Games for Tweens, Teens, and The Whole Family

In an era where just about everyone over the age of two has a room full of electronic devices, it can be hard for families to find ways to spend quality time together (meaning everyone is actually looking at everyone else). It’s especially tough if the kids are careening toward adolescence. This week we review four really fun games for families with kids eight and up. No batteries, chargers, or Internet connection required.

betcha can't winBetcha Can’t Win (Simply Fun)
It seems simple enough: Each player has six dice and rolls them as many times as necessary to match the number (using any math function) on cards that are face up on the table. Match as many as you can and rack up the points. But beware: if another player matches your points, you could end up with zero. Great for learning math and risk/reward. 15-30 minutes play time. For 2-4 players, ages 8+. $28.00 at http://www.simplyfun.com/

pack itPack It (Simply Fun)
Everyone ready? We’re all going on a hike, so you’d better start loading up your backpack. Players are dealt several Item cards (compass, tent, frying pan, map, and so on, each of which includes a value in miles) that they use to start stocking their backpacks. The goal is to put together a pack with the greatest number of miles. Then, they take turns drawing cards to add the items they’re missing and increase mileage. But watch out for the Hazard cards (Bear, Skunk, Blister). For example, if you draw the Blister and have socks in your pack, you’re okay. But if you don’t have socks, you have to discard your highest value card. Draw the Skunk and you’ll have to discard two cards. 20-30 minutes play time. For 2-5 players, ages 8+. $24.50 at http://www.simplyfun.com/

strike a poseStrike a Pose (R&R Games)
Think Charades but without any of the movement or acting. In each round, one player is the Collector, a guy or gal who’s buying statues for a fabulous estate. The Collector leaves the room and the rest of the players draw one card (used by the whole group) which has a category and a number of statue options. For example, in the “At the Beach” category, statues include “Sun bathing”, “Building a sand castle,” and “Playing volleyball.” Each player pics one option and freezes in a pose they think will best mimic the person, place, or thing. The Collector returns, looks at the Category card and tries to guess which player is which statue. No movement or sounds—statues are made of stone, right? The opportunities for silliness are endless. 30-45 minutes play time. For 3-14 (yes, 14) players, ages 10+. $17.95 at online retailers or http://rnrgames.com/

unnatural selectionUnNatural Selection (R&R Games)
Use your “super cool Mod Ray X5000” weapon to mash together your own crazy creatures. Start with a single animal (defined rather broadly, to include pet rocks), then play cards to add features. The goal is to create a beast that would defeat your opponents’ beasts in a battle. The combination of the features and animals can be incredibly funny. You might start with a goldfish and then add “sprinkled with tempura flakes” or “has a headache.” After all the players have done their finest mashing, it’s up to the judge (a role that rotates among the players) to decide which creature would emerge victorious in a smackdown. The player who wins the most challenges become the “Ultimate Warrior.” It’s fun, and fast-paced. 15-30 minutes play time. For 3-10 players, ages 8+. $11 at online retailers or at http://www.rnrgames.com/

 

Reclaim TV Time by Making It Safe for the Whole Family

What ever happened to just hanging out and listening to music or reading? We live in a world where popular music has to be marked with an explicit tag, and you have to show ID for the latest beats as if it were beer or cigarettes. The subtle lyrics of romance have been replaced with crass declarations. Your kid’s radio needs parental control settings.

They took away comic books by making them even darker and more sinister than they used to be. The heroes are more troubled and morally ambiguous in the name of character complexity. We call them “graphic novels” so that baby boomer adults can feel justified in buying them. And they are, as advertised, more graphic—and more disturbing.

Now, they’re coming for your TV. Actually, they’ve already got it. You may have purchased that big-screen TV for wholesome, family entertainment, but show by show, network by network, you’re losing the ability to turn on your television without it undermining the values you’re trying to instill in your kids. Violence and sexual situations make even prime-time, “family” TV shows earn their MA rating (for mature audiences only). Aside from TV Land and the Cartoon Network, our options as parents are getting narrower by the day.

The time has come to reclaim your family TV for your family. Here are a few suggestions:
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5 Great (And Nearly Unknown) Places to Raise a Family

Every family has its own personality. Some are sports nuts while others are full on sci-fi geeks. There are those that want to huge yard and others that do not want the hassle. Just like a family, cities have their own unique flair. If you are ready to make a move then matching your family’s needs to a city’s culture is the perfect pairing for a long and happy time in the neighborhood.

Old School With A Hip Vibe

If your kids have Ella Fitzgerald on their iPod then the Ballard district of Seattle, Washington may be your perfect match. This is an old-school, small town area in the biggest city of the Pacific Northwest. It has a working waterfront that contributes to the thriving Pacific fish industry. The boutique shops and fresh seafood restaurants have turned this once blue collar fishing town into a trendy area that is great for a family of free-spirited bohemians.

Photo by manleyaudio via Wikimedia Commons

The Electric Family

The engineering industry is changing locations and Boise, Idaho is one of the hubs. Forbes ranks Boise as the second best places to raise a family for it’s low cost of living and low crime rates. Idaho’s population has more than doubled in the last two decades, much of that because of an influx of technical personnel for the booming Boise scientific industry. With its rapid housing growth, it is also a great place to rehab a fixer-upper with additions to enhance the aesthetic and comfort of your home—add a sunroom or put in a new bathroom to gain equity.

Photo by Bjh21 via Wikimedia Commons

Norman Rockwell’s Family

If you are looking for a picturesque suburban area where kids ride their bikes, seniors stroll in the park, and lovers skate at the ice rink then look no further than West Hartford, Connecticut. With only around 60,000 people, West Hartford boasts six parks, ice skating rink, a dog park coalition, two senior centers and three libraries. West Hartford’s school system is one of the best in the state. All is good in West Hartford.

Photo by Ragesoss via Wikimedia Commons

A Sport For Every Kid

Football, baseball, and soccer are the staples of many American families. If your weekends are full of sporting events then move to Rio Rancho, New Mexico. This Albuquerque suburb has a 78.5 acre sports complex replete with baseball fields, dog parks, skate parks, and tennis courts. This is just one of more than forty parks, paths or outdoor venues that the city offers. Rio Rancho offers the temperate climate that comes with the Western states. Add to that the beautiful views and a top ranking school system, Rio Rancho is the perfect place for a family full of sporting enthusiasts.

More Outdoor But With A College Feel

Another place for the outdoorsy family, Logan, Utah is the home of a flowing river of the same name, big skies, and Utah State University. This is a college town by most descriptions. With more than 2,000 staff and faculty, Utah State University is the largest employer of the city. Having a university means that the city values education, and it is reflected in Logan’s educational system. With a city motto of “City United In Service,” Logan is the true definition of a neighborly community.

Photo by UtahStizzle via Wikimedia Commons

Excel at Math and Science Even If You Flunked Both in School

Barbara Oakley, author of A Mind for Numbers.
Topic:
How to excel at math and science even if you flunked them both in school.
Issues: The essential creativity underlying math and science; our biological instincts–how the brain is designed to do extraordinary mental calculations; simple mental tricks we can use to our learning advantage; tips to enhance your memory; what zombies have to do with math and science.

Lessons from Asperger’s + A Mind for Numbers

Jesse Saperstein, author of Getting a Life with Asperger’s.
Topic:
Lessons learned on the bumpy road to adulthood by a young man with Asperger’s.
Issues: Surviving the world of online dating; navigating the challenges of college; understanding how others perceive you (even if they’re wrong); keeping a job; confronting memories of being bullied; serving as a role model to the next generation.

Barbara Oakley, author of A Mind for Numbers.
Topic:
How to excel at math and science even if you flunked them both in school.
Issues: The essential creativity underlying math and science; our biological instincts–how the brain is designed to do extraordinary mental calculations; simple mental tricks we can use to our learning advantage; tips to enhance your memory; what zombies have to do with math and science.