Developing your family game

When you visit a many houses.

After you’ve lived in a few different areas. You will start to see a variation in the games we play.

There are certain games that last in a family and become the ‘family game’. I often wonder if these games last because the pieces stay together or over time we find our ‘family’ game.

Photo credit

How do you find your game?

You’ll have to play a bunch of games to find the games that you like. It’s exciting to learn a game via grandparents or friends. When you’re at their house have a look at their games and perhaps swap or learn to play a new one.

Sometimes you see a game in the shop, via a market or given as a gift and you have no idea how to play. It’s easier now to find out how to play games without instructions.

It’s interesting watching the BG develop a love of dominos all because it’s what he plays when he’s with Grandad.

The MO is watching and will play well for a time then his is off playing elsewhere.

The LO happily plays around the games, lurking on the floor and checking in to see who’s winning, but is still part of the game play.

Watching them all cosy up they are building memories. The BG is keen on learning the skills of knowing what his opponent has in his hand. He finds it incredible that his grandparents can tell him which tile to play and yet they can’t see his dominos.

The domino game interest starts with them all watching the game play.

Chess is the new next game they’ve been dabbling with and because it was in the house they’ve tried it and friends have helped them when they visit.

Before the kids, my husband and I started playing Mancala. We bought a board. It’s funny how things change and come back with kids. With all the moving our box is somewhere but we recently started using what we had. I thought we’d introduce a little Mancala with what we had at home.

Setting up mancala, adding the 48 beads

After all this is a game played all around the world with many using holes in the ground and pieces of whatever they can find to use. Playing Mancala It’s truly a versatile game, portable and almost instant. The bonus is how easy it is to replace parts.

Mancala board

Photo credit

Cross blog conversation

I’m having a cross blog conversation with Mama Smiles about bringing global local to our homes without going anywhere. Plus integrating global ideas into our everyday interactions without it being a festival or special day.

A cross blog conversation involves two or more bloggers engaged in a back-and-forth dialogue across a series of blog posts. The goal is to ask – and answer – thought-provoking questions in order to share useful information with our readers. This is the first post and the question today: What global games do you play or have influenced you?

We’re trying out new games to develop our family game. We’re experimenting with games with a global twist. It’s an easy way to share a new area or country without leaving our home. Feel free to join in our cross blog conversation.

  • Share your games or activities that have a global feel
  • Find a few games from overseas to try with your child. It’s easier than you think.

Come back and tell us what you do. In the meantime, pop on over to Mama Smiles where MaryAnne will answer the question: What global games do you play or have influenced you? and poses the next question.

Learn more about Mancala

The Marble Game (aka Mancala):: A mom with a lesson plan

Make and Play the Ethiopian Game “Tegre”:: Kid World Citizen

Colour matching and colour sorting activity

The LO loves letters, counting and cars. He’ll line cars up all day; count everywhere and draw letters into everything. Colours are a different matter.

Not sure if he truly knows his colours as he’s a big prankster. He loves to call an apple and orange. Just because he knows someone will smile and laugh at him. I love his sense of humor. It’s a little troublesome though to know if he actually knows his colours. I don’t think he really does; well maybe one or two colours but not the basics.

Does it bother us?

Not really. We know that our children develop at different stages. It would help him though to know his colours and so here we are trying to have some fun with it to expose him to more colour activities.

Using some coloured lollipop sticks and mini clothes pegs, we coloured, we quickly assembled a game.

I left the sticks and the mini clothes pegs altogether on the table. As he came in from riding his bike he was curious, calm and alert. Immediately he started matching the yellow lollipop stick and the clothes pegs.  Yes a result!. Then he started lining them all up ( sound familiar) and finally started making letters.

After a bit of play like this we played together.I’d deliberately chosen lots of one colour ( Yellow) , one of one colour (Red) and a few of another (Blue) to make the colour difference really obvious and hopefully cut down on the guessing.

Why the mini clothes pegs?

I can hear you all asking. No it wasn’t to stump and frustrate those little fingers. I wanted to do this activity together and we had to work together to create the plane. I could ask for his and he would give.

Here’s the most important part, as he gave me the lollipop stick or the clothes peg I held it a few seconds more and got him to look at me and repeat the colour name.

We have all versions of yellow from wellow, ellow, lellow and more and apart from the usual development path it’s part of his speech work is to slow down, focus on the speaker and repeat.

This activity gave that opportunity. For other children and him later on, we’ll use the normal sized pegs and this would be more of an independent colour matching activity.

Once we assembled our planes…….Brrrmmmmmm. Lined them up. We were off flying high!

We’re looking for more fun colour sorting or matching activities. Share one of your favourites in the comments.


If you enjoyed this article, get the Play Activities Newsletter. ( It’s free!)

Cultural Exchange

cultural-exchange-UK aMelissa over at Chasing Cheerios mentioned a Cultural Exchange  just before the Summer. It sounded a great idea.

The idea was to send a package out that represented your country to a group of people. Melissa coordinated the whole thing. We were in a group of 6 people. 6 packages- how difficult would that be?

Naturally life gets busy during the summer. My husband was back after a year deployment so life was hectic. The kids also spent a large portion with Grandparents. I didn’t want to send activities for them to do. Hanging out with the Grandparents was all that was required.

So September rolls around and back to school. Again super busy. The boys and I worked really  hard on finding UK things and what they wanted.


This is what we selected for our package. Each one was a little different.

  • ELC money in Euros and Sterling
  • Twining fruit Tea. (We’re big fruit tea drinkers but we were thinking of the kids- no caffeine!)
  • Mini chocolate digestives ( I had to buy a second packet the first packets got… eaten)
  • Love hearts and traditional sweets
  • keyring with a tourist attraction from the UK/London. Here we have the traditional phone box. Not many of these around.
  • Make a flag activity
  • Information pack about the K including recipes
  • Drawn picture of a Beefeater costume.

Imagine that duplicated 6 times. It was an interesting time at the post office sending these off.

Next the wait…….

So far we’ve received one from Arizonia and one from Japan.

The boys are beyond excited to open them up. We unpacked them at Dinnertime.

If you get the chance to participate in an exchange….do!

There are lots of physical swaps online. I spoke about the International Postcard Swap  on the podcast recently.

Have you participated in any swaps? Share the links below


Make your own Teacher gifts

Teacher Gift Floral Pen a

It’s that time of year again with the ( UK) Summer holidays right on our doorstep. You can tell it’s almost the end of term because the shoes just fit, there’s a hole appearing in all the school uniform trousers and you’ve just realised you’ve been washing less uniform as parts are surely at school. Left as one part of the goal post or on the bench.

Everyone’s tired.

We try and make a teacher gift each year. After being on the end of this annual ritual of gift giving, I loved the gifts that were handmade the most. I never expected gifts and although I can remember a few gifts I really don’t remember who didn’t give me gifts.

Gift giving has gotten a little out of hand. I still use the what-we-can-afford and not what-everyone-else -is-doing as the measure.

The kids felt good doing and making this particular gift. Over the past few months we’ve had all different ideas. But with time on our tail we wanted something that was practical, useful and homemade.

I’d come across these pens in the States at offices when you needed to fill things out. For us that was inevitably the doctors office where we feel we lived with three children as well as any office we went to on the military installation. Before flower pens they must have lost so many! Also I made one during a MOPS session complete with pen holder. Mine lives in the car.

Teacher Floral Pen 2 b









Per child: one artificial flower ( We bought ours at Habitat) There were two flowers on one stem. Habitat is going out of business so we got a mega bargain.

  • Floral tape
  • Scissors
  • Biro


Measure the artificial flower against the pen. Cut so the flower head shows and the base is near the bottom of the pen.

Start wrapping the tape around the pen and the stem of the flower so it overlaps. The MO watched me do a few wraps and was able to complete the whole thing himself. The BG (8) completed it all.

Teacher Gift Picture 3 c

Smooth out the tape and adjust the stem/pen alignment. You may need extra tape at the bottom especially if you cut the end of the stem. check the pen holds well and no sharp edges.

Why a pen?

Teachers use a lot of pens all the time.

They’ll find your pen among all the pens.


* Add a spray of your favourite flower scent to the flower head or a few drops of essential oil. The boys chose this option.

To complete the gift

I interviewed the MO with some simple questions. He wrote the answers. ( 3-5 words each time around) Five questions, I think in total.  I printed out the questions and we stuck his answer down and put the question on top so it was a lift the flap to see the answer. ( Should have taken a picture)

The BG wrote a letter to his teacher talking about the highlights of his year.

Both labeled them Thank You cards.

Would love to see your homemade teacher gifts

Painting with cars

Put together two things; paint and cars!
We had some left over paint so spread it onto a tray.

Using his favourite car he started with the lines on the tray.

Painting with Cars Ia              Playing with Cars 2


Once he saw the paper he was excited to try there. We used quite a few pieces of paper.


Painting With Cars 2011


This was one of those fun things we did last Summer that I just found on the camera. We did it at Grandma and Grandpa’s house where there was carpet under the table and a long walk to the sink.

(Yes, I was very nervous!)

Roll on the unstructured activities…… no aim in mind for this activity. He set his agenda and stopped.

Despite my fear all went well. Definitely going to be doing painting with cars again.

Other posts you may enjoy about painting from the Raising Playful Tots Index


If you enjoyed this post make sure you are subscribe to my mailing list with encouragement and ideas for Simple Parenting.

Easy Father's day craft for toddlers

Simple Father’s day gift that your toddler can make.

Special handmade paperweight.

Easy Father’s day craft for toddlers

Simple Father’s day gift that your toddler can make.

Special handmade paperweight.

Family night and dinnertime play activities- April

What’s family dinner like in your home? Probably pretty busy. Anytime for play activities?

Family meal times can be a really chaotic time of day with the bewitching hour close by/ clubs and activities/ and the general hustle and bustle of preparing a meal with children underfoot. By the time we make it to the table we’re all a little frazzled. Once we start eating we try a conversation and get mixed results.


Dinner time is a great time to connect and feel that family bond. We’ve had a lot of success with Dinner games and now were extending the fun.

Extending the fun

During the meal we try the conversation starters to get to know our children. Then move onto family night activities.

At the end of each month I’ll be sharing a download full of activities to try over the month for dinner conversation and together family activities.

Photo credit

Download April here


Since we’re at dinner I thought I would continue the theme………………….

Appetizer: Conversation starters during dinner

4-6 questions to promote conversation with your under 5s plus space to add your own.

First course: Recommended family game or activity

Games we recommend that encourage team work, participation, conversation and appeals to various ages.

Second course: Book recommendation

These books work really well read aloud or working together as a family.

Salad course: Podcast recommendation

Podcasts for kids or parents to enjoy

Dessert: Music

Start their musical appreciation with some carefully thought out musical journeys.

Cheese course: find some excellent play activities to do for the month.


Combine them in one night and have a playful family’dinnight’ or try different parts over the month.

Photo credit

Happy family ‘dinnight’!

Download April here

Royal Wedding kebabs

Something simple and fun for the morning snack for the Royal wedding today

Using the traditional colours of the union jack with Red (strawberries), white ( melon) and blue ( blueberries).

Drizzled with toffee sauce.


Enjoy the wedding……………

DIY kids play stove

Meet our latest kitchen addition.

The one benefit of having lots of boxes from a move is the endless fun you can have with them.

I’ve been on the lookout for a kitchen set for a long time but everything I’ve seen didn’t fit for one reason or another. We’ve never been shy about our creations even if they don’t look the greatest I’ve never been shy to share them. Some will laugh and point the finger and I hope you are inspired to do better then. The best thing about these types of project is how we all get involved. It’s not about how perfect it looks but how functional.

Two brothers

This is how the minds of two brothers think for their little brother one Easter holiday….with a little help from mum.

Small empty box wrapped in white paper

Kids:We don’t want to see that writing and maybe we can paint it

Me: Thank goodness as I kept meaning to get a better covering for it.

Kids: We need bits on the top……[looking around the room] How would I draw a circle?

Me: Introduces a cereal bowl.

Kids: off to find paper. Problem 1- no paper in the size for 4 burners so improvise with white ( we’ll colour it) and red card – probably left over from St George’s day craft.

squabble over who will do what…….

Brother runs off with paper ….

Discussion about distracting the LO and working together. MO decides to play or distract his brother while the BG can quickly finish the colouring and cutting.

Peace …… negotiation complete

me: How do you turn it on then?

Kids: run off. MO comes back with lid from a bottle. Puts it on the box. Lots of different bottle tops tried. Some from things in use………….

A little while later, the DIY stove is fully functional with Chef MO cooking up a feast and Chef LO lining up the ingredients.

There were more steps inbetween these.  Lots of excitement, diversions, breaks for snacks etc But over the course of one morning it was completed.

This picture was taken at bedtime as activity is too fast and furious during sessions. The beauty of this stove is………




full of memories

lovingly made

Designed and mostly made by brothers for their brother

played with by all.

Don’t be put off with making your own play activities or encouraging your children to do so.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of DIY projects check out childhood 101.

Sorry ….. I have to go………..been invited around for some tea and a baked bean tin?

This post is part of the meme We Play: Pop on over and view the other players

We Play
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...