Earlier this month, my family and I spent a day at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. We had a fun-filled day of previewing and trying out some of the newest and most popular toys for the upcoming holiday season. ChiTag is a great place to see what kinds of toys, games, and crafts kids are actually interested in playing with, as it’s a very hands-on expo with unlimited play time.
Here are some of my (and my children’s!) favorite gift ideas that we experienced at ChiTag.
Both my sons loved Play Foam. It has a sticky, Rice-Krispie-Treat consistency in your hands, yet it only sticks to itself! Pull it apart slowly, and you’ll even see little “strings” of stickiness holding each piece of foam together, but it won’t stick to skin or clothes. Sculpt, build, mold, and create whatever you’d like. Once I picked it up, I too had trouble putting it down! It really has a delightful consistency that kids of all ages will enjoy.
All three of my kids sat down to play Bounce Off at the Mattel booth, and then they didn’t want to leave! It’s an easy game to understand, but a tougher one to master: Flip a card over and try to create the pattern on the card by bouncing balls off the tabletop and into the game grid. This game is fast-paced, tactically satisfying (you get to throw things!) and very, very noisy. There’s actually a fair amount of skill involved in controlling the ball’s bounce to hit the right spots in the grid.
If you’re a child of the 1980s, you probably played the classic educational video game, “The Oregon Trail,” during your school years. The object: Get your wagon and family across the United States while surviving hunger, famine, and disease. The myriad of ways one could die on the Oregon Trail is the stuff of legend: Cholera, typhoid, exhaustion, and of course, dysentery.
The Oregon Trail was reborn as a card game in 2016, and we gave it to our daughter for Christmas. It was reportedly the hit of game nights with her college friends on campus. This year, Pressman has issued a “Hunt For Food” sequel that focuses on the hunting aspect of the original game. Keep your family fed, or suffer the consequences…
If you’re a fan of Scrabble, you’ll probably enjoy Turnspell! Instead of building words on a central board, each player gets their own 4×4 grid to build four-letter words on. Letter tiles are displayed face-up on a rotating central board, so you can anticipate what letters are coming your way to build words with. Of course, your opponent may take the letter you were hoping to use, then replace it with something less desirable. (“Z,” anyone?)
Each letter tile has a number of dots on it that correspond to the points you’ll earn for using it in a word. Game play is much quicker than its crossword counterpart.
If you’ve got a Lego fan in the family, they’ll probably love Lightstax. Lightstax bricks contain LEDs that light up when they’re clicked together. Just one brick needs to be snapped to the power base, and any other bricks snapped to that brick will light up! Lightstax are compatible with other brick building sets and brands.
Top Trumps card games: $8-$10
Find them at Amazon
If you’ve ever played the classic card game of War, you already know how to play Top Trumps! Top Trumps is a British card game that puts a fun, modern twist on War. They offer card decks on many topics — everything from Star Wars and Harry Potter to educational subjects such as mythology, animals, or wonders of the world.
The game is simple. Each player picks the top card from their stack. The person whose turn it is looks at the stats for their card, then calls out their highest-ranking stat. If I were using the Chewbacca card shown above, I might say “Honor!” Then, the other players flip their cards over. Whoever has the highest rank for Honor gets all the cards. The first player with all the cards wins!
Top Trumps is a fun game for all ages that requires next to no setup and no learning curve. (Really – the instruction video above is 35 seconds long!) Plus, its small size makes it a great stocking stuffer.