Board games and their puzzle relations are great fun for the gifted mind. All of the games on this list are tried and true and rated highly by gifted children. Board games are more interactive than any video game, and they can bring the generations together any night of the week.
Bananagrams is a fast and fun alternative to Scrabble. The entire game comes neatly packed in a compact and highly portable cloth banana. Letter tiles are all equal in value, and the object is to use your “bunch” to make a crossword style arrangement of letters. My family discovered Bananagrams while on vacation this past summer, and we had a blast playing during long, lazy evenings. I'll be sure to stow it in my suitcase for future traveling.
Apples to Apples is a fairly recently released game that has grown into a phenomenon. The basic idea is for each player to match subject cards from his hand with the adjective card on display. It is available in several incarnations now, for every level of reader. The original is rated for age 11 and up, the junior version for nine and up, and the Kid's version for 7 and up. All of these do require fairly fluent reading ability. The vocabulary grows slightly more advanced with each age jump. Sample subject cards for the junior version are, “braces”, “my friends”, and “chocolate milk”. The original version's cards include, “Emily Dickinson”, “Puff Daddy”, “My love life”, and “At my parent's house”. You can also find a Bible and a Jewish version of Apples to Apples. For someone who likes to get really creative, blank customizable cards are also available to supplement any set.
Art Lotto by the National Gallery of Art is a game my kids have enjoyed playing from about 20 months old. It's nothing more than old fashioned BINGO, with gorgeous artwork taking center stage. The tiny masterpieces are captivating and the kids like to say the artist's name and the title of the work when the cards are flipped.
Quirkle is a new Mensa select game for 2007. This strategy game involves colorful wooden tiles that resemble dominoes, with six different shapes on them. Each shape comes in every color, and as in the game SET, players must pay attention to more than one attribute. It's deceptively simple to play, yet difficult to master. Players compete to earn points and attempt to block their opponents from scoring big. Distributor Mindware recommends Quirkle for age six plus, but much younger kids can play if the game is not played too competitively.
Cranium has produced a great assortment of highly engaging and entertaining games for all ages. My top pick for a pre-reader is Cranium Hullabaloo. Hullabaloo has a portable transmitter which issues verbal commands, along with about 20 flexible pads. These pads are in different shapes and colors, and they each have a unique design such as a pot of spaghetti, a bucket of popcorn, or a frog. The speaker instructs players to “crawl over to a square”, or “spin to a musical instrument”. After several rounds, the instruction is given to “Freeze!” The unit then asks if anyone is standing on a given piece that fits the description of the last command. Bouncy music plays while players are in motion. A child is ready for Hullabaloo when she can identify shapes, colors, and the simple drawings of foods, animals, and instruments. You'll be surprised at how much the older siblings and cousins will enjoy this one too!
Finally, I want to include a few ideas for things that bright youngsters can play on their own. The original 3 x 3 square Rubik's Cube has made a huge comeback, and it is very affordable at just over ten dollars. If that's not challenging enough, you can also purchase a 4 x 4 cube, known as Rubik's Revenge, or a 5 x 5 cube called Rubik's Professor Cube! For the youngest puzzlers, try Rubik's Junior. The Junior is a 2 x 2 cube recommended for age five plus. There's also the Rubik's Revolution, which resembles the original 3 x 3 cube with a light in the center of each side. Similar to the old “Simon” game, players must tap the light and try to repeat patterns. Last but not least, the Rubik's Twist is a flexible geometric strand that can be shaped into many different designs.
Happy Holidays to one and all!