Category Archives: Games with Kids

Five (packable) games for holidays with kids

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while – since the beginning of the Summer Holidays actually, when it might have actually been relevant and useful, oops! However looking on the bright side, my tardiness on this does give you a head start on Christmas present ideas, if like me you are contemplating stepping over into the abyss and getting a head start!

So. Games for holidays…as every parent knows, this can be a minefield. Some games promise so much on the box and yet fall flat within minutes; some games are rip-roaringly fun for the kids but toooorrrrttttuous for the adults, some are so complicated that it’s time to go home before you’ve figured out how to play. If you’re lucky enough to be travelling abroad, there’s your baggage allowance to think of; even if you’re staying closer to home, at somewhere like the Parkdean holiday parks, you won’t want to be squeezing large unwieldy boxes into the car.

So, after much research, and bearing in mind that ours are aged between 4 and 9, here’s a list of the five games for kids that we don’t leave home without…

Too Many Monkeys

1) Too Many Monkeys – this is a very simple card game, suitable for children who can recognise the numbers from one to six. The best thing about it is that it is so easy to play that even quite young children can explain it to each other, which is ace because you can send them off to play with their new friends on the campsite while you have a nice cup of tea in peace prepare the next fun-yet-educational activity to keep their little minds active. This game is marketed for ages 6+ but actually it’s more suitable for ages 3.5 – 6; it’s for two to six players, though best with two to four. Comes in a small box but the cards can be taken out and rubber banded to save space.


2) Uno – sometimes the old ones really are the best. Players try to get rid of their cards by matching colour or number; wild cards can turn the game on its head; noise and fun guaranteed. What more do you need? Suitable for ages 6 and up, and works best with three or more players. Comes in a playing-card sized box.

Story Cubes

3) Story Cubes – a set of nine dice with images on them, that are thrown on the table for players to make a story with. No hard and fast rules – you can get everyone to make one story with all nine images, or each player can take an image to make a sentence in turn, or you have have teams competing for the funniest story using the cubes…the possibilities are endless. A fun and creative antidote to some of the more competitive games; suitable for any age and any number of players. Comes in a box small enough to fit in a coat pocket.

Rat a Tat Cat

4) Rat a Tat Cat – from the makers of Too Many Monkeys, this is a great game which also sneakily improves memory and maths skills. However that’s not why I’m including it here – it makes our top five because it’s fun, fun, fun! Suitable for two to six players of age 6 and up with the standard rules, however it works from age 4 with a little help and the cards played face up. Comes in a small box but the cards can be taken out and rubber banded to save space.

Forbidden Island

5) Forbidden Island – The aim of the game is to salvage treasures from a rapidly sinking island, and get yourself and your fellow explorers safely away in a helicopter before the island is lost to the sea. What I especially love about this game is that all players must work together; either everyone wins, or nobody does – so team work is encouraged, and there’s a bit less gloating and making ‘Loser’ signs from the Husband over-excited kids. Forbidden Island works with two-four players, (though its sister game Forbidden Desert, also co-operative, plays up to five). Recommended for ages 10 and up but because of the co-operative nature of the game, younger children can be included;  and for packing purposes it is larger than the games above, but comes in a sturdy tin so it can’t be squashed or broken!

So – that’s our top five holiday games – what are yours?

**This post has been created in association with Parkdean Holidays**

City of Zombies Board Game – Giveaway

One of the fab things about having another life as an accidental games shop owner is we get to play loads of games ‘for work’. It’s obviously not possible for each of us to have played every single game on our shelves, but between the team of five who work on the shop floor, we do have a fair amount covered, which means we can give genuine advice to the people who shop with us.

Since we have a ready made testing panel in our house, it falls to us to road test the kids’ games that come into the shop. This is something of a relief for me as my brain just does not work well enough these days for most of the grownup stuff (I live in hope that my marbles will one day return but as time goes by that is looking increasingly unlikely, ho hum).

Though we primarily play for fun, the kids learn a lot from game playing. Turn taking, negotiation, losing gracefully, thinking ahead, and if we’re playing a co-operative game, teamwork – all skills which will stand them in good stead in later life. Because I think they learn so much from board games already, I never really seek out ‘educational’ games for them. They love playing as things are and I don’t really want to spoil their or my experience by trying to bundle something in which is ‘good for them’.

So when I had a call from games designer Matthew Tidbury of Thinknoodle, telling me about a game suitable for age 8 and above that he had created to support his kids’ maths skills, I was initially slightly reticent. But then he started talking about a game featuring a city overtaken by zombies, and that sounded like a whole lot more fun. Ok I said – I’d love to trial the Zombie game in the shop, and maybe we’ll look at the Maths one at a later point? At which point Matt kindly said to me ‘ummm, sorry, you’ve misunderstood a bit – the Maths game is the Zombie game, at which point I got a bit flustered and pretended that I had totally not got the wrong end of the stick, and he politely let me pretend, before offering to send a copy to the shop to try out.

City of Zombies

The game happened to arrive on a day when my daughter was on a sleepover and my youngest was poorly, so we played it first off with the eight year old. It was refreshingly easy to set up and start playing – there is an instruction video available but the booklet that comes with the game is so well set out that you can easily manage without it.

Setting up City of Zombies

Once set up, the game is centred around a band of zombies advancing on a city – with a small bunch of heroes fighting them off, and (hopefully) destroying them before they make it over the fence. To get rid of a zombie, you use the three very dangerous weapons at your disposal – yep, these three dangerous weapons right here. Scary, aren’t they!

Zombie Killing Dice

On your turn, you must use the dice to get rid of as many zombies as you can, by using the numbers on the dice in any combination to create a number matching that shown in the red circle on the bottom right of the Zombie cards.


So, if you throw a 2, a 3 and a 6, you can kill off a zombie in the following ways…


This is the bit where a strange thing happens…yep, everyone gets very, very excited about, er, Maths! It was quite a revelation watching my eight year old bubbling over with different ways to try the numbers to kill off the most zombies possible, coming up with combinations that (whisper it) his father and I hadn’t seen. And it’s not just my boy – the exact same scenario was repeated with a whole bunch of children when we played at a family games event in the shop the next day…and the beauty of it was the kids didn’t even really realise that they were practically doing Maths homework!

Once everyone has grasped the basics of the game as above, you can have all sorts of fun by using optional special abilities and power ups, combining the two zombie decks to include extra-mean ones,  and using the advanced rules which mix the game up a bit – in short, there’s enough going on here for the kids to want to play it over and over again, and crucially, for the adults to enjoy it too.

Despite my reservations about ‘educational’ games, this is a game I’ve already bought for my kids to have at home – considering we already have a demo copy we could borrow from the shop, this says quite a lot about how frequently they want to play it! I’ve also been lucky enough to secure a free copy from Thinknoodle to give away here on the blog – entry is via the Rafflecopter below so why not try your luck – and see how much fun Maths can be!

If you’re not lucky enough to win a copy, they’re on sale at Rules of Play in Cardiff – or if you’re not local, you can also get a copy direct from the City of Zombies website.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

**Disclosure – I’m a co-owner of Rules of Play; we were sent a City of Zombies free of charge for the shop to try out; Thinknoodle also supplied me with a copy to give away here on the blog. I have not received any payment for this post, and as always, this post reflects my honest opinion**