a special feature by Nathalie Kunin*

Family gatherings at holiday time give parents and grandparents a great opportunity to just be together! Playing games as a family is lots of fun, but sometimes it can be a bit challenging: too many ages, too many instructions, too many parts, takes too long…and parents who are just too tired! Here are 6 games that you can pull off the shelf that combine multi-age appeal, education and just plain old fun! The games are travel-friendly and easy to learn. Only one has a game board, and the others fit in the palm of your hand. All can be played in teams and promote family bonding.

These games encourage older children to sharpen skills such as mental math, deductive reasoning, and inferential thinking skills. They give younger children the chance to participate at their own level, or with a parent partner, and to practice reading and math fundamentals.

Dominoes. Play it the old-fashioned way, like a card game. While it often feels like matching tiles is all about luck, dominoes is a great way for older kids to think strategically. Younger siblings can practice counting and number recognition. Domino tiles appeal to tactile learners. Dominoes is the least competitive of the games listed here. For children still learning to be gracious winners and losers, Dominoes is a great way to introduce good sportsmanship.

Capture the Flag (Lakeshore). This medieval-themed board game allows children to practice essential reading comprehension skills including inferential-thinking skills, identifying the main idea and identifying details in a reading passage. Young children will practice reading and sharpen their listening skills. get it here

Farkle get it here and YamSlam get it here Both played with dice, Farkle and YamSlam sharpen logical-thinking skills as well as mental math, fine-motor and counting skills. They put math concepts in a meaningful context, encourage automatic recall of math facts, and require children to follow directions.

Set get it here and Spot-It get it here
These two brightly-colored card games test visual perception and pattern-recognition skills. Both of these games feel like jumping jacks for the brain, and require patience and concentration.

While each of these games focuses on a different set of skills, they have one thing in common: they make learning fun!


*Nathalie Kunin has extensive experience teaching, tutoring and educating parents on how to help their children succeed academically. She founded Team Tutors in 2000 to provide students with academic support in their own homes. She works closely with students of all ages as well as many private and public school administrators throughout Los Angeles and beyond. Learn more about Nathalie at www.teamtutors.com