Why I Play Games with My Children


A confession, mild torture and playing board games with children used to be synonymous in my mind.


When the kids were little, the few games we owned were kept out of sight and therefore rarely chosen. I'd tell myself it was to keep all the little pieces separate from the other toys, but if my children wanted to play with me, I'd suggest we read or craft or play outside, never dig into the trunk of board games. I was happy to play most anything they wanted, but board games were painful. 


I now know it wasn't the game playing as much as it was the games we played. Once we found games that entertained all of us, like Camp and Wildcraft, Game Night became a thing in our house. Now that they are older and there are more and more options, we choose Game Morning and Game Afternoon too.


When we play games, I want our time together to first and foremost be about the play, but board games are also great teachers.


Games offer us practice in reading, writing, math, logic, following directions, creativity, teamwork, problem-solving- the list goes on. 



When my daughter plays Snap it Up, Apples to Apples, or Bananagrams she practices reading and spelling without it feeling like practice. When she was little Battleship strengthened her awareness of numbers and letters. She wanted to play with her brother and learned what she needed to do so.


My kids don't think about the fact that they are practicing math facts when they want to keep score or working as a team when they play games like Outfoxed. Motivated by wanting to have fun, they are more likely to dive into a challenge when we play games. No longer boring or feeling pointless, games offer a reason to know the skill.




I worked with a high school math teacher who often used math games to teach. His students loved his class, despite the fact that many of them struggled with math. Colleagues questioned his methods, but the games provided as much practice as worksheets and drills. I'd wager more so.


When we tap into our children and students' internal motivation, which looks for FUN and PURPOSE, we help them learn and reinforce skills that can often feel the opposite.


We've recently added Risk, Outfoxed, Sushi Go, and Ticket to Ride to our game library.



Here is a list of games we love right now:


Reading/Spelling: Apples to Apples, My First Bananagrams, Scrabble, Snap it Up, Scattergories

Math: Mille Bornes, Snap it Up Math, Harry Potter Chess, Sushi Go, Blokus

Logic/Problem Solving: Goldie Blox, Harry Potter Clue

Cooperative: Wildcraft, Outfoxed, Camp

Science: Wildcraft, Camp

History/Geography- Risk, Ticket to Ride


While I wouldn't consider us "gamers" just yet, board games now live out in the open where we can see them and play them often. They've become one of our family's favorite ways we spend time together, learning and in play. 


Our family just joined the 31-Day #Gameschool Challenge. You should join us!


And this post from Geek Dad outlines more reasons why we should play games with our children.


Let us know which games your family loves! 


(Note- When possible, games are linked to a local business.)

Homeschool Day in the Life- Year Four

Playing along with the series A Homeschool Day in the Life at Simple Homeschool. 


A little over four years ago, with only a four-year-old at home, I wrote one of these posts. Two days later, four years ago today, Valentine's Day, Clark went to school for the last time.


Much has changed since those days before we were all home. I would never want to paint a perfect picture. There are challenges in the choices we make today, just like there were years ago. But recently when I was feeling overwhelmed by life and all the things out of my control, my husband asked me what I needed to let go of, and I realized there was nothing I'd change, nothing I'd let go of. Except for worry over what I can't control. That can go anytime.


A lot has also changed in how we homeschool. Each year we try some things, keep and quit some things. Right now we're in a good space of feeling like we know what works and what doesn't. We also know this will change, as it does, as they grow and need and want more or less. We'll need to readjust. Find out what works and doesn't again. 


All along, we've found a basic rhythm, with a little structure, works well. We need days at home, community classes, play dates, and park days. We need choice, a little encouragement here and there when we find a challenge, and time. Time to transition and time to learn at our pace. Patience needs to be present most days- mine and theirs. As does the outdoors, technology, and a lot of books. 


Here is a typical stay at home day in our current life. If we're lucky, these happen once or twice a week. 

5:00 AM- One of my many alarms goes off. If it's a Monday, I'm more likely to get up right after the first or second one. I quickly feed the mewing cats tangled around my feet and head for the room furthest from my sleeping family. I find the Viber app on my phone and call my best friend in Germany. It's 11 AM her time, and we have a little over an hour before she has to get her son from school. 


6:15 AM- Work time- most mornings I am up by now. I create agendas for the writing circles I facilitate, do bookkeeping for the same organization, do our bookkeeping, write, read, center and organize myself and whatever needs my attention.


8:00 AM- The kids get up and immediately the house fills with chatter. We make breakfast, sit down to eat, and talk about what we want to do today. If I remember we make a list. (Recently we started keeping said lists in one book. Seems logical. Only took four years.) 


8:30 AM- I take the dog for a walk, and the kids play. 


9:00 AM- 3 PM- This time is set aside for whatever the kids are interested in pursuing: games, art, writing, audiobooks, read-alouds, silent reading, outdoor play, math, projects, the list goes on. Anything goes and every day looks different. 


Right now Sophie (7) loves Math Seeds and ABC Mouse, doing science experiments, reading with me, writing in her journal, and making things for her dolls. She also loves climbing trees, playing with her brother, and drawing.


Clark (10) loves creating simple machines (and not so simple ones) with Lego, Minecraft, Khan Academy, playing board games, cooking, writing with me, and building forts in the backyard. 


Sometimes we do Mystery Science, listen to Sparkle Stories, or run down whatever rabbit hole we're interested in pursuing. 


Yesterday, two of us were feeling under the weather, so our day was spent making Valentines, playing Risk and Outfoxed, reading The Nevergirls and The Unfinished Angel, playing outside, doing Khan A. math, and drinking a lot of tea. 


3 PM- 5 PM- Screentime or playtime. This is when I check email, work, sit, and make dinner. 


5:00 PM- 6:30 PM- Chores and family dinner. By this time my husband is home from teaching or has wrapped up his work-at-home time. Everyone pitches in to help feed the animals, straighten up, and get dinner on the table. We linger at the dinner table, talk, play the question game (If you were an animal, what animal would you be today?), and help each other clean up. 


7:00 PM- Family time or outside time. Depending on the season, we head outside, watch tv, or play games. 


8:00 PM- Bedtime routine- This mostly consists of me reading to one or both kids. Depending on how tired I am and how much we're into the book we're reading, this lasts twenty minutes to an hour. 


9:00 PM- If I'm not asleep, I head downstairs to catch up with Big Clark, catch up on The Daily Show or lately, SNL, and unwind. 


10:00 pm- If I want to get up by 5 AM tomorrow; I need to get into bed. I listen to podcasts or read. 


While I'm not a huge lover of Valentine's day, the last four years, it has become an important anniversary. Today I'll get our annual dozen donuts, we'll exchange valentines with our playgroup, and hopefully us girls, who are not feeling great, will get better rather than worse. 


Today we begin another year at home together. Feels like a good day to celebrate love. 

How to Encourage Our Children to Write


We grab our journals. Clark's, a classic black and white composition book, mine a recent gift of writing prompts. We sharpen pencils; I make sure Sophie has something to do, and together, for ten or fifteen minutes a couple of times a week, we write.

For over a year now, once a month Clark and I write together in a homeschool writing circle, but I wanted to encourage him to write more often. He loves to write when he's in our class but rarely chooses to do so at home.

Challenge greets me when I feel like it's a good idea for my children to know or practice something because I want the motivation to do so to come from them.  I knew I wanted him to write more AND I didn't want to tell him to do so. I needed to create space for writing, for him to choose writing. So I thought about the differences between our writing circle and our home, and I remembered my writing practice became more of a practice when I started writing weekly in community with other writers. 


One morning I just asked him, "Want me to grab my journal and we can write together?" and he said sure as if it was a normal thing we'd always done. We set a timer, as we do in our class. I asked him if he wanted prompts. No, thanks, he said pencil already in motion.

We wrote until the timer went off. Not wanting to push, I casually asked if he wanted to share what he'd written. He happily read to me and listened while I read to him.

While we aren't to the point yet where he asks me to grab my journal, every time I ask, he says yes. When he does ask (a mama can hope!) I'll make sure I say yes too. 

Ten Ways to Encourage Our Children to Write 

1. We grab our journal and theirs and ask if they want to write with us. Just write. For fun. To shake out ideas and story. Then we sit somewhere quiet together and do just that.


2. We let our child pick a subject or prompt for us to write about, and then give whatever they choose a shot, even if they pick something silly or gross. While we may not like the idea of writing about boogers or wearing underpants on our head, the more we play with writing, get out of our comfort zone, the more they will too.


3. We write with our children in mind and offer to share what we wrote with them. We have to be okay with modeling what raw writing looks like without being harsh on ourselves. We don't want to start out with a disclaimer, "This is dumb, but I'll share it anyways," (because they will do that too), and we also don't want to read something they won't understand or is not for their ears.


4. We ask our child if they want to share and are okay if they don't. It may take time for them to feel good about sharing. We ask again next time. By NOT pushing a writer out of their comfort zone, we allow them to motivate themselves when they are ready, and for writing together time to stay fun and encouraging.


5. If they share, we listen. Writers who feel like they aren't being listened to, stop sharing. We make sure there are no distractions.


6. We only offer feedback to our children's writing if they want it and we make sure our feedback encourages more writing by not focusing on mistakes. We don't offer criticism or critique. A quick way to shut down a writer or sharing is to say something like, "That's nice but..." This does not mean we gush. Saying, "This is the best thing I've ever heard!" can also discourage writing.

- We might say, "Can I ask you a question about your piece?" And if they say yes, ask questions like-

What happens next?
Where do you get your ideas?
Can you describe _____ for me?
What was _______ feeling when that happened?


- We might say, I loved when ________ happened.
I'm curious about _______.
I felt ________ when _______.


7. We understand that at first, our children may not want to write with us. It's okay. We keep gently offering. We can pull out fun writing supplies, maybe new journals, and let them see us enjoying ourselves. Eventually, they will join in. 


8. We build our children's joy of writing by creating time for writing that is not graded or assessed. This time is writing for pleasure time.


9. We can use writing games can build trust, enjoyment, and encourage reluctant writers to begin.

Play with dialogue- write a line of dialogue on a piece of paper. This could be from the point of few of a stock character, a pet, or someone known. Make it interesting or funny. Something they'd want to respond to. Pass the paper and invite them to respond in the voice of any character they choose. It might be silly and odd and not make sense. It's okay! Have fun. Keep passing. 

Create a Writing Territories List or Heart Map. Pull them out when we need inspiration. 

Take a walk, hike, go outside. Find a spot to sit together and let nature guide your inspiration. 

Put writing prompts (make up your own, search the web, use the ones below) in a basket or bowl and offer them as an option. 

Use storytelling cards, games like Apples to Apples or Banana Grams and charades to play with story and words.

Write with pictures and pictures of words- make collages together

 A Few Prompts To Begin- 

Describe your favorite place or time you were in your favorite place.
Write about a scar or a time you were hurt. 
Write a story about someone who is the exact opposite of you or the same. 
Write about a time you were scared or overcame a fear. 
Write about your favorite animal, pet, or an animal you'd love to pet one day. 
Write about a trip you've taken or hope you one day take. 
Describe your perfect day or your worse day or a day when something surprising happened. 
Look around the room, tell as story about something you see. 


10. We read together, even when they are big. Writers are readers and books are fuel for writing ideas. 


Encouraging our children to write might not always be as simple as grabbing our journals, but there are ways to offer support, and by doing so, we can build and foster a love of writing.   


Women Writing for (a) Change- workshops for adults and children to write in community
Nancie Atwell- Writing Workshop
Inside Out- Strategies for Teaching Writing
Games for Writing: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Write


This article also appears in Life Learning Magazine.

Love of Learning- Links and Resources- A Little Bit of Everything


We loved- 

~ supporting our town, fellow Americans, humans, world

~ teaching ourselves cursive (in the wee hours of the night). More on that Here

~ just a little bit of snow and early morning outside play

~ many hours, just us, at home

~ finishing up a Science Fair project 

~ beginning this book club. I'm sure you can still join. 

~ checking out a new to us indoor park 

~ our first homeschool writing circle of the year- Awakening the Stories Inside. We'll gather again next month. Want your child to join- register here


I loved- 

~ the first Wednesday evening semester class. I breathe so much better after being there. 

~ good chats with good women

~ getting up early most mornings

~ finishing our taxes- always a relief- thank goodness for Turbotax

~ finding out a piece I wrote for Typepad will be published today- head here to check it out. 


This weekend we are gathering to celebrate our girl. Horseback riding and cupcakes, a treasure hunt, all the kiddos she loves. It will be sweet and chilly. I know a best part will be seeing the horses she misses every winter. 


Happy weekend, friends. Peace and Love to you. 









Our girl is seven!! 

She is spunky, fun, determined, creative, and full of wit. She loves animals and wants to follow in the footsteps of her Aunt Bugsy, become an animal rescuer and save them all. She loves crafting, science and math, playing with friends, and being with her brother. She hates any food that is healthy, the dark, and cleaning her room.

Just like her birth cracked open a need to slow down our life and become more intentional with our time and each other, her fire and light ask me daily to be present, find more patience, keep slowing down. 

We are in love and awe with her, just as we were day one so many moons ago.

Happy Happy Day Sophie!!


Flashback- One, Two, Four, Five, Six

(Three was the year I left teaching and clearly was a hard year as many things got missed).