Even if my children grow up and complain that I made them play tabletop games at mealtime, I’m OK with that. Sometimes you do things as a mom that you think are benefiting the kiddos. Then you realize they don’t really care about it or like it (even if it is benefiting them), but you keep doing it because you realize you are really doing it for you, LOL! Of course, you also hope that someday they will embrace the practice. That’s how it is with tabletop games at meals and me. Even if my kids don’t like it, we are going to keep playing at least one game a day, officially and ostensibly for #abookandagameaday, as part of our homeschooling. I will also almost always sneak one in during mealtime. I just enjoy life more when I do this. It’s fun! It makes any day more hygge! (Go here to learn about hygge and how to put it in your homeschooling, so you can practice “hyggeschooling.”)
So… I present to you Tree of Life Mama’s Best Tabletop Games for Mealtime:
- Timeline. See my directions to make a DIY Timeline Game over here. The commercial version of Timeline is shown above. Haven’t you always wanted to know when playing cards or the pencil sharpener were invented? You’ll learn by playing this game!
- Professor Noggins Card Games. I actually ditch the mechanics of taking turns and rolling the die, and just quiz my children with the cards. It’s a great way to gauge their cultural literacy and then beef it up. So far we have the American history, American War for Independence, Science, American geography, and Middle Ages sets.
- Guess in 10, a geography game. You try to guess the thing pictured on the card by asking yes or no questions, with 10 or fewer questions.
- Snake Oil, a language arts game. You do have cards to hold but you don’t have to be holding them the whole time like in Pit. I review this delightful game over here.
- Visual Eyes, a great game to help you think in terms of common phrases and compound words. You play with dice that have pictures on them. You look for two pictures that suggest a common compound word or two word phrase. So in the picture below, the two dice suggest the word “horseshoe.”
- Mindtrap, each card has one riddle for you to solve. These riddles involve logic and often mathematical reasoning. Most of the riddles genuinely challenge us. The game does has a few riddles that don’t make sense and leave us scratching our heads.
- 24. This is a great math game. You have 4 numbers on each card. You see who’s the fastest in combining the numbers with any of the 4 arithmetic operations to always get the total of 24.
- Wordflip, this is kind of a variation of Hangman and Wheel of Fortune, except it’s just one word you are guessing. By Discovery Toys. Great for building spelling skills.
- Chronology, another history game. Similar to Timeline.
I have found all of these on amazon or at thrift stores. If you’d like some tips on how to find games on a budget, go here to get my PDF on that.
Here is what makes a tabletop game a candidate for playing at mealtime:
- Short length of play, 5-15 minutes max. This is not the time for Risk, LOL!
- Game doesn’t take up much space, so you can fit it in the center of the table with place settings on the perimeter of the table. Not having a gameboard helps. In Timeline you do spread the cards out but they still all fit on the table. It also helps if you serve your food buffet style over at the kitchen counter so you don’t have to have the cards competing with food on the table.
- Players don’t have to hold many cards the whole time or be involved with moving many pieces constantly, since they are eating and holding utensils. So no Bananagrams or Settlers of Catan.
I keep these games handy at a bookcase by our dining room table. I even feel happy just walking by the bookcase, seeing my games! Life can be hard sometimes so let’s make it brighter when we can with songs, picture books, chapter books, conversations and games!