I am not anti-iPad – far from it – but I have to say that I get tired of cartoon voices and the lack of real interaction with devices. Whilst you can argue that people are communicating online or learning a multitude of things from online videos, websites or games, I personally don’t think it can replace actual real life interaction.
I’m a huge fan of old-fashioned board games or even card games for that reason. I think they teach kids all kinds of important skills that are sometimes forgotten.
Monopoly for example, obviously teaches basic numeracy and money management – but you also have to talk and negotiate property swaps, patience is often required as other people take time to work out what they want to to, you have to take it in turn with other people and most importantly, you have to deal with disappointment if things don’t go your way. You can’t just rewind the game or restart it as you would online!
I may know this lesson better than other people after a particular game of childhood monopoly when I missed out on buying Trafalgar Square to my brother. I of course handled it superbly… by eating the card.
I wouldn’t say Math is Ben’s strongest point but when we play the French Card Game, Mille Bornes: The Classic Racing Game his mental arithmetic suddenly improves ten-fold. I would highly recommend it for 7+ but it’s actually really fun for adults too.
The problem with all of these, is that it’s incredibly difficult to include a precoious three year-old. Sadly, Katie is never happy to just watch, or to be on someone’s team. She wants to do EVERYTHING and truly believes that she can.
Which is why Rory’s Story Cubes have given us a game that actually… we can all play.
Story Cubes are basically just dice with different pictures on each side. I think you’re really meant to have a pack of nine and there’s different ways in which you can use them to help tell stories… but we actually just have a pack of three.
These ‘extras’ packs containing three dice are available in a multitude of different themes but the intergalactic set really caught my eye. Ben (along with most of the country I’m sure) has been learning about Space at school. I’m sure this has been inspired by Tim Peak – but he’s actually been quite interested in it. It is so rare for him to actually retain and feedback things that he has learnt about at school in any real detail, but he has talked about this topic at home.
At a recent parent’s evening, his teacher had said that he struggles with having stages to his stories – there’s no beginning, middle, and end with him – he can write a stage to a story or a piece of work but it really doesn’t go anywhere. Given that he rarely writes more than five lines I’m not sure what they expect to see in those sentences but it got me thinking.
This is where the story dice come into play.
After dinner, I’ve been getting the dice out and handing one to each child… I explain that we were going to tell a story as a family and the aim of the game was to make each other laugh, be scared or to be excited. Then we all get to roll a die and begin to tell a story as a family.
Katie usually starts but then we each have to add to the story depending on what picture we have. We keep going round the table re-rolling until the story peters out into the sublimely ridiculous.
Unfortunately, the combination of Ben and Katie usually means that the stories involve lots of poo. But that’s fine in my book because it means they’re laughing and that usually makes Thomas giggle too!
Last night, our story began… Once upon a time, there was a giant baby called Thomas and a giant poo monster… Ben continued… the giant monster was from Space, who came from a planet of poo… You get the idea.
We eventually had a wormhole of poo (complete with sound effects), satellites that detected too much poo, a space station that became overwhelmed with poo… and then they all lived happily ever after.
Kind of gross, but actually the whole family were round the table talking, laughing and interacting with each other. I’m not sure how many games could keep everyone that focused and having that amount of fun for so long.
It also strikes me that this game could easily be adapted for younger children or for other themes without having to buy any dice at all. You could make a spinner and use different stickers as characters in each spot – going for a Peppa Pig or Thomas the Tank Engine theme. Older children could even make their own dice and draw a selection of different objects to suit their own interests.
Obviously, the cubes could also help with story writing or be used for entertainment on long journeys – in my mind they are a ‘must have’ item for any plane journey of the future!
Story Cubes are available on Amazon here but I found my pack of three from Waterstones, Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh.
PS. This article contains affiliate links.
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