to win.  There are ways to make the game more or less challenging, depending on the age and ability of the players.

 

Do you have a favorite family game?  Share in the comments!

 

 

 

 

A Waterproof Case for Your Smartphone

I have my smartphone with me all the time.  Partly because it’s my camera, partly because it’s my phone, partly because it’s my internet… I have my iPhone with me all the time.  When I take the kids to the beach or the pool, I don’t like risking damage.  So last November, when Hip2Save posted a great deal on a waterproof case, I got it… even though I wouldn’t be needing one for months.  Best random purchase ever.  The OtterBox Armor Series Waterproof Case has been an amazing Creative Solution.

If you don’t have an iPhone, OtterBox also makes a waterproof case for the Samsung Galaxy called the Preserver Series.

Don’t get me wrong: this case is bulky and more protection than I need most of the time.  But I don’t keep my iPhone in the OtterBox most of the time… I just keep the case with my sunscreen, towels, and pool stuff and put it on when I need it.  There are two little hinges that easily open and close the case.  And by close, I mean lock-it-down.  And because it’s waterproof, the microphone is blocked, so calls are a little muffled unless you open that little flap.

Still, this has been an awesome Creative Solution because I am able to take pictures and video while in the water, having fun with friends and family.

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While enjoying a fun day on the river with friends, my iPhone was accidentally knocked into the water while in the Otterbox Armor case.  It sank about 4 feet to the muddy bottom before it was recovered.  Not only did the Otterbox prove to be waterproof, but because of my case, we were able to capture some amazing and fun memories!

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Travel Mugs

I am an avid hot-tea drinker, averaging 4-6+ cups a day (a tea snob, really, but that’s another post).  I’m also a frugal problem-solver.  I’ve been making (and carrying) my own tea in travel mugs for a while.  But I’m also a little on the clumsy side.  And I spill things A LOT.  So I needed a Creative Solution for a Spill-Proof Travel Mug.  

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The Contigo Travel Mug is truly one of my favorite things.  People who have them rave about them in cult-like fashion.  I have four of the 16 ounce travel mugs; my husband has two.  I drink twice as much tea as he drinks coffee.

Why I love Contigo Travel Mugs:

  • They do not leakIMG_0623
  • They are dishwasher safe.
    • The lid is 100% dishwasher safe.  No valve to clean or gasket to worry about ruining.
    • It’s recommended that you hand wash the bottom so that the color doesn’t chip off the mug.  Notice the chipped paint on the red mug?  That’s from 2 or 3 years in the dishwasher, which doesn’t bother me at all.  So putting the whole thing in the dishwasher may affect its aesthetic beauty, but not its function.
  • They keep hot stuff hot for a really long time.
  • They also keep cold stuff cold.
  • Sometimes we like to bring an adult beverage to the pool in the summer… or the park… or wherever… and in the Contigo travel mug offers a multi-faceted Creative Solution on this front.

Amazon has them in a variety of colors, so when I prepare my different varieties of tea, I know which flavor is in which mug.  And/or (gasp!) how to tell the difference between my tea and my husband’s coffee.  The lids are also color coded, so his coffee stained lid doesn’t ever touch my lips.  

Amazon offers single 16oz mugs for $20, single 20 oz mugs for $22   or a two-pack of the 16 oz for $38.95.

Tea Caddy

IMG_0620So because I’m me, I have a designated little tote to carry all my tea mugs.

I use a cute, fun, and functional “Littles Carry-All Caddy” from ThirtyOne for $12 (plus shipping; and you can get it monogrammed if you’d like).

If you’re interested in this handy little tote, may I recommend my friend Stephanie, who is a ThirtyOne consultant.

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I have a few of these Carry-All Caddies… One hangs on a hook by my back door with all the sunscreen and bug spray bottles.  When we went camping, we used one to hold the toilet paper, towel, and handsoap as a “bathroom caddy.”  They’re just the perfect size and shape.