It’s no secret that Christmas is right around the corner. And as much as I pride myself on my budgeting skills and preparedness, every November finds me wracking my brain for last minute gifts for the kids (and not just *my* kids, but our nieces and nephews too!). In this age of digital downloads it’s getting harder and harder to find toys that not only can be wrapped and placed under the tree but that also excite and engage the recipient. Board games are the answer!
We’ve always been huge fans of board games. Our love for “family game night” (and “casual game lunch”, “game time for no reason” and “I’m using board games to bribe the kids into cleaning their room”) has long predated my knowledge of the benefits of playing them. Needless to say when I was approached by University Games about reviewing some new ones, I literally jumped at the chance. There may or may not have been a happy dance involved too.
Consequently, my product reviews for November are going to focus on some amazing games that would make incredible gifts. We’ll kick things off with JD’s favorite:
Kids on Stage, The Charades Game for Kids
The quality of the materials is excellent. The box is thick, the folding game board is strong and the game pieces are durable plastic flat-bottomed pegs (unlike the cheap cardboard tokens some games use nowadays). The colors are vivid and fun too. The spinner *actually* spins thanks to a two-piece plastic mechanism (no cardboard dragging it to a stop), which I really appreciate. The overall quality is comparable to the oldschool board games of my childhood. Me likey! My only complaint is that the cards themselves are flimsy. I wish they had been printed on heavier card stock instead of little glossy paper squares. They still do the job but I’m afraid they’ll get bent or ripped with regular use, especially considering how critical they are to the game play itself and how active this style of game is. I’ll keep you updated on how well they hold up in the long run. To assure the longevity of your board game though, I’d recommend laminating the cards with clear contact paper.
The rules are simple: Each player takes turns spinning the spinner, moving their game piece the number of spaces determined by the spinner then acting out the action, animal or object pictured on the color of card that corresponds to the space they land on. I *love* the fact that everyone gets to shout out answers and that the player acting out the clue continues doing so until someone (anyone!) guesses correctly. The object of the game is to reach the finish… so everyone plays until everyone finishes! And everyone has fun doing so. In fact despite WINNING the game, the first kid(s) to make it off the board each time we played were disappointed because they want to keep acting out more clues.
Game play and overall thoughts:
Tons of fun! I’ve never seen my kids so animated. I was very impressed by how well Kids on Stage kept such a broad range of ages engrossed in the action. I played it with my three oldest children: Evie just turned three, JD turned five the day before Evie’s birthday (he was actually wearing his “birthday crown” while we played!) and Charlie is seven years old. None of the kids lost interest during the course of the game and everyone (including myself and my mom who was watching) found the process of acting and guessing to be challenging, entertaining and occasionally hilarious.
Aside from how accommodating Kids on Stage is to a varied group of ages, I also appreciate the fact that it can be played by up to six players. That makes it perfect to play with a friend… or your three siblings and your parents!
When playing the first time, I suggest that a grown-up takes the first turn if possible. Although the cards are cleverly designed so that no reading skills are needed, my three and five year old required an example to know that they weren’t supposed to yell out the clue as if they’re identifying a flash card. Also, I noticed it took watching mom act out the role of a pair of scissors and a fish before they truly overcame their shyness during their own turns. I’m assuming this is why the directions actually specify that the oldest player goes first. It really is a useful rule.
In the end I strongly recommend this game. It would make a fantastic gift or favorite addition to the family board game collection. The more often it’s played, the more confidence the kids gain and the more creative and thoughtful they become about performing the clues. For example: The first time we played Kids on Stage, JD portrayed “Pants” by laying on the floor stiff as a board in complete silence (because that’s what pants do, right?). The third time we played however, he happened to draw the same card and proceeded to act out the motion of stepping each leg into a pair of pants then pulling them up (like he was getting dressed). Keep in mind that nobody had gotten the “Pants” card during our second game, so there’s no chance JD was copying someone else. The game had obviously helped him improve his critical thinking process (and consequently the quality of his clues) with practice. It was heartwarming to watch and be a part of that process. Board games are amazing!
Disclaimer: This item was provided to me for free in order to facilitate this review. I pride myself on being an honest person though, so my opinion was not influenced in any way. I am also in no way obligated (or compensated) to share it here. I test hundreds of products and only a fraction of them are shared on my blog. That’s because only a fraction of them are extraordinary… in my opinion, anyway!