This next gift guide is dedicated to the games we love and want, digital and non. As usual, I’ve also popped these recommendations into the Media Macaroni store.
Skylanders fans have undoubtedly added the new Swap Force to their list, now with the ability to swap the tops and bottoms of Skylanders for a huge range of power combos. If your kid is new to Skylanders, never fear. This is a fine place to jump right in to the franchise.
To be honest, I expected this game to be nothing more than a Disney-fied Skylanders, but it’s so much more than that. Sure, you get to play adventures with your favorite Disney characters, but there’s a whole customization and game design element to the game. This might not be for every kid, but you can design your own games, and change up how the game looks. I was hooked when the environment looked like Tangled and then all the roads looked like Tron. We go deep into the Disney catalog.
My friend Sara Farber is one half of the team that created Schmovie: The Hilarious Game of Outlandish Films. With every roll of the dice and flip of the cards, players are challenged to come up with the funniest movie name to please the player who’s the Movie Producer. Though the box says 13+, this is a great game played as a family. Take out any cards with unfamiliar vocabulary, and kids can play on their own.
It’s never to late to start playing Pokémon! Olive and I recently went to a preview of these latest Nintendo DS games, and Olive was hooked. Adorable little creatures that do battle! What could be better? She really like seeing the evolution of the Pokémon, and loved the idea of collecting them. I haven’t played Pokémon in 10 year, and was dazzled by how good the games look now. It’s worth noting, too, that you don’t need both. The main difference between the two games is some of the characters available.
For years at Toy Fair, I always stopped to play The Laser Game: Khet 2.0, where you had to use pieces like mirrors and beam splitters to make laser reach a target. It was never very kid friendly… until now. Working with the inventor of The Laser Game, ThinkFun has made this cool STEM-friendly game, perfect for ages 8 and up.
Not everyone is ready for the epic grown-up game Settlers of Catan, so this junior version is perfect for young settlers. This is a great early strategy game, as player balance their available resources to try to settle the island faster than their opponents.
We love the math game Set, and with Set Junior, even our 3-year-old Ozzie can play! This is a great primer, learning how to find sets of the same color, shape, and number of objects.
This is a Tetris-style board game that’s fun to play with your kids, as you strategize how to place your pieces on the board to be able to get as many pieces on as possible. I also love this game because the manipulatives are so great. We often find that Ozzie has emptied the box out on the floor and is making designs with the pieces on the board.
OK, I’m giving a plug to one of my own games in my own gift guide, but I’m quite fond of this game I designed for LeapPad and Leapster Explorer. Kids travel the globe, earning animals in a wide array of different habitats. To earn each animal, you play a series of games where you learn about that animal, becoming the animal expert. I had so much fun learning about the amazing animal of the world while making this game. Hopefully your kids will have fun playing it!
Other 2013 gift guides: