Real Live, Screen-Free Games

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Summer time is a great time to shut down the devices and play real live, screen-free games.


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It’s taken a few weeks, but I “think” that we’ve reigned in the gaming time. I was real busy at the beginning of summer with book edits, so the kids got a little carried away with screen time. For the last few weeks, however, we’ve limited screens to one morning hour and one afternoon hour.

The result has been that my children are reading more and figuring out more inventive things. It’s just like the good old days!

Playing screen-free

They’ve played with the neighbors, had water balloon fights, gone hiking in the neighboring hills, decorated a huge cardboard box, and broke out the real-live, screen-free games.

I’m holding my breath. I know we could backslide in a heart beat, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

The boys played a marathon Monopoly game late last week. The girls weren’t included, so they, with some prodding from FishMama, got creative:

monopoly with merida

They busted out Monopoly Junior, used Merida and Elinor figurines for their characters and made up their own version of Monopoly.

Confession: Despite my secret for playing Monopoly and staying sane, I still don’t like to play it.

Here’s what else is on our game shelf currently:

board games

Games that work for us

Another confession: The games that I really don’t like or that kids can’t play on their own are stored in the garage.

spot it collection

One of our very favorites this summer is Spot It, in its various forms. I received the original game last year to review. I’ve since gone on to buy other versions: Alphabet, Basic French, and NHL, of course.

We’ve found that these games are great ice breakers for new friends and shy cousins and that play can span a large range of ages and generations. An added bonus is the compact metal storage tin that’s easy to pack for the road.

I’ve got my eyes on Spot It Junior Animals, too.

Playing real live, screen-free games is currently a highlight of the summer. It’s not without its challenges, but we’re figuring out how to play board games and card games peacefully. And having a good time, too.

Got a favorite board game or card game?


This post is part of the DIY on a Dime: Summer Fun series. For more ideas on how to enjoy the summer holidays on a budget, check out the list.

I know what we’re gonna do this summer.

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  1. Never heard of Spot It. Looks good. Our favorites are Settlers of Catan (with all the expansions when we have the extended time) and Ticket to Ride. Puerto Rico is a good one too. Our latest different additions are Batman’s Gotham City Strategy Game which you play the villains, and secondly, Pandemic where you have to stop the spread of epidemics—can you tell we have teen boys? Farkle is good pick up game (dice) which was a great choice when we had some Chinese college students over—no lingual skills required, just basic counting and willingness to take a risk. Trouble, uno, skipbo, “In a Pickle” and Racko are some of our other stand by games. I want to get Constitution Quest, maybe we’ll put it on the wish list for family pestering for Christmas idea. Or saving grace with game time is we will play for an hour-ish at a time on games that they boys take forever on their strategy–keeps frustrations at bay to play over the course of the day or even weekends on those longer games.

    1. How funny! I don’t think we have a single one that you named. Will have to add them to my Christmas list. The price of Settlers of Catan always kills me. Is it worth it?

      1. I’d say yes. We’ve been playing settlers since the youngest was 9. Once we got that down we added cities/knights, which makes it more interesting/challenging/competative—we keep it to the original when short on time. We’ve added the others over the years. The oldest takes it when meeting with the kids from the youth group—-and the game is still in EXCELLENT condition. The materials are quality pieces, wood, etc. My mom always asks for board game suggestions for a family gift so that has been helpful in acquiring these more expensive games. Again, these are not cheap plastic tokens. Even the boxes have held up all these years-even with a teen boy taking it to play with other teens (now he is under threat of having to replace it, but still).

  2. Rummikub and train dominoes are favorited here…we’ve gotten out of the habit. Must get back into it

  3. My husband and I have a weekly game night. Some of our favorites are Phase 10, Quiddler, Scrabble, Blokus, and Dominion. (All able to be two-players). With the children we like Caribou Island, Twister, Super Why ABC, checkers, go fish, and Don’t Break the Ice.

  4. Our family has recently discovered Tickey to Ride and we really enjoy it. Everyone down to the 8 year old can play it. The almost-6 year old doesn’t get it, so she just watches. We also play a lot of Yahtzee, Cribbage (the 8 year old has learned great math skills through these 2), States and Capitals Sequence, and many more.

  5. Our family loves Skip-Bo, Armor of God, Hangman, Apples-to-Apples Jr, Battleship, and toss-up. My daughter loves Monopoly so my hubby plays that with her a lot. One game that I am on the look for is Mancala. My kids love that game and we do not have it so I am on the hunt for it 🙂

  6. In addition those already mentioned some of our favorites include Parcheesi, Chinese checkers, dominoes, and multiple versions of Memory. No game night is complete without a hand or two or 10 of Go Fish, Old Maid, Slap Jack and War.

  7. Thanks for the Spot it suggestion, I am going to put that on my list of things to get for my daughter for Christmas she loves any game and I love a chosen few, so I am always looking for games other moms love. Right now I really like playing Battleship with her, or “In A Pickle” both are really fun.

  8. Does anyone else have trouble with a child who is a very sore loser? My 7 year old daughter makes the games not fun for the rest of us with her attitude and pouting when she does not win (even an occasional win does not seem to help). We have tried talking through it, pointing out that we all lose sometimes and even banning her from playing due to her response. Would love any suggestions!

    1. My youngest ( almost 12 yr. old son) was a sore loser for years. Now he’s developed into a ruthless winner. When we play Monopoly he will buy everything he can, get mad when someone buys a property he wants, then hoards the properties. If he does sell or trade them he wants future profits, a lot of them. And as soon as he gets a complete set he buys houses and hotels quickly. So, when we land on his property we go bankrupt in one turn. I know its part of the game, but it also makes it no fun to play with him.

      Where my oldest (almost 16 yr. old son) is complete opposite. He will buy properties so he can trade or sell them to other players to help them out. Half the time he practically give the properties away, and tries to change half the rent he’s owed. I’ve tried telling him to get just a tiny bit greedy in the game and win a little. But he just says he can’t. LOL

  9. We are board game playing kind of family. I’d have to say our favorite board game is a tie between The Settlers of Catan and Monopoly. We have The Settlers of Catan and one expansion, so far. And Monopoly, we have Here & Now electronic, Here & Now World Edition, Lord of the Rings version, Simpson’s version and Animalopoly.

  10. We LOVE LOVE LOVE Ticket to Ride, in all its versions. So much fun. Older kids can play very well. We also recently discovered Wizard, and Sequence is fun too.

  11. Sequence is my favorite. Difficult to get hubby to play with me, but usually he’ll give in on our anniversary. 🙂

  12. Dutch Blitz, Ticket to Ride, Catan, Agricola, Carcasonne, King of Tokyo, Dominion, Sequence. With the littles: Feed the Kitty, Uno, and Catan Junior.

    We love games!! Such a great way to spend time together!

  13. My husband and I love to play games and it’s fun to share that love with our kiddos. In fact, we had a mini date night this weekend playing the board version of Ticket to Ride. There is an app version that is really well done and awesome in it’s own right.

    Games that my 4 year old really loves to play: Busytown Mysteries Eye Found It!, Colorama, and Zingo!

    We’ve started playing “Go Away Monster!” with our 20 month old and she loves it!

    1. I’ve seen Ticket to Ride. I was considering it when I purchased The Settlers of Catan. Is it a pretty good game?

      1. We love both Settlers and Ticket to Ride! I think that the Ticket to Ride rule set is a little more straight forward than Settlers. It takes one game to really get the game down. Here’s a TableTop episode on Ticket to ride, so you can see the game play.

        Plus, you can play Ticket to Ride with 2 players while you need at least 3 for Catan.

  14. Operation is a good one. Plus we love the card game Blink. I want to add Battleship to our collection, but I’m not ready to shell out $30 yet for it.

    1. Battleship has a ton of little pieces that are easily lost which makes it a huge investment. If you have a tablet, there’s a Battleship game that is pretty fun.

    2. We found an electronic edition of Battleship at Goodwill for around $3. Works great. The boys love it. I assign it as part of their logic skills lessons.