Category Archives: Games

Disruptus

Disruptus is one of my new favorite games.  It’s great for Brain Breaks and to jump start brainstorming sessions.  I’ve used it with my younger and older students, and it has been a hit with all of them so far. Like Anaxi, which I reviewed here, it is produced by Funnybone Toys.  You can find it at specialty toy stores and periodically on Amazon.

The game consists of heavy-duty cards that each have a picture on them, a cube, and a timer.  You can read the instructions on the Funnybone website.  There are different versions of gameplay.  So far, my students have enjoyed just watching me roll the cube under the document camera and selecting random cards.  Then I set the timer (I think it’s about 2 minutes), and they scramble to draw or write ideas on scratch paper.  Then we share the ideas.  If you want to make it competitive, you can play it similar to Apples to Apples, where one person is the judge and selects what he or she thinks was the most creative idea.

Here are the options on the faces of the cube that you might roll:

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My first graders were playing the “Create 2” and we pulled out a picture of a toilet and a picture of a steering wheel.  You can imagine the ideas they generated for combining those!

You know those early finishers who don’t have enough time, really, to start something else – but still have enough time to distract the students still working?  Put this under the document camera to think about when done, and tell them you will discuss everyone’s answers as an exit ticket, in the line for the bathroom, or any other transition time during the day.

There are lots of grins and laughs when we do this.  Most importantly, the students are exercising their divergent thinking skills which, too often, don’t get enough use during the school day.

For more activities similar to this, check out this post on Mockups, how to use Flippity for Makerspace Challenges, and these 5 Resources for Design Thinking Challenges.

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Breakout Edu Seasonal Games (Update)

This is actually a repost from last year, but Breakout Edu has changed its format a bit.  In order to access the holiday games, you will need to be logged in (registration is free), and then you can use this link: https://platform.breakoutedu.com/category/christmas-hanukkah-and-winter-holidays There are digital games and physical games included in the collection.

I should probably add Breakout Edu’s Seasonal Games to my “Teachers’ December Survival Kit.”  What better way is there to keep your students engaged, learning, and problem-solving than sending them on a holiday quest?  You can find Breakout Edu games related to December holidays at the above link.

In case you haven’t hear about Breakout Edu yet, here is my first post about the site. Digital Breakout Edu games don’t require the physical equipment (boxes, locks, etc…) that are suggested for the regular games.  Don’t despair if you want to try a Breakout Edu game and don’t have the supplies.  I’ve seen teachers use many creative ways to simulate the boxes and locks with found materials. The students will enjoy working out the puzzles no matter what you use!

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image from Pixabay

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – RollerCoaster Challenge

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here.  And, if you want to see the more than 100 games and toys I’ve recommended over the years on my blog, check out my Pinterest board.

RollerCoaster Challenge is another fabulous product from ThinkFun.  I’m pretty sure the company doesn’t need any PR from me, as this game has won numerous awards in the last year, including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award and Toy of the Year Finalist.  I’ve seen it recommended on numerous gift guides – especially ones that are related to S.T.E.M. products. But all of those accolades may not have reached the audience who reads this blog, so I want to make sure RollerCoaster Challenge gets included in my list, too.

I’m going to start with getting one negative out of the way – pretty much the only negative about this game.  There are a lot of pieces in this game.  As a parent and a teacher, I get kind of nervous about games dependent on numerous parts.  Easy to lose, painful to step on, difficult to store.  However, the pieces are what make this game so entertaining.  It reminds me a bit of the game Mousetrap that I used to play as a kid.  The fun is in putting the pieces together just the right way. (I never actually played Mousetrap, just assembled the bazillion parts.)

RollerCoaster Challenge is a 1-player game that is suitable for ages 6 and up.  Of course, the number of players and the best age group varies in real life.  Most of ThinkFun’s solitaire games work well with 2 or 3 people collaborating to solve the challenges, and this one is no exception.  As for age range, I refer you to the above paragraph.  If your 6-year-old (or 10-year-old, for that matter) has a problem with leaving Legos all over your house, you may want to think twice about this purchase – or be proactive with a plan for keeping the pieces contained.

The game comes with Challenge cards, scaffolded perfectly to increase the difficulty slightly on each challenge.  The cards tell you which pieces to use to build your roller coaster: tracks, posts, and tunnels.  The diagram shows you certain locations, and then the player(s) must figure out where to place the rest in order to make a working roller coaster track.  When completed, you can put the small plastic coaster attached to a ball bearing (included) at the top of the track and let it go.  Watch it swiftly glide down the track to its end-point, and cheer!  (My students added the last instruction, and adhered to it faithfully at the conclusion of each challenge.)

Of course, there is no law against designing roller coaster tracks of your own imagination.  In fact, ThinkFun encourages this by offering a free online “Create Your Own RollerCoaster Challenge Card” link.  You start with a solution, then the challenge, and can share the whole thing on social media or print it when finished.

My 3rd grade students love this game.  If I had let them, they probably would have played it for hours.  Their spatial reasoning skills are far superior to mine, and they could identify where to place the posts and tracks with little effort on the Beginning challenges.  Once we reached the next level, it took them a bit longer to solve (which is exactly what I like to see), but they persevered happily.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that RollerCoaster Challenge is well worth the anxiety of keeping “track” of numerous pieces.  I definitely recommend it for budding engineers and problem solvers!

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Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Castle Panic

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page. Also, you can see last week’s recommendation here.  And, if you want to see the more than 100 games and toys I’ve recommended over the years on my blog, check out my Pinterest board.

I’m going to admit that I debated whether or not to include Castle Panic on this year’s list due to the recommended age level (10+).  But I really think that children as young as 7 or 8 could play the game after playing a few rounds with parents or older siblings.

A friend gave our family Castle Panic as a gift last year, and it quickly became a favorite during the winter break.  Not too long before that, we had become obsessed with playing Catanso we opened Castle Panic expecting something similar.  Although there are some similarities (cards that can be traded and the importance of strategy), there is one huge difference – Castle Panic is a cooperative game.  In other words, all of the players must work together to slay monsters before the castle towers are destroyed.  This took a bit getting used to, as Catan is a game where players selfishly hang on to valuable pieces while in Castle Panic selfishness will almost certainly result in everyone’s defeat.

The main reason that Castle Panic may be rated 10+ is that there are a lot of rules.  The first few times we played, there were many rule book consultations, and that does require pretty fluent reading ability.  However, children seem to be quite good at remembering the rules – particularly when adults break them – so I don’t see that as a huge obstacle as long as adults aren’t expecting the children to play this on their own right out of the box.  Several commenters on the Amazon reviews seemed to agree with me on this point.  The only other sticking point that some people might have is that there are monsters to be destroyed.  This could pose an ethical problem for some, I suppose, and a nightmare concern for others.  To the latter point, I would say that the monsters are no worse than the ones you would see in comic books or a Marvel movie so I guess that can be your measuring stick.

The game can be played as a solitaire game, but I don’t think that is quite as much fun.  There also is a competitive version where one player can earn the most points.  But our family prefers the plain “Co-Op” version (2-6 players) and cheers heartily when we defeat the numerous monsters against all odds.

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You can find Castle Panic here!

Gifts for the Gifted 2017 – Dog Pile

A few years ago, I thought I would help out the parents of my gifted and talented students by writing about some games, toys, or books that I thought might make good purchases during the holiday season.  I called the series of posts, “Gifts for the Gifted,” and I have continued to do it annually on every Friday in November and December.  These gifts are suggestions for any child – not just those who qualify for a GT program. Sometimes I receive a free product for review, but I am not paid for these posts, and I never recommend a product that I wouldn’t buy for my own child.  For past “Gifts for the Gifted” posts, you can visit this page.

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Dog Pile might be a good stocking stuffer for kids 8 and up.  Though the box recommends it for 10+, there is no reading needed (except for the instructions).  It’s a good game to promote growth mindset and spatial reasoning. Responsibility is another attribute you may need to cultivate, so none of the small plastic dog pieces get lost 😉

The multi-colored dogs included are in a variety of shapes.  Challenge cards are included with scaffolded puzzles from Beginner to Expert.  Each card has a region that must be filled by the dogs suggested on the card.  When placed properly, the dogs will fill the area of the shape without going outside the lines.

Dog Pile is one of the games I like to say belongs in the, “Solitaire Games Best Played with a Partner.”  My daughter and I take turns on the challenges for games like this.  In my classroom, students usually work in pairs or small groups on games of this category (like Rover Control).  Conversing about the puzzles seems to help, and kids tend to persevere more.  It’s also important to keep them on the challenge “continuum.”  Children often try the first couple of puzzles, think those are too easy, and then skip to the Expert challenges.  When the Expert level frustrates them, they sometimes declare the game is “no fun.”  Encourage them not to skip levels, as each one slowly introduces new difficulties that will prepare them for more complex puzzles later on.  If playing this at home, you will find that games like this have a lot more “staying power” when adults join in and model good problem solving skills.

You can watch the video below for a quick explanation of the game.

Oh, and if your household prefers cats, there is a feline version of the game here!

Student Crosswords from the NY Times

Did you know that the New York Times has an archive of student crosswords listed by subjects on this page?  From American History to Technology, you can find puzzles created by Frank Longo as well as the answers and suggested curriculum links.  I found this link when I discovered this page that provides a printable crossword puzzle on how people say thank you around the world.  A couple of other timely suggestions are, “Thanksgiving,” “Giving,” and “Holidays Around the World.”  These seem to be targeted at the teenage age range, though some upper elementary and middle school students can probably work on them in groups, given the proper resources.

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image from Pixabay

Futoshiki Puzzles

These online Futoshiki Puzzles were created by KrazyDad (you can find puzzles of all types on his site here).  The puzzles are similar to Sudoku and KenKen in that you are trying to place numbers in a matrix using logic without repeating digits in any row or column.  The twist is that Futoshiki puzzles provide clues using the inequality symbols for less than/greater than.  Your clues are in comparing boxes that are on either side of the inequality to determine which digits would logically work.

You can do Futoshiki puzzles online here.  Or, you can print out the pages provided by KrazyDad here.

Jim Bumgardner, the man behind KrazyDad, provides practically unlimited puzzle game fun on his site, so once you get worn out on the Futoshiki puzzles I recommend you try some of his other unique puzzles.

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image from Wikimedia