Dear Santa: Please Bring Games – Lots and Lots of Games

By Tonya Graser Smith

Each family embraces certain winter holiday traditions. Lighting candles. Baking cookies. Watching “A Christmas Story” or “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

The tradition we’re cultivating in the Smith household: Spending less time on screens and more time on games. Good old-fashioned board games and cards. Let’s just say we LOVE the competition, and our children are learning valuable life skills.

We love games so much that my husband and I planned our den renovation around making sure we have ample room to accommodate our seemingly always growing collection. Our favorite games right now are Clue, Ticket to Ride and Uno.

There will no doubt be more games under our family tree and given to all the cousins. I polled my sisters about their favorite childhood games, and let’s just say I now have their kids’ gifts covered. They will be receiving Candy Land and Memory.

Here’s some of my favorite recs. They are broken into two categories. There’s “little kid,” meaning they are perfect right now for my son (with or without adult help) and will soon be ideal for my toddler daughter. And there’s “whole family.”

Little Kid

Blink. From the makers of Uno, this card game is billed as “the world’s fastest game.”

Chutes and Ladders. So close to winning until you hit the longest slide two spaces from the end! A classic.

Don’t Break the Ice. Don’t let the penguin slip through the ice.

Memory. Even odds whose memory is better – the kids or the adults.

Operation. “It takes a steady hand.”

Perfection. Quick, match all the shapes. Even Mom and Dad will jump when the timer goes off. Retro perfection.

Zingo. It’s like bingo with sight words for preschool and kindergarteners.

Whole Family

Battleship. Making your best loud sinking sounds is mandatory.

Boggle. This classic word game is equally fun for kids and adults.

Catan. Trade Build Settle. Friendly family competition right? If you like Ticket to Ride, you will like this one.

Clue. Mr. Green, with the candlestick, in the dining room. The best is when it was your player character who did it!

Exploding Kittens. Good for people who are into kittens, explosions, laser beams and sometimes goats. Need I say more?

Guess Who?. Watch out when your little ones learn the maximum value of, “Is your person wearing a blue shirt?” as their first question.

Jaipur. In this fast two-person game, players try to sell the most gold, rubies, textiles and more.

Phase 10. I have never met a game from Uno that I didn’t like. This one is a rummy-type game.

Scattergories. Score points for your unique (and often hilarious) responses.

Sorry!. Sorry, not sorry when you win. Same goes when your kiddo beats you fair and square.

Ticket to Ride. Who doesn’t love trains? I like the sneaky geography lesson, too. And I have even seen Millennials taking this board game to parties. (Note there are several different versions, including a Europe edition, and there’s a little kid version called Ticket to Ride First Journey.)