Top 5 Games I Play With My Kids

Written by on May 2, 2013 in [, ]

I’m a gamer. I’ve always been a gamer, and I have every intention of raising my children to be gamers as well. Society bemoans video games because of the isolation they imply, eagerly contesting that digital interaction doesn’t replace physical interaction. Whether I think society’s reaction is overblown or not, I do believe there is some truth to the fact that parents can be guilty of using video games as cheap babysitting (or television in general, but the context here is gaming). The answer to this dilemma is not to take away the video games, but rather the physical isolation that is often coupled with them.

To this end, here are five games I love playing with my children. I should note that my children are younger, and so the games aren’t as complex. These games are in no particular order, but I will save my favorite game (which spans ages VERY well) for last.

1. Hisss

You didn’t think I was only going to talk video games, did you? One of the best things about tabletop gaming is that social interaction is a must. Our society is obsessed with the idea that “gamer” means “video gamer” and it simply isn’t true.

Hisss is a game published by GAMEWRIGHT Games, the makers of the wildly successful Forbidden Island (never heard of Forbidden Island before? Check out my article about it). Hisss is a simple game where the object is to create a snake. Every turn you draw a card from the pile. This card will be a section of a snake and can either be one color or two (or rainbow). It could be a head, a tail, or a mid section piece. If you’re able to connect this or another piece in your hand to a snake on the table, you can do so. The player that completes the snake “wins” the snake and is able to move it in front of them. The player with the most snakes wins!

I love Hisss because it is easy to teach and works through some basic logic (snakes have one head and one tail) and teaches color matching. Hisss is a quick, easy game that rapidly levels the playing field and empowers my children to play competitively without attacking one another (or us parents, which is keen).

Hisss has been the recipient of a number of awards, including the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award. You can typically find Hisss for sale online for less than $15.

2. Kinect Party

The Kinect is a great little device that makes a lot of things more interesting. In my house we most often use the audio controls for music playback and a few other things like that, but there is the occasional game that piques our interest. Kinect Party is one of those games.

Kinect Party reminds me a lot of a motion controlled Wario Ware title. There are a ton of mini games thrown at you one after another, and most of them are just plain silly. There is no real concept of pass or fail, so there is no frustration because of unsuccessful play. Often times, my daughter and I will play Kinect Party and just laugh hysterically at all of the goofy things we are doing. If you aren’t familiar with Kinect Party, it’s sort of difficult to explain. Kinect Party is a collection of mini games, completely unrelated to one another, streaming at you one every couple of minutes. These games can be (and often are) something as simple as showing you on the screen exactly what the Kinect sees, and allowing you to place props in and around the reflected video. Kinect Party does a surprisingly good job of keeping these props in the correct place - if I put a hat on my daughter’s head in the game it will stay on as she moves around. There’s no particular point to the game as far as I can tell, but we have a blast playing it.

3. Family Fluxx

A lot of people are familiar with Fluxx, the game with no win condition to start and where the rules are simple - draw a card and play a card. Not as many people know there is a family version. In Fluxx, there are keeper cards, rule cards, action cards, and goal cards. The goal cards are often themed and say things like “Have this card and this card at the same time and you win”. Action cards cause events to happen, rule cards change the rules of the game (how many cards to draw, or hand limit size, or a requirement to play a different number of cards from your hand), and keeper cards are the cards the goals refer to most generally for victory conditions. Fluxx is a cute little game that can last 2 minutes or 2 hours, depending on the luck of the draw.

Family Fluxx still has the clear DNA of the main game. Much of the rule complication has been removed and many of the rules themselves have been removed. The goals are a little more directed towards children (For example, the “Happy Birthday” goal requires you have the “Cake” and “Gifts” Keeper cards). The game has also been slimmed down considerably to under 60 cards. New rule cards are present that do things based on family - Allowing children to draw more cards or grandparents not having to respect hand limits, for example.

The approachable nature of a game like Family Fluxx is something I greatly appreciate. With all the various themed versions of Fluxx, (Zombie Fluxx,Star Fluxx,Monty Python Fluxx, etc) there is plenty of room to grow as my children get older and want more complicated games. Without having to introduce completely new games, I can introduce some more complicated concepts while the core game remains the same. For now, this version suits us very well. Family Fluxx can be found online for less than $10.

4. Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster

This is the first game that really specifically caters to a younger demographic. Double Fine studios did an incredible job bringing the Sesame Street world to life through the fairy tale story: Once Upon a Monster. In the game you play primarily as Elmo, moving through the chapters of a storybook. In each of these chapters the players play minigames to be involved with the story exposition. My favorite part of the game is the quick and easy drop-in\drop-out multiplayer. I was easily able to stop playing for a little while and let my children play without me, or hop in to accomplish a task when something was getting too confusing. The second player supplements the Elmo storyline by playing as Cookie Monster whenever they opt to join.

While the storyline may seem short in the game, there is no doubt my children love the opportunity to dance with Elmo, or help Marco the Monster choose his clothes for the day, over and over again. The ability to pop in only when necessary (or when beckoned by young ones) is a critical feature that makes the difference between a cute game and a well thought out one.

5. Zitternix (Keep it Steady)

Finally, my favorite game to play with my children is an incredibly simple game by child toy maker Haba, Zitternix. Zitternix is a game comprised of 27 sticks of different circumference, 9 each of red, blue, and yellow, with the yellow being the thinnest and the blue the thickest. There is also a wooden ring and a 6 sided die. To start, you simply slide the ring around the sticks, twist the sticks, and put the whole thing down. Each player rolls the die, and depending on what color is face up (2x red, blue, yellow on the die), the player has to pull one of that color sticks out of the twisted pile.

I love Zitternix because the game is non-confrontational and incredibly easy to understand. Each person is tasked with pulling a colored stick they assigned themselves with the rolling of the die. There is no blame to be metered out, and we tend to ham up the slow collapse of the remaining standing sticks when someone’s ill-fated stick withdrawal destroys the structural integrity of the stick-and-ring contraption. Zitternix is available online as Zitternix or Keep it Steady and can be found on Amazon for under $20.

So there you have it - five games I love playing with my children. I look forward to playing more complicated games with them, but I won’t reject the idea of playing games with my kids - even organized games - under the premise of them not being old enough. There are many other great games for kids out there, from Elemnis to Bonbons, but these are five that we love in our house.


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Andrew Smith View all posts by

One Comment on "Top 5 Games I Play With My Kids"

  1. Anitra May 2, 2013 at 11:57 am -

    May I point out that although Zitternix is presented as a child’s game, we have played it as part of an adult game night and had a blast! I’d say it’s as simple as Jenga - and creates less of a mess to pick up when you’re done.