Beating the Winter Blues with Games and Puzzles that Offer Innovative Play

December 14, 2010 | The winter months are all about keeping warm and family bonding over hot chocolate on snowy weekend afternoons. But when cabin fever inevitably sets in, parents will ward off their children’s winter blues with fresh versions of classic games and revolutionary ways of play that are educational, inventive and exciting for the entire family:

Intergenerational
Intergenerational games that bridge the gap between children and their parents or grandparents are also suitable and challenging for all who play.

ImageParents looking for games that appeal to the whole family are likely to be drawn to classic board games or cards, which remind them of their own childhoods spent playing with beloved favorites. With this in mind, toy companies have refreshed and reinvented their tried-and-true classic games, in some cases adding a technological component, making them just as popular with kids as they are with adults. Some great suggestions include:

  • Scrabble Flash (Hasbro), a tech version of an old classic that is “board-less”; 
  • LOL (Discovery Bay Games), a text-messaging version of Scrabble; 
  • Uno Attack (Mattel), shoots out cards randomly for skill-leveling game play;
  • Monopoly Revolution (Hasbro), features an electronic banking system, a musical component and a round game board;
  • Loopz (Radica/Mattel), a fast-paced strategy, memory and pattern game;
  • Family Talk, Grandparent Talk and Buddy Talk (Around the Table Games), which are card games that stimulate conversation;
  • Rory’s Story Cubes (Gamewright), which stimulates imagination through story-telling; and
  • Top Trumps Card Games (Top Trumps), card games that compare statistics in various categories, including animals, presidents, and dinosaurs.

3-D and Constructible
The 3-D and Constructible game category is another exciting new segment in the toy industry that takes gaming far beyond the traditional game board format and fosters innovative types of play.

The 3-D component allows people to experience the game in a new way and helps younger children understand spatial relationships; the building component allows players to build a game, break it down and re-build the game so that each time it’s played, it’s a different game.

3-D and constructible games are paving the way to the future of play; retailers in the know will want to snap up these games for their store shelves. Some examples of games that offer a multitude of play experiences include:

  • Classic games with a building component such as U-Build Monopoly, U-Build Sorry and U-Build Connect 4 (Hasbro);
  • Creationary and Minotaurus (Lego Games);
  • Stix & Stones (Educational Insights);
  • Contraptions (Mindware);
  • Make or Break Challenge (Ravensburger);
  • Fundex’s Castle Logix, which are 3-D constructible challenges for preschoolers; and
  • Math N Build Games (MegaBrands).

Electronic and Educational
Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the toy industry, particularly in the realm of educational games. A wide variety of play components will continue to interest players over a long period of time, as they include skill-leveling capacities and age-appropriate content – the games “grow” with the child.

When parents need a break from family game night, there are a slew of possibilities to keep their little ones engaged playing on their own while still having fun:

  • Explorer (Leapfrog), a hand-held electronic and educational device for kids ages 3-8;
  • MobiGo (VTech), a hand-held learning and gaming device for kids ages 3-7;
  • V-Reader (Vtech), an e-book that teaches kids how to read;
  • iXL (Fisher-Price), has six applications – photo album, e-book, music player, notebook, art studio and game player;
  • Alphie (Hasbro Playskool), a talking robot with learning cards and games; and
  • Who Knows Math? (Learning Resources), an electronic mathematical challenge game.

Innovations in Puzzles
Today, there is a whole new batch of puzzles on the market that present stimulating challenges for avid puzzlers as well as innovative components for young children and adults who are looking for a change of pace.

The most innovative puzzles on the market today are 3-D (children use glasses with lenticular lenses to see their puzzles come to life), big floor puzzles with chalk-compatible surfaces, mosaics (which use little horizontal and vertical pieces rather than interlocking pieces), puzzle balls (pieces are hinged together), and more challenging puzzles that don’t have edges or have pieces that are all a single, uniform color.

Companies have also recently come out with puzzle accessories, such as the Stow N Go (Ravensburger) puzzle mat, which allows a puzzle in progress to be rolled-up and stowed neatly without being ruined.

Some examples of revamped puzzles include:

  • PuzzleBalls (Ravensburger);
  • Konexi (I Can Do That Games), a 3-D word-puzzling game;
  • ChalkBoard Floor Puzzles (Lafayette Puzzles);
  • Shaped puzzles (Lafayette Puzzles), puzzles shaped like butterflies, hot air balloons, etc.;
  • Lenticular puzzles and floor-sized lenticular puzzles (Cardinal Games); and
  • Impossible Puzzles (Fundex), with no defined edges.

These are just a few examples of the many available innovative games and puzzles that are perfect for indoor winter play and fun for the whole family.  For more information on the most cutting edge toys and games, visit ToyInfo.org and view the regularly posted trend videos, featuring TIA’s trend specialist, Reyne Rice. Also