For decades my family traveled from all over the country to get together for the holidays. My job was to bring a great new toy or game that would entertain a group of people, of various ages and interests, for many hours.
Here are 10 toys and family games that are worth the money because of the hours of laughter and togetherness they create.
I determine whether a family game is worth the money by seeing how many hours it is used. So, if you pay $10 for something, but you only use it for an hour it isn’t nearly as worthwhile as something you pay $100 for that gets used for 200 hours.
For the price of two movie tickets (that lasts only 90 minutes) you can buy many hours of family fun… and an opportunity to get everyone’s nose out of their ipad, iphone, and handheld games.
- Catch Phrase – Think “hot potato” with a little electronic gadget. Two teams, time crunch, easy to learn. Fun for young and old. Easy to take to parties. Fun. Laughter. Great game. Nuf said.
- Rack-o – I can not begin to add up the hours my family spent sitting around the kitchen table playing this simple game. The objective: get your cards to line up from the smallest number to the largest number. As soon as a child knows how to count to 100, they can start to play this game. I vividly recall playing this game with an age range of the participants going from 4 years old to 90 years old. The game ends with a very satisfying arms-up-in-the-air shout of “RACK-O” by the winner.
- Little Tikes Basketball Hoop – When my son was 2 years old and full of energy, we spent the Holidays with several sets of elderly grandparents in a snowbound New England. This basketball hoop saved everyone’s sanity and brought endless smiles. We set up the hoop in the middle of the living room and used a balloon as the basketball. My grandmother and great-aunt sat in comfy chairs and gently tossed the balloon around to my son. Yep, indoor basketball. Warning: remove all breakables from the immediate area.
- Perplexus Maze Game – This is a maze game in a clear ball. I bought this game as a family holiday game two years ago. Not only was it played for hours and hours during that holiday season, it still resides on our living room mantel where a week never goes by that someone doesn’t pick it up and play with it. Talk about value! This toy is so popular that the company has come out with a simpler rookie version and more challenging epic version.
- Connect 4 – A classic game that is a more advanced (but not too advanced) form of tic-tak-toe. My kids learned to play this when they were about five but still find it challenging many years later. A younger player can definitely beat an older player. A quick game that can be played over and over. It also comes in a travel version.
- Apples to Apples – This is a great party game that is an ice breaker. We played this game with a bunch of relatives that we never had met before. All age ranges. It was fun.
- Hi-Ho-Cherry-O – Is your 3-year-old granddaughter coming to your house for the holidays? This is a simple counting game that never goes out of style.
- Guess Who – A classic memory game. Another fast game that can be played by young and old. I really like the DIY personalized Guess Who version where you use pictures of your own friends and family members. (note: the DIY instructions are for the older classic version of this game. If you can’t find the older version in a store, look for it in thrift stores and yard sales.)
- Marbleworks Marble Maze by Discovery Toys – This was one of the very first toys that I actual purchased retail. When we first got this creative building set, my son was not old enough to figure out how to put it together. So, my husband spent many hours making intricate mazes that the two of them played with. Priceless. Caution: this toy uses marbles and your child might swallow one. I know.
- Othello – Simple, minutes-to-learn lifetime-to-master game. Great packaging helps to keep the pieces from getting lost. Hubby and I have spent many hours playing this one.
Bonus – Chaos Tower – OK, I’ve not experienced this “toy” yet, but it looks VERY interesting. A mixture of Rube Goldberg, Mouse Trap, and Marble Maze. This is a good activity for older kids and interested adults. Similar to the gigantic ball machine sculptures created by George Rhoads as seen in Logan Airport and Boston Science Museum, this engineering set seems to provide many hours of stimulating educational fun. From reading the reviews, this is not for little kids – I don’t care what the packaging says.