The Starter Mom: Christmas for the Win

by Nicole Loughan

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I have fond Christmas memories of playing games like Skip Bo, Othello, Connect Four and Cooties with my cousins. Perhaps no game stirs as much emotion in me as Candy Land. I received this game of pure luck in 1980 something, wrapped up under the tree and brought it with me to family Christmas.

In this game of pure luck a player draws a card that move them one, or if they’re really lucky, two colorful squares ahead. There was also the potential for big wins with character cards. That game taught everything; colors, counting and in my case Karma.

One holiday morning my cousin Jen and I sat down to our usual game of Candy Land. She stepped away to go to the bathroom, and I moved Queen Frostine, the best character which moves you almost to the end of the game, to the top of the deck. When Jen came back, I pulled the Queen Frostine and put on my best astonished face. She immediately began to pout and I sympathetically said, “It’s okay, Jen; it’s just luck.”

I was just a few squares from the finish when my luck turned again. I pulled the dreaded Plumpy card. This character takes you all the way back to the beginning to hang with a guy who thinks plums are candy. I went flying back to the start, my hopes of winning dashed and my understanding of karma and what happens when you cheat more fully formed.

Candy Land has forever reminded me of that day and how cheating sent me all the way to the Plum tree of doom. Now I let the cards fall where they may, literally, and I am excited to watch my kids play and learn these lessons all over again. Read on for some holiday game gift ideas.

Candy Land
Cost approximately $10.
Candy Land had a makeover a few years ago. Some of the characters have changed. Frostine is there, but she is now a princess, and Lolly looks like Katy Perry in the California Girls video with her micro skirt, Plumpy is gone, and perhaps my biggest beef of all is that the cards are gone, replaced by a spinner. It’s still a fun game and our kids will never know there was something better available. If you really want the older game for about twice the price, you can find the 65th Anniversary edition, which is different still, no characters at all.

Don’t Rock the Boat
Cost approximately $12.
This super fun game has a plastic boat which balances on a spindle. The game comes with a hoard of adorable pirate penguins that must be perched on the boat without tipping it over. The game can be quite difficult for my young children. When they want to play, we take the boat off of the spindle and just try stacking the penguins up in the baskets of the ship. It’s hard enough without the tipping for younger kids.

Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Game
Cost approximately $8
This is a game based on the popular children’s book by the same name. In the game, each character is given a bus to drive around. The game play is similar to Trivial Pursuit with no Trivia. You have to collect pieces, like a hot dog or a bus, and try to make it back to the center of the game first. Though you have to look out, there is a pigeon on the loose, and if he gets on your bus, he will send you flying back to the beginning. This game teaches counting, strategy, and if you couple it with the book, reading comprehension.

Hungry Hippos
Ages Four and up, cost approximately $15
The manufacturer of this game says it is for ages four and up because of the potential to choke on the little balls. If you have a child who might stick them in their mouth, then you want to follow that guideline. However, we play this game with my two-year-old. Though the game is more colorful than it used to be, it has not changed in essentials. Two to four people gather around plastic hippos that are Hungry Hungry and slap a lever to collect little white marbles. Fun for all involved

Give something new a spin at one of these local stores:

Target, Westlake and Newbury Park

Barnes & Noble, Calabasas


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