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Move over Elf, there’s a NEW kid on the block! The Sugar Plum Tree

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Hey ELF!  Move over, there’s a new kid on the block!  And guess what?  This tradition is not secular, can be read anytime (although we suggest special occasions,) does not have a “naughty or nice” element  or have a third party “watching over you.”  Instead, it’s all about kid-powered-dreams-can-come-true.

Introducing….The Sugar Plum Tree! “a bedtime story with sweet dreams and a candy twist!”

Now by no means do we want to bash an Elf on A Shelf.  As a matter of fact, our “Dream Team” admires the Elf creators! So much so, we modeled our marketing strategies after them – at least after how they started – growing one book at a time.  But here’s how we differ.  We are in local stores, and on our own website, (Etsy and Ebay) ONLY and prefer to keep it that way! We’re a small local company who supports small local companies.

Will we be criticized too? You bet!  Our special occasion bedtime tradition has candy under the bed for a morning surprise.  And in an environment that: deals with extremes, is  “anti-sugar,” and is filled with concerns, we have our work cut out for us.

But I’m sure that’s the battle every new, mass produced tradition faces. For example,  Matt Pelc, Huffington Post (2013), states Elf on the Shelf Ruined their Christmas (or at least came very close)  Why?  A couple of reasons, Kelsey (Matt’s daughter) could not bear to say goodbye to her new elf friend “Missy.”  This caused tears for months after Christmas almost to the following Christmas creating a dilemma for Kelsey’s parents.  The next Christmas, Matt explains, they were not ready to have repeat. So in tandem with the new Elf on A Shelf commercials they broke the news to Kelsey that the Elf was really them.  “We walked a delicate line telling her Missy wasn’t real, but kept her belief in Santa alive.”  read Matt’s full post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-pelc/how-the-elf-on-the-shelf-ruined-our-christmas_b_4435749.html

And Brian Gresko, last year posted his feelings on the Elf in a babble blog. While he admits that he “does Santa,” he believes the Elf tradition has crossed the line.  His reasons?  It’s completely changed his habits and not for the better.  He can no longer watch talk and news programs that feature the Elf (for fear it will ruin his kids “magical experience.” He avoids big box stores during the holidays.  But most importantly he states that instead of one short quick “lie” this extends the “lie” to be a month long.  And the whole idea that Santa has surveillance on you is creepy!  To read Brian’s perspective see:  http://www.babble.com/dad/why-i-hate-the-elf-on-the-shelf/

The Sugar Plum Tree is learning from those who blazed the “follow-our-tradition-path” and promises to learn and do better.  Give us a try not just for the holidays but for all your big and little occasions!

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Did you know ??

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In honor of Eugene Field,  a bronze fairylike “dream lady”  was installed in Lincoln Park Chicago.  The statue hovers above a pair of sleeping children with a small bunch of poppies dangling from one of her hands. The granite base depicts carved scenes from Field’s poems including “The Fly Away Horse” and Seein’ Things.” There is a stanza from his famous “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” carved into the left side of the base and four lines from “The Sugar Plum Tree,” on the right side.

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Did you know??

Did you know??

The original poem, The Sugar Plum Tree, was written in 1894 as part of a collection of children’s poems entitled, Trumpet and Drum? 

In researching The Sugar Plum Tree, and where it’s possible origins came from, we discovered some interesting facts.  Linguistically:

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The word “sugar plum” first came into use around the 1600s with the British, and later the 1700’s with the French.  (Early records indicate the term sugar plum, in America, was popularized (and in use) around the 1800’s.) The first and original use of the word described the taste of plums and/or comfits after the labor intensive process of panning was complete. (Panning (or sugar-panning) was accomplished by adding a hard shell to candy or nuts.  – Think jelly beans or M&M’s.)

 

 

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The term sugar plum altered its meaning (slightly) with the publication and production of, The Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker (Composed by Tchaikovsky, 1892), as well as, the line “Visions of sugar plums danced in their heads,” from Clement C. Moore’s poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (1823), better known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas,”  since then, the word (sugar plum) has been associated with Christmas.

It diverged, yet again, from the Scandinavia tradition of Christmas through the popular poem “The Sugar Plum Tree” (1894) by Eugene Field.

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What’s Happening NOW?

___________________________What’s Happening NOW?

 

The Sugar Plum Tree, by Katherine James, illustrated by Jan Dolby, has exceeded expectations!  Not bad for a little self published book with a big dream.  “We’ve positioned ourselves to sell in small, local, mom and pop shops, candy and toy stores and online.”   one of the trio of authors explains.  “We’ve out sold our anticipated goal two times now, and the year isn’t over! It’s been an amazing and humbling experience!”

 

With over 2,000 in sales in Canada, US and UK, and partnerships with candy manufactures on the horizon, this team of three keeps their feet on the ground.  “Listening to how the book is actually being used is eye opening, we started with just our tradition – of keeping our kids in bed, and what we’re learning is other people are developing their own traditions.  It’s more than exciting it’s encouraging – we’re on to something!”  Examples of how other parents are using the book include, potty training, sleep over parties, great day events and more.  There’s tons of ideas on our website.

 

What does the future hold?  “More sales, one book at a time.” LilyLu-3Sisters

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Did you know???

_______________________Did you know??  

 

Eugene Field (1850-1895)

Eugene Field (1850-1895)

Eugene Field’s hyper-popularity and near-celebrity-status was considered a mystery to some and obvious to others?

Field, a wildly-popular American writer  – better known as:  “the people’s poet ” was a friend of Mark Twain, an avid reader, a doll and miniature book collector, a contemporary of fellow children’s author Roald Dhal, and “a bundle of great surprises!”  Field prided himself on his collection of writings from other children’s writers, often using them as a foundation, or a spring board, for his own original work.

At the height of his popularity, it was written in a local paper that Longfellow, Whittier, or Riely, “…all of whom can be defended as fluent, competent writers, Field (on the other hand) is often awkward and inconsistent veering into baby like talk, fake Middle English, unconvincing Hoosier dialect and school-boy latin. And yet, … he out sold Emily Dickinson, and his celebrity (status) as an eccentric sprite rivaled hers.”

Hannibal Hamlin Garland, (American poet, essayist, and friend) reiterated (and gave a possible explanation to) Field’s popularity during the unveiling and dedication of the Field House and Museum in St. Louis, MO.  He quoted Field by saying, “I (Field) have never put a high estimate on my verse.  That it popular is because my sympathies and the public’s just happen to run on parallel lines.”

Perhaps it was his prankish style, or perhaps, and more likely, Field had it right when he said “his sympathies and the public’s happened to run parallel lines.”  His writing were all post- industrialization when men (and women) were placed in narrow boxes and doctrine of the times ruled.  This, coupled with harsh school environment, further narrowed and stripped children’s innocence which undoubtedly fanned Field’s writing.  After all, it was said that Field’s work was known to have “blurred the boundary between childhood and adulthood” – thereby allowing children to keep their innocence (and power as children) while, at the same time, inviting adults to slip into a childlike stance and remember what it is like to be innocent again.  This was, perhaps, Field’s magic, and explanation, for his popularity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Children and Sleep

Children and Sleep
Home >> Sleep Topics >> Children and Sleep

Every living creature needs to sleep. It is the primary activity of the brain during early development. Circadian rhythms , or the sleep-wake cycle, are regulated by light and dark and these rhythms take time to develop, resulting in the irregular sleep schedules of newborns. The rhythms begin to develop at about six weeks, and by three to six months most infants have a regular sleep-wake cycle.

By the age of two, most children have spent more time asleep than awake and overall, a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood asleep. Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development.

There are two alternating types or states of sleep :

Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) or “quiet” sleep. During the deep states of NREM sleep, blood supply to the muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released for growth and development.

Rapid Eye Movement(REM) or “active” sleep. During REM sleep, our brains are active and dreaming occurs. Our bodies become immobile, breathing and heart rates are irregular.

Babies spend 50 percent of their time in each of these states and the sleep cycle is about 50 minutes. At about six months of age, REM sleep comprises about 30 percent of sleep. By the time children reach preschool age, the sleep cycle is about every 90 minutes.

Sleep and Toddlers (1-3 years)

Toddlers need about 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about one o three hours. Naps should not occur too close to bedtime as they may delay sleep at night.

Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and nighttime awakenings. Nighttime fears and nightmares are also common.

Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Toddlers’ drive for independence and an increase in their motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep. In addition, their ability to get out of bed, separation anxiety, the need for autonomy and the development of the child’s imagination can lead to sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness and behavior problems may signal poor sleep or a sleep problem.

Sleep Tips For Toddlers:

Maintain a daily sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine.
Make the bedroom environment the same every night and throughout the night.
Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced. Encourage use of a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal.

Sleep and Preschoolers (3-5 years)

Preschoolers typically sleep 11-13 hours each night and most do not nap after five years of age. As with toddlers, difficulty falling asleep and waking up during the night are common. With further development of imagination, preschoolers commonly experience nighttime fears and nightmares. In addition, sleepwalking and sleep terrors peak during preschool years.

Sleep Tips for Preschoolers

Maintain a regular and consistent sleep schedule.
Have a relaxing bedtime routine that ends in the room where the child sleeps.
Child should sleep in the same sleeping environment every night, in a room that is cool, quiet and dark – and without a TV.

Sleep and School-aged Children (5-12 years)

Sleepy KidChildren aged five to 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep. At the same time, there is an increasing demand on their time from school (e.g., homework), sports and other extracurricular and social activities. In addition, school-aged children become more interested in TV, computers, the media and Internet as well as caffeine products – all of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. In particular, watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and leeping fewer hours.

Sleep problems and disorders are prevalent at this age. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as ADHD and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.

Sleep Tips for School-aged Children

Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
Make child’s bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
Avoid caffeine.

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Your Child’s Top 10 Nightmares and Dreams – Explained (ivillage)

Your Child’s Top 10 Nightmares and Dreams Explained

By Dr. Gillian Holloway – December 9, 2011

Photo Credit: Getty Images

If your child has a bad dream about bugs in her bed, would it surprise you to learn that she may be upset about having a new sibling? You can learn a great deal about your child’s thoughts and feelings, and how to best comfort her, by discovering the hidden meanings behind her dreams. Get interpretations of your child’s most common dreams and nightmares from dream expert Gillian Holloway, Ph.D.

Monsters
Children have different kinds of monsters in their dreams, and the action involved varies. When a monster is hiding in the closet or under the bed, or lives under the front porch, this makes the situation doubly scary, because there is nowhere safe or off-limits. When a monster is chasing the child in a dream, or yelling and threatening, we have a clue that the monster may represent not so much a situation as a person in the child’s life.

What you need to know:
When parents yell or exhibit unexpectedly harsh behavior either toward their children or toward others, this sometimes translates into “monster” dreams. A cranky teacher or scary neighbor can also be the human side of the monster. These dreams are not necessarily a signal of abuse or anything horrific, but they do indicate that your child may be experiencing something stressful, usually regarding someone close to her. If the dreams repeat, notice when they occur and see if you can associate them with waking-life activities or people. If you recognize your own temper or meltdowns as fodder for the dream, take time to reassure your child that grown-ups sometimes get upset too, but that it does not mean she is at risk, she is in trouble or she needs to be frightened.

Falling
Children, like adults, are susceptible to falling dreams when they feel off balance or out of control. Falling dreams occur most often when there is a sense of chaos in the schedule, when small things mount up or when stability feels somehow shaky.

What you need to know:
In a few instances, falling dreams may be associated with ear infections or with an injury to the eardrum. If you suspect your child may be getting an ear infection or has recently had a bad head cold and falling dreams ensue, you may wish to consult your pediatrician. If you don’t believe there is any physical element contributing to the falling dream, then it is possible that your child is dealing with a sense of slipping, as if the normal taken-for-granted aspects of life may not be holding up somehow. This is a time to do what you can to reassure your child of the stable elements in her life, and to discuss, if she is willing to, the things that may seem scary or unsettling. Just the act of sharing can often be reassuring, since she’ll know it’s all right to be scared and that if she feels worried, she can always find a comforting ear to listen.

Bugs
Telling your child, “Goodnight! Don’t let the bedbugs bite!” may be better advice than you think, since children are prone to dreaming about insects in their bed or a swarm of bugs coming into their room at night.

What you need to know:
This is a dream that may recur a few times with varying degrees of agitation. It is a common dream for youngsters to experience when they are facing unpredictable situations, such as a separation in the marriage, moving into a new home or a new sibling being brought home. There is no single catalyst or interpretation for the attacking insects; rather, the frightening dream seems to reflect a sense of bewilderment and being overwhelmed. Arguments, unexpected changes and feeling as if she has no control over events may trigger repetitions of the dream. If your child has this dream, do what you can to give her some sense of control, or at least a voice in her own fate. Point out stability where it still exists, and help things to be as smooth and predictable as possible. And do what you can to manage your own anxiety, for she may pick it up and feel unsettled even though you aren’t saying much about the situation.

Ability to Fly or Do Magic
These dreams allow the child to perform heroic feats by virtue of her magical powers. She can often fly, perform rescues, travel into other realms and generally know what to do to make matters right.

What you need to know:
These lovely fantasy dreams allow your child to experience success by applying personal powers like imagination, compassion, courage and shrewdness to problem solving. They are wonderful dreams to explore in some detail because in some cases they symbolically allow your child to flex her creative muscles and write her own script. Drawing and coloring scenes from these dreams is one way to learn more about where your child feels confident and strong as well as where she may benefit from encouragement. Plus, having conversations about good dreams opens the door to safely exploring all dreams, both good and bad, without making your child feel interrogated or on the spot.

Ability to Fly When Being Chased by Villains
A common theme among children age six and up is being able to run extremely fast when being chased by bad guys. In the dream, the child sometimes runs so fast and so well that she actually takes off from the ground and begins to fly. The villains give chase, but the child’s ability to fly is her safety valve, and she can always outwit the bad guys with this superior power and manage to escape. This tends to be a recurring dream, and it may repeat occasionally, well into young adulthood.

What you need to know:
Children who have this dream usually have a significant challenge that disturbs them. The villains represent the pressure, and the ability to fly represents their own wish to escape, as well as their own sense that they have the intelligence, imagination and power to make their life work out better. Children who have lost a parent, who face economic struggles, who have a sibling that requires special care or who face some challenge that is part of the fabric of daily life seem to have this dream. The good news is that many successful adults report having had this dream during challenging early years. It appears the dream not only denotes the sense of challenge the child faces, but also hints at abilities and intelligence gathering steam to be applied in later years.

A Harmless Creature Turns Menacing
In these dreams, a friendly squirrel is let in the window and turns out to be vicious and violent. Or a beloved toy comes to life and turns into a weird monster. Even a ball of yarn or a baseball glove can morph into something suddenly menacing that stalks your child in the nightmare.

What you need to know:
The theme of something ordinary, even beloved, turning into a threat suggests that your child may be struggling with some situation or person that is usually known and kind, but may sometimes seem inexplicably difficult and harsh. The real-life parallel to the dream may be that your child is dealing with something that seems fine most of the time, but occasionally seems to turn against her. This could be anything from a playground buddy who occasionally plays unfairly to a situation at home that becomes confusing because it flips back and forth between “normal” and “unsettling.”

The Witch
Many youngsters dream of a wicked witch in the tradition of the character in The Wizard of Oz. This witch may be terribly scary, or it may be a more ambiguous character with some redeeming qualities.

What you need to know:
As with monsters, the witch could represent a real-life person in your child’s world, one who is sometimes cranky and unfair. If you suspect the witch may be a science-fiction cartoon of you in your worst moments, don’t take this as an indictment of your worth as a parent. Rather, use the appearance of such dreams as a measure of your child’s confusion and worry. Think about how often you wish for your own reassurance. Then let your child know that she’s always got someone in her corner.

A Mean Animal
These dreams usually involve being chased or attacked by a wild animal, or even a domestic animal that has become enraged. The bull, the lion or the giant spider that chases the child may be a recurring image in a series of chase dreams.

What you need to know:
The animals that give chase in dreams typically represent a situation involving some person that could be troubling to your child. While such nightmares are not necessarily an indication of a serious situation, it may be useful to ask your child to draw the mean animal and to share with you the typical story line of the dream. Because your child probably won’t make any connections between the scary dream and a scary life situation, you’ll want to inquire at another time whether there is anyone at school or in the neighborhood that she finds scary.

Being Exposed
Children, like adults, sometimes dream of going out in public without their clothes on or trying to use a lavatory that is unfortunately out in an open area where others can observe them.

What you need to know:
Dreams of public elimination or being unclothed are usually symbolic of a sense of exposure. These dreams usually occur when the youngster is moved into an environment where the expectations are higher, such as starting school or going on to a higher grade. They are not an indication of incipient trouble, but may be puzzling because they tend to occur when the child has done well enough to be moved forward or has made new friends. This is a time to remind the youngster that it takes time to settle into new surroundings and that there is plenty of time to learn the ropes in this new environment.

Being Trapped
In some dreams, the child is paralyzed and cannot run, or she is trapped in a closet or caught somewhere when a crisis occurs.

What you need to know:
These themes of being trapped when the child most needs to run suggest there is something unsettling that she finds threatening in some way. They also suggest that there are forces or expectations in the situation that make it difficult for the child to express or protect herself. If, for example, your child senses tension between you and your spouse but you keep assuring her that nothing is wrong, she is left in a bind. She feels and accumulates fear and pressure, but it’s officially off-limits to find out what is going on or talk about the situation with you.

You can help relieve the tension by allowing her to describe her dreams, including what is most scary about them and what puts her in the bind. Don’t share your analysis of the dreams with her. Just inviting her to talk about them will help her feel she can communicate more freely and have more control, and that you are interested in her experience.

How to Talk to Your Child about Dreams
In general, it’s beneficial to set aside time at the breakfast table each morning to talk about your child’s dreams. (You can share some of your own dreams too, if you remember them.) Doing this will let your child know that this is a safe and even fun part of life to be shared, just as if you were talking about favorite books or movies. Drawing dreams, making a game of dressing up and “fixing” the scary ending in a make-believe drama are also good ways to help your child express her dreams, and will ultimately give her a sense of control over both the subconscious and conscious events in her daily life.

 

See ivillage for more :  http://www.ivillage.com/your-childs-top-10-nightmares-and-dreams/6-a-128425?p=1

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Eugene Field (another poem)

Pittypat and Tippytoe
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

All day long they come and go—
Pittypat and Tippytoe;
Footprints up and down the hall,
Playthings scattered on the floor,
Finger-marks along the wall,
Tell-tale smudges on the door—
By these presents you shall know
Pittypat and Tippytoe.

How they riot at their play!
And a dozen times a day
In they troop, demanding bread—
Only buttered bread will do,
And the butter must be spread
Inches thick with sugar too!
And I never can say “No,
Pittypat and Tippytoe!”

Sometimes there are griefs to soothe,
Sometimes ruffled brows to smooth;
For (I much regret to say)
Tippytoe and Pittypat
Sometimes interrupt their play
With an internecine spat;
Fie, for shame! to quarrel so—
Pittypat and Tippytoe!

Oh the thousand worrying things
Every day recurrent brings!
Hands to scrub and hair to brush,
Search for playthings gone amiss,
Many a wee complaint to hush,
Many a little bump to kiss;
Life seems one vain, fleeting show
To Pittypat and Tippytoe!

And when day is at an end,
There are little duds to mend;
Little frocks are strangely torn,
Little shoes great holes reveal,
Little hose, but one day worn,
Rudely yawn at toe and heel!
Who but you could work such woe,
Pittypat and Tippytoe?

But when comes this thought to me:
“Some there are that childless be,”
Stealing to their little beds,
With a love I cannot speak,
Tenderly I stroke their heads—
Fondly kiss each velvet cheek.
God help those who do not know
A Pittypat or Tippytoe!

On the floor and down the hall,
Rudely smutched upon the wall,
There are proofs in every kind
Of the havoc they have wrought,
And upon my heart you ‘d find
Just such trade-marks, if you sought;
Oh, how glad I am ‘t is so,
Pittypat and Tippytoe!

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Importance of Board Games –

The Benefits of Board Games _ Scholastic

Playing games with your kids is a perfect way to spend time together — and build learning skills at the same time.

What your child most wants — and needs — is to be with you with no goal in mind beyond the joy of spending time together. He wants you to take pleasure in him, play with him, and listen to him. Nothing bolsters his self-esteem more! So why not pull out an old board game tonight? Playing games is an easy and excellent way to spend unhurried, enjoyable time together. As an added bonus, board games are also rich in learning opportunities. They satisfy your child’s competitive urges and the desire to master new skills and concepts, such as:

  • number and shape recognition, grouping, and counting
  • letter recognition and reading
  • visual perception and color recognition
  • eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity

Games don’t need to be overtly academic to be educational, however. Just by virtue of playing them, board games can teach important social skills, such as communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying interaction with others. Board games can foster the ability to focus, and lengthen your child’s attention span by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game. Even simple board games like Chutes and Ladders offer meta-messages and life skills: Your luck can change in an instant — for the better or for the worse. The message inherent in board games is: Never give up. Just when you feel despondent, you might hit the jackpot and ascend up high, if you stay in the game for just a few more moves.

Board games have distinct boundaries. Living in a complex society, children need clear limits to feel safe. By circumscribing the playing field — much as tennis courts and football fields will do later — board games can help your child weave her wild and erratic side into a more organized, mature, and socially acceptable personality. After all, staying within the boundaries (not intruding on others’ space, for example) is crucial to leading a successful social and academic life.

A Word About Winning
Children take game playing seriously, so it’s important that we help guide them through the contest. When a playing piece falls to a lower level, our kids really feel sad; when it rises up high, they are remarkably proud and happy, even if we adults know that it happened only by chance. Therefore, you need to help balance your child’s pleasure in playing the game with his very limited ability to manage frustration and deal with the idea of losing.

For 3, 4, and even 5 year olds, winning is critical to a feeling of mastery. So generally, I think it’s okay to “help” them win. By about 6, kids should begin to internalize the rules of fair play, tenuous as they may seem to a child who is losing a game. So I am also fine with a 6 year old “amending” the rules to win if he feels she has to. I encourage you to acknowledge your child’s need for special rules. At the start of the game, you might want to ask, “Are we playing by regular or cheating rules today?”

Choosing the Right Game at Every Age
While in the long run we need to teach values, ethics, academic skills, and the importance of playing by the rules, in the early years the primary goals are helping your child become more self-confident and ambitious and to enjoy playing with others. If you’re playing with more than one child, divide the family into teams, giving each player a job he can do well: A younger child may be responsible for rolling the dice (which he considers important, since that is where the luck comes from), and an older child the job of sorting the Monopoly money.

As children approach 5, they have more sophisticated thinking skills and can begin to incorporate and exercise their number, letter, and word knowledge in literacy-based games. By 6, children may prefer more cognitively challenging games like checkers, which require and help develop planning, strategy, persistence, and critical thinking skills. Here are some of our favorite game picks for 5 and 6 year olds.

  • Scrabble Junior (Milton Bradley): This is the younger cousin of the tremendously educational and challenging Scrabble, which we all know and love. Using large yellow letter tiles, players match letters to words already written on one side of the board. The reverse side has an open grid where older children can create their own words.
    Learning highlights: Fosters literacy and language skills.
  • Boggle Junior (Parker Brothers): The prelude to Boggle — one of the best learning games for older kids — is Boggle Junior, in which players link pictures to letters and words. The game comes with 6-sided letter cubes and numerous picture cards that have the name of the object spelled below. Players place a card on a blue tray and use 3- or 4-letter cubes to copy the item’s spelling. Older children can hide the written words and spell the word just using the picture.
    Learning highlights: Teaches letters, words, spelling, and matching skills.
  • Zingo (Think Fun Company): One of this year’s “hot” games, this Bingo-style matching game relies on a player’s ability to spot pictures (of a dog, say, or the sun) and match them quickly to the words and pictures on his play card. As in Bingo, the first one to finish a complete line of items wins.
    Learning Highlights: Encourages matching skills and quick thinking.
  • Monopoly Junior (Parker Brothers): As they do in its senior sibling, players roll dice to move around the game board and buy real estate. The game is shorter and uses smaller dollar denominations so kids can figure out winnings and penalties more quickly. 
    Learning Highlights: Develops math, color recognition, reading, reasoning, and social skills.
  • Junior Labyrinth (Ravensburger): Each player gets a large, easy-to-handle piece shaped like a ghost, which she moves through an extra-large maze in an attempt to reach a treasure. While the path may appear straight, the walls move and shift, so getting there is a challenge. This game imparts the idea of impermanence and change, since a path that was open just a moment ago might now be closed and vice versa. Players have to figure out what to do when circumstances change unexpectedly — a good life skill to learn.
    Learning highlights: Teaches spatial relations and relies on some manual dexterity.
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