Family Games: Spot It and Love Letter

When we finished our basement last winter, all our games moved downstairs. That’s a good thing, as there’s literally nowhere on the upper floor to keep them, but it’s also a sad thing, because I find we are not playing as much as we used to. It’s just easier after dinner to flop on the couch than to have to go downstairs and root around on some shelves for a game.

As a result I’ve started keeping a few small, quick little games on my office desk for us to grab on a weeknight. We have several of these but today I’ll chat about two of them: Spot It and Love Letter. Both are small in size (perfect for travel), quick to play, and easy to learn. Win-win-win!

About Spot It

Spot It is a great game for younger kids – our seven year old LOVES it, and is quite competitive with us. I see on the box it’s rated for ages 7 and up, but I’d say any child that’s into I Spy books would like it – there’s no reading at all, which makes it a great choice for the younger crowd.

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Spot It is a deck of round cards. Each card has several different symbols on it. Here’s the cool part: every single card in the deck has exactly one, and only one, symbol in common with every other card.

(Aside: this desperately makes me want to get out my calculator and figure out the mathematical relationship here: X many symbols with Y symbols on each card will result in one-and-only-one matches for Z number of cards. Aren’t you tempted? No? Just me?)

(Aside aside: Bet my friend Mark is working that out RIGHT NOW. He gets me.)

Anyway! You can play several different games with the Spot It deck of cards, but they all involve finding the one matching symbol given a pair of cards. The faster you are at finding the one-in-common, the better you’ll do.

We usually play the traditional Tower version. Every person gets a card, with the remaining cards in a central pile, face down. You flip the top card on the deck, and everyone flips their personal card, and starts to look for a match. If you see the one symbol that matches between your personal card and the central card, you call it out (“Lips!”, “Tree!”, “Igloo!”) and whoever shouts first gets to take the central card and put it on top of their personal pile, then flip over a new card. The moment the new central card is flipped, we match again, until the deck is gone; at the end, the person with the most cards wins.

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It's hard to see, but my match here is the daisy.

It’s hard to see, but my match here is the daisy.

It works well because the person who just made a match now has a new card on their deck, while everyone else is working with the same card and its now-familiar symbols, so it helps balance things out. The kids definitely have a fighting chance – in fact, Little Miss Sunshine, who LOVES I Spy/Where’s Waldo type books, is practically a Spot It Savant.

(Also, this is a very friendly and cooperative game for us, so if one of us adults starts getting too far ahead, it’s easy to take your time looking for matches, giving the kids longer to look. But that leads us to a whole “should you throw games to your kids” discussion that we will definitely be having here, but at a later date.)

So to sum up, we love Spot It because:
* it’s great for younger kids, since there’s no reading
* it’s super fast to set up and play
* lots of people can play; I think it’s officially for up to 4 players but we play with five of us all the time with no trouble
* it’s fun for us as well as the kids, and we can be competitive with each other on a fairly even level
* it comes in a handy tin which makes it great for travel

It’s a great early family game and perfect for throwing into your carry on for your next vacation.

About Love Letter

Love Letter is another small card game that travels well, sets up fast in very little room, and is fairly easy to learn – but complex enough to keep the adults interested. It’s actually the fourth in a series of games made by AEG, all set in the same world called Tempest. You definitely do not need to collect all the games, but they do follow a kind of overall storyline, and share the same artwork and characters, while being wildly different in play and strategy, so it’s an interesting concept.

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Love Letter is by far the most popular of the series, and I can see why. It’s just 16 cards and some little red blocks (“love tokens”). The cards all feature a character in the game – some characters, like guards, appear more than once, while bigger characters like the Princess or King appear only once.

The story is that the Princess has locked herself away, and you want to get a love letter to her by getting the card of the person “closest” to her. In practice this means you want to end up with the highest card at the end of the round. You’ll be dealt one card only, and that card has a number on it – the higher the number, the “closest” to the princess. So, the princess herself is marked with an 8; the king is 6, guards are 1, and so on.

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So everyone gets their single card, and the rest go into a pile in the centre, face down. On your turn, you’ll draw one other card, then decide which one to keep, and which one to discard face up in front of you.

Simple, right? Keep the higher card, right?

Not so fast. The card you DISCARD has instructions on it, and you must follow those instructions. Sometimes these work in your favour; sometimes not. You might get to peek at someone else’s card. You might be forced to swap hands with someone. You might have to have an immediate head-to-head showdown with one other player. So, it’s not always an easy decision – what to keep, and what to discard.

Also, your discards sometimes have the power to knock others out of the game. So it’s not just a matter of having the highest card at the end, but of being deceptive enough with your discards to protect yourself until the end.

It’s simple in rules, but there’s actually a lot of strategy here, which keeps it interesting for us.

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The round ends when there’s only one player still in, or when the end of the deck is reached – which happens quickly, since there’s only 16 cards in the deck. Of the players still in, the one with the highest card at the end of the round wins a “love token,” and you re-deal. You can play for up to 7 “love tokens” but you can play for fewer – up to 3 say – if bedtime is looming. If you’re in a rush while waiting for the spaghetti to cook, you can even just have one round, winner take all.

In terms of ages, we can all play this game, but I would recommend it for ages 8 and up, I think – our older two, ages 10 and 11, have no trouble with all aspects of the game but we can usually out-fox our seven year old with our crafty discards, so if she is playing we do a lot of “thinking out loud” to give her clues about the kind of thing she should be noticing or paying attention to.

(She totally loves to get love tokens, though. “Love token” is possibly her most favourite phrase ever.)

So to sum up, we love Love Letter because:
* it’s easy to learn, but involves enough strategy to keep us all intrigued
* it’s small and travels well (and is also inexpensive)
* even though you can personally knock people out of the game, it never has that “ganged up on” feeling of other games (hello, MUNCHKIN)
* it’s very fast to set up and play
* you can play as many rounds as you like, making the whole game as long or as short as you like
* the cards are really, really pretty (enough to make me want to buy more of the games in this series, just to see the artwork)

I got this one in my stocking just this past Christmas but we’ve already played it a ton, and when a game is suggested it’s always the first one I call for, because it’s my current fave. Recommended!

Orthodontics

My older two had their first visit to the orthodontist this week, at the recommendation of our dentist. I thought it was a bit early – the Captain will be 12 next week, and Gal Smiley is only 10 1/2 – but both had alarming-looking sideways teeth on their recent x-rays so we went for the consultation.

Here’s the conversation I had with a nervous Gal Smiley the night before:

Her: What’s going to happen there?

Me: Nothing scary. They will be just looking at your teeth and taking some measurements. At most, they might ask for new x-rays.

Her: Will they be pulling out my teeth?

Me: Definitely not. Even if that’s what he thinks is required, he won’t do that tomorrow. He will give us all the information and we will have time to think about what we want to do.

Her: Do I have to get braces?

Me: We don’t know, but if so, likely not for a while, because you are very young still and you have lots of baby teeth left. We will consider the options, and take our time thinking it over.

So, that was the plan, anyway. Actual events: we went, there were measurements and discussion and a lot of tut-tuts, and next thing you know I’m making an appointment two weeks out for her to have an appliance put in. GAH.

Lest you think the orthodonist is some sort of money-grabbing charlatan, I actually really liked him a lot, and he was very cool about the Captain, saying he just needs time for his mouth to get bigger and there’s no rush and his bite is fine for the moment, so let’s just let him grow a bit and we’ll see.

(Except for the fact that he does need one baby tooth pulled, because the molar above it is breaking loose out the side of his gum, which is SO HORRIFYING TO ME I cannot even type it without squirming, but our dentist can do the tooth pulling in 10 minutes some morning next week, although we may have to literally drag the Nervous Nelly Captain kicking and screaming into the chair to make it happen.)

But for Gal Smiley, her upper palate is smaller than the lower, and she is compensating for the mismatch by shifting her lower jaw to one side, resulting in a noticeable shift in her face that will cause weird jaw growth that is “easy” to fix now, but hard to fix later on, so yes, now it is. She has to have this device like a metal butterfly put into her upper mouth that we will expand with the turn of a key once a day for a month, then she has to keep it in for another six months to set the bone.

I’m trying to be Super! Upbeat! about the whole thing, and not just because I don’t want to seem like the Biggest Lying Mother That Ever Lied after promising her an ortho appointment with little ongoing impact. Also, I didn’t have braces and neither did Sir Monkeypants, so as far as we know, braces are just pretty little things that make your mouth pleasantly sparkly for a year or so. It COULD be true, right?

But the more I think about it, the more I worry – WILL it hurt? Will she drool a lot? Will she talk funny with it in? Will it stop her from eating her favourite foods? Will it stop her from eating altogether? Is it worth it?

Any advice would be welcome.

Tooth Fairy Fail

I had another Tooth Fairy Fail on the weekend. Little Miss Sunshine lost her second tooth ever and we had the usual Comedy of Errors dealing with the fallout. How is it that I can be so uberorganized that I start my Christmas shopping in February, yet I cannot remember to be the freakin’ Tooth Fairy? Sigh.

Even if I had remembered, there was going to be a problem, because she insisted on putting it under her pillow. With the other two, we convinced them that the Tooth Fairy prefers the easy access of a bedside table. Gal Smiley has taken that even farther, and introduced this new thing, learned from a friend in her class, where you leave the tooth in a glass of water in the bathroom, then in the morning the water has been magically tinted to be the “colour” of your personal tooth fairy’s wings. I have to admit I was rather bitter about the whole adding on of even more traditions in association with this ridiculous process of buying your way into being able to throw away your child’s gross bloody tooth, instead of finding them gathered years later in a special tin like some sort of serial killer’s trophy box. But now I see the beauty, because a cup in the bathroom is a lot easier to deal with in a rush at 6:30 in the morning when you wake up and realize you have forgotten, AGAIN. Tip: keep your food colouring in the medicine cabinet.

So anyway, the Little Miss was all into the pillow thing and could not be dissuaded, and furthermore, she wanted to put JUST THE TOOTH under there, and I had visions of myself trying to slip my hand under her pillow without waking her while groping around for a tiny white speck the size of a few grains of sand, and it just seemed like it was unlikely to end successfully. Eventually I convinced her that the tooth might get lost, so she should put it in a tiny plastic box specifically for this purpose, given to her by our dentist.

So the tooth went under the pillow in the orange plastic box, and I went and watched some Jeopardy and then went to bed, merrily forgetting all about it. Then, as has happened about 17 times in the past, I happily snuggled in the warm covers for three minutes after the alarm went off before remembering, and then flew out of bed softly swearing under my breath about the TOOTH FAIRY DAMMIT.

She was already up and playing in her room but we guessed that she had possibly forgotten all about it, so Sir Monkeypants and I swung into Mission Impossible mode. He sent her to the bathroom, and while she was trapped on the potty he asked her through the door what had happened with her tooth and she said she’d forgotten to check. SCORE. So I ran downstairs and got a toonie, ran upstairs and put the money under her pillow, found the orange box, freaked out for a minute because I could not open the box, STUPID PLASTIC CLASPS, and then finally got it open and by some miracle the tooth did NOT go flying across the room, so I slipped the tooth into my robe pocket and fled the scene.

Five seconds later she came out and found her money was all amazed and ran to show us, and we were like, WOW, that’s so cool! How did she do it? AMAZING.

I’m thinking I’ll just give the older two a flat $20 and we’ll call it even for all tooth-related incidents going forward. Do you think it’s bad parenting to tell the youngest that the tooth fairy has died, and has bequeathed her the same lump sum? Not at all, right?

It’s Over.

I am officially done with winter.

I feel like I have been a remarkably good sport about it this year, particularly as someone who has deeply and truly disliked winter in the past. I have been skiing, so I have been outside even when it’s minus 25, and it’s been okay. I have cheerfully shovelled side by side with my children. I have invested in many lovely new pairs of thermal socks and have enjoyed many cups of tea. I have remarked on how nice it is that it’s at least sunny out, that the days are slowly getting longer. I have loved watching the kids love the snow, rolling around in it like it was a bed full of money.

But now – I’m over it. A couple of days ago I woke up and looked outside and it was still winter, still frigid, still with the snow all over, and that was IT. DONE. Since then I have lost my powers of optimistic protection and have felt the wind drive itself right into my bones, felt my hands turn blue with cold. I have come to hate my snow pants and resent my giant clonky boots and gone barefoot in the house in defiance, only to find myself shivering with toes by the fireplace an hour later. It all sucks.

This morning Sir Monkeypants declared the Winter Of Our Discontent to be over, because the deep-deep freezing days were supposed to end with slightly milder temperatures – highs in the negative single digits – starting with today. But although he’s technically right, I still suffered a great suffering on my way to pick up the kids today, despite still suiting up in the full spacesuit of winter protection. IT DID NOT HELP.

Winter: you have finally broken me. I quit.

A Few Thoughts On Food

Last week I made little individual tourtieres for dinner. I love them, but it was a little depressing that something that took me over two hours to make was gobbled up in the 15 minute window between piano practice and running out the door for guides/scouts. Sigh.

I made an apple pie as well that night and a piece before bed and then another for breakfast the next morning did help soothe the hurt feelings, a little.

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Every morning I have oatmeal for breakfast, with maple syrup on it. Every morning I open the fridge to get out the maple syrup and see it in the fridge door, right there next to a big bottle of Bailey’s.

Some morning I may mix the two of them up and it may not be an accident.

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We have had a devil of a time getting the children to eat breakfast lately. I have thrown out all notion of healthy breakfasts and am now offering them cookies, pie, or even a half cup of tea for breakfast. It frustrates me that no one has yet invented a pill that could take the place of an entire meal, especially considering that such an invention would solve the world hunger crisis, not to mention freeing up all kinds of time for more productive activities, and allow travel to foreign destinations to be so much easier for the food-allergic among us.

Perhaps my children are just using this breakfast strike as a way to inspire me to invent such a thing. If so, the joke’s on them, as I intend to make it their homework for the next few years. HA.

10 Books

Nicole over at the Boyhouse posted about 10 Childhood Books that Stuck, as in books that she read before age 12 that were especially memorable for some reason. I think it’s a meme that’s going around. Anyway, I was going to comment over there but it quickly ballooned into an out-of-control hijack of her blog so thought I’d move it over here.

So here are some books that come to mind when I think about those pre-grade-8 years:

1. The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key. We read this when I was in Grade 5, and I think it was the first fantasy book I’d ever read, and it blew my mind. Alexander Key is better known for his book Escape to Witch Mountain, and after reading The Forgotten Door I went on to read all his books, but this first one will always live in my memory – I can still quote parts of it. My class wrote him a letter as part of studying the book and it was my first author fan letter ever, and I gushed and gushed. Sadly, we heard back a few months later from his widow – he’d died just the year before – but it was still a wonder to me to have an actual response.

2. The Tattooed Potato, and Other Clues, by Ellen Raskin. I love, love, love Ellen Raskin. All her books are genius – they are mysteries, but odd and offbeat ones containing nutty characters and crazy situations and surprising twist answers to unusual questions. She’s best known for The Westing Game and I’ve read that book probably two dozen times and it’s great. But The Tattooed Potato holds a special place in my heart because a) the lead character’s name is a sassy girl called Dickory Dock and b) I never, ever saw the ending coming. Other titles by her include The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), which I just read to my youngest and it totally holds up; and Figgs and Phantoms, a book that changed my whole world outlook when I was 12.

3. The Clue of the Tapping Heels by Carolyn Keene – My favourite Nancy Drew book, but in truth I read them all. ALL OF THEM. I also read all the Hardy Boys books – literally, ALL of them. Once when I was in Grade 4 I was home sick for a day, and my mother had an appointment that she had to go out for, so she gave me two brand new Nancy Drew books she’d been saving for my birthday to keep me busy in bed while she was out, and when she came back two hours later I had read them both. The Tapping Heels involves tap dancing and morse code – so yeah, loved that one.

4. Hurry Home Candy by Meindert deJong (pictures by Maurice Sendak). Checked this book out from the school library in Grade 5 at least four times – my younger sister FameThrowa discovered this fact when she was in Grade 5 at the same school, and saw my name multiple times on the card. Not sure why I did that, as this is seriously, SERIOUSLY, the saddest book of all time. It’s the story of a young stray dog, Candy, who goes through many adventures, most of which end badly or sadly or meanly. At the very, very end, the dog does find a kind home and it’s a WEEPFEST, I can’t even think about it now without welling up. FameThrowa bought me my very own copy about a decade ago and I can’t even imagine reading it to the children because I’d just sob all the way through it. It’s on the bookshelf downstairs if they want to have a go at it on their own.

5. The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, Banner In The Sky by James Ramsay Ullman, and Crisis on Conshelf Ten by Monica Hughes. My mother has a brother, my uncle, and he’s 10 years younger than her, which makes him only 15 years older than me. When I was in middle school, he was a young adult but not married and he had to shop for his nieces for Christmas and had no idea what to get for tweenaged girls. So he went into a bookstore and asked the lady there what he should get for me, a 12 year old who loved reading, and she sold him these three titles, all of which changed my life. The Great Brain is a classic of hilarity – I read it to the Captain a couple of years ago and it totally holds up, funny as ever, just as I remembered it. Banner in the Sky is a story about a young man determined to climb a mountain and it was so moving and inspirational and I absolutely remember every word. And Crisis on Conshelf Ten – love, love, love that book, went on to read everything by Monica Hughes (she is best known for her Isis series, about a girl living alone on another planet). This one is about a society that lives on a future earth underwater, and one boy who is invited to use his low-grav skills to help settle the moon.

I just had a look on Amazon and let me say, it is sad that many of Monica Hughes’ books are now out of print – as are most of Ellen Raskin’s. I’m sure there’s more. In today’s ebook age, it seems like a simple thing to just upload the text and get it out there. Hm – possible new project.

Anyway, moving on!

6. Deenie by Judy Blume. Like every woman my age, I have read all of Judy’s books, but my favourites were Deenie and Tiger Eyes, both of which I read many times and heralded a new age of womanhood. Still remember Deenie making out with a boy at a party – THE SCANDAL. It was my own personal Fifty Shades of Grey. Also, I can still describe scene-for-scene how to get yourself a back brace for scoliosis. This book inspired me to seek out the movie Splendor in the Grass, starring Natalie Wood in the role that Deenie was named for, and that kick-started my whole love of classic movies, which soon became an all-consuming passion that lives on to this day.

As a fun aside, Nicole is doing a full chapter-by-chapter recap of Deenie over at her new blog, Throwback Three.

7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I actually didn’t read a lot of “classic” literature as a kid. Things like Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte’s Web, or Little House on the Prairie were all read in my 20s because I felt I’d missed out on something. This is one of the few classic novels I did actually read, in Grade 5, and I loved it. Magical and dreamy with a kickass protagonist – oh, how I wanted my very own secret garden.

8. Among the Dolls by William Sleator. My whole life I thought this was another title by Frances Burnett, but it seems her book about dollhouses is a sweet little ditty about two competing dollhouses, while this one is a work of sheer TERROR. I had to look it up online but I’m pretty sure this is the one that continues to live large in my memory – probably the first horror book I ever read and it scared the pants off of me. It’s about a girl who gets a dollhouse for her birthday and, due to a troubled home life, is mean to the dolls inside – so then they suck her into the house so they can be mean right back. GAH. I also read The Green Futures of Tycho by the same author, about time travel, which mostly served to teach me who the hell Tycho Brahe was.

9. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Both of these were read to my Grade 4 class by my totally awesome teacher (she later went on to become the school’s librarian), and I loved them, they were like a golden special treat for the end of the day. Years later I still absolutely remembered whole chucks of both wholesale, and bought both for my kids and insisted they read them, and now I have read both probably 20 times, at least. WORTH IT.

10. George and Martha by James Marshall. Not a lot of picture books on this list, because I was a precocious reader and was into novels at an early age. But George and Martha – oh, how I loved them. We owned their book about pea soup (Martha loves to make it; George hates to eat it, but can’t tell her because it will hurt her feelings), and I’m sure I read it 100 times. I saw their combined tales at the library last year and I checked it out for ME, not the children, and re-read it all and it was super nostalgic.

Ah, warm memories of days spent hiding in the corner of a family reunion with my nose in a book. Good times, good times.

Earth, Fire, Air, Water

I’ve been missing for a week or so now because of many things, but the best thing is that my girls’ piano teacher has lent us her DVDs of The Legend of Korra. She found out that we were fans of the show Avatar: The Last Airbender and then we wasted almost a whole evening’s worth of lessons gushing about the elements, and what kind of bender you’d be (earth, for the record), and how awesome it is, and how mysterious it is to all of us that the world isn’t 100% on board with this show, which is, in all seriousness, AWESOME.

In fact, I can get quite evangelical about it, so I will try to keep it sane by just saying a few things: The Last Airbender is the story of four tribes, each of whom have the skill to “bend” or manipulate one of the four elements – earth, fire, air, or water. There’s one person born in each generation who can bend all four – the avatar – and this person’s job is to maintain balance.

It’s an animated show but it is, SERIOUSLY, so very, very good. The kids started watching it last year on Netflix (the whole original series is on there) but Sir Monkeypants and I were quickly sucked in as well. It’s funny and mystical and deep and yet accessible and fun and emotionally fulfilling. There are three seasons that tell a complete story and at the end, you’ll just need to sit and absorb and feel the peace. SO GOOD.

The Legend of Korra is a sequel show set in the same world that follows a new avatar, and it’s also AMAZING. We are watching it as a family and this weekend’s extra cold temperatures meant we all huddled up on the couch and binge watched the first season, and now are into the second season, and YES. Every bit as good as the original series. Find a way to get your hands on both of them, now.

In other news, I have been busy with skiing. Sir Monkeypants made a crafty move and bought me these:

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Hello, my beauties. Bright pink ski boots, which automatically makes them the best boots ever, but also with plush thick lining that is sooooo comfy. Now I have no excuse not to go skiing. He also bought me my own set of skis that, by coincidence, match – they are black on top and hot pink on the bottom. Last week at lessons a young girl going by told me she liked my skis and that was possibly the most fulfilling moment of my life. I KNOW. When did I become a ski bunny?

And speaking of things Sir Monkeypants bought me, I got a Valentine gift this year, which is actually unusual, because both of us kind of pooh-pooh on the whole event and have never celebrated it, although I must admit that in recent years I have taken to getting the kids a book or a LEGO man or something to mark the occasion. Anyway, here’s what I got this year:

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Best. Gift. Ever. The girls and I have been BUSY. Do you wanna build a snowman?

Telestrations

Time for another board game post! This one is on Telestrations – a fun party game that our kids really love. We learned about this game when we were invited to spend a weekend at a cottage this summer, belonging to Gal Smiley’s best friend RingetteGirl. We had a fantastic time and Telestrations was a big part of that – we came home and immediately went out and bought a copy (we found it at Chapters).

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Who It’s For

I believe the box says ages 12 and up, and I can see why, as there is some reading involved and some knowledge of phrases. But I would definitely say anyone 10 and up could handle it, and we play this with Little Miss Sunshine, who is 7, with some modifications (discussed below).

It’s a big messy party game and that means it’s best for a whole whack of people. In theory you can play with as little as 4 people but it’s definitely better with at least 5, and if you can get 7 or 8, that’s best.

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How To Play

Telestrations is advertised as “the game of telephone, with drawing” and that’s pretty accurate. A card will give you a starter word or phrase, and you write that phrase down in a little notebook. Then you pass the book to the next person at the table, and that person has to draw a picture of the word. Then the book is passed down the line, and the next person guesses what the picture is (i.e. writes a word that they think was the original word). Then the next person draws THAT word, and then the next person guesses based on THAT picture, and so on.

As you can guess, the original word/phrase gets pretty warped, pretty quickly, with much hilarity.

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Once the notebooks have made it all around the table, the original person presents their notebook one page at a time – “My word was Rocking Horse, and then Sam drew this (ha ha ha!), then Sally guessed it was a bow and arrow, then John drew this…” and so on. Everyone gets a notebook to start, and they’re all going around the table at the same time, so at the end, everyone has a notebook to present, so we take turns until they’re all shown.

There’s technically a way to “score” the game and have a winner. You can earn points for correct guesses; for getting someone else to correctly guess your picture; and for having your original word make it all around the table more-or-less correctly. But we don’t bother with this – Telestrations is just a game we play for laughs and fun.

Also, there’s a timer that’s supposed to limit your drawing time, but we don’t use that either – everyone has unlimited time to draw. Sometimes this means a few notebooks collect at one person’s station but so be it, it works out in the end, and if you’re waiting for a book to be passed to you it’s only a good excuse to eat some chips.

Why We Love It

Mostly we play this game for the hilarity factor. There’s three types of fun – admiring people’s artwork, laughing at crazy artwork, and laughing at the ridiculous things people guess.

The first time we played, we were playing with RingetteGirl’s older brother, who is very smart and funny and has the absolute perfect warped sense of humour. He was sitting next to the Captain, who is famous for his total inability to draw anything. The Captain was given the word “ball” and he drew this:

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Then the Big Brother guessed “Circle of Doom” and passed it to me, and when I opened the book and saw “Circle of Doom” as the next thing I was going to have to draw, I just about fell out of my chair laughing. It was AWESOME, and kicked off a whole evening of the Captain, Sir Monkeypants, and Big Brother trying to outdo each other with crazy guesses (“Monkey with pickaxe in bathtub wearing a top hat”).

Some Bad Stuff

Lots of people we have tried to play this game with have refused because they “can’t draw.” Really, bad drawing is 3/4 of the fun, so we usually push them into it. Plus, the fat markers on a small square mean even the most gifted artists can’t create masterpieces – everyone is just trying to capture the idea quickly with stick figures and simple shapes. But you have to make sure that the Bad Drawers at least have a sense of humour and can handle being laughed at. We have a solid track record of fun with this game but we did play one time with a lady who will remain nameless, who had played the “can’t draw” card to begin with, then felt very upset when we laughed at the mismatches. So yes, know your audience (and some alcohol wouldn’t hurt either).

I think this is a really fun game for all ages, but there is some reading involved, and also some knowledge of phrases like “out of the box” or “feeding frenzy” or “inside man.” Gal Smiley does just fine – when we first got this game last summer, she was 9 1/2 – but the Little Miss needs some help.

Here’s how we handle it for her – she sits always between two adults. If the person passing her a book has written down a word, then they will whisper the word to her, and sometimes give a little explanation of what it means; then she draws her picture. If she receives a picture and needs to write a word, then she asks the person she will be passing TO for help with spelling, as they’ll be reading the word next, anyway. It has to be kept hush-hush as the other people at the table aren’t supposed to hear any hints about what’s in the books, so sometimes we will play music to cover up our whispering. It works out well and she loves to play, so all good.

Recommended For

Big groups in fun, party like situations – perfect for cottages or family reunions or Christmas parties. You can play this one really quickly – a round takes maybe 15 minutes, so you can throw in a few rounds before bed with no trouble, and you can play for as long or as short as you like. It’s a great choice for people who might not want to play a game with a lot of strategy or thinking, but just want to have a little icebreaking kind of fun after dinner. If the relatives are coming for a visit – pick up a copy!

Report Cards

It was report card day yesterday, and I always get a little wound up on report card day, ranting about the meaningless comments. But yesterday was much cheerier than usual, because of this:

Captain: (cough cough) I’m sick, I can’t go to school.

Me: Well, it’s report card day, don’t you want to get your report card?

Captain: Hm.

Little Miss: What will they do with his report card if he doesn’t come?

Me: They’ll probably throw it out.

Captain: REALLY???

Me: Yes. If you don’t show up on report card day, that’s it. You have to wait until June to get any results.

Captain: REALLY????

And then I snorted and told him he could stay home from school and call me crazy, but they’d probably give him his report card the next day. Poor kid, he has absolutely inherited my total gullibility, complete with the trademark saying of “REALLY???” at all turns. He and I will go forth in blind trust together.

Later I called the school to let them know he was staying home and asked if his report card could be given to the Little Miss, whose classroom is right next door. That was no problem, so turned out he got his report card after all, PHEW.

Funny report card story: the Captain is in Grade 6, and in health class this term they were studying drugs and why they are bad. His report card says that he can describe and understands the effects of “cannabis and other illicit drugs.” Sir Monkeypants and I had a good laugh about his extensive knowledge of illicit drugs, SNICKER, and then this happened:

Sir Monkeypants: So, what do you know about cannabis?

Captain: Well, for the first two weeks everyone in my class thought the teacher was saying “can of piss.”

SNORT. Guess you really wouldn’t want to sample THAT at a party.