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Posts Tagged ‘My First Games’

There’s a reason why people say blocks are a classic toy for children. In this day and age of electronic toys with all kinds of bells and whistles, humble toy blocks can still hold their own and appeal to children, providing hours of fun.

Not just any fun, creative fun. Yes, blocks are good for your kids! Numerous articles have been written about the benefits of playing with blocks. Among the various benefits, blocks help your kids develop problem solving, motor, social, language, and spatial skills. It also encourages creativity and divergent thinking. What a lot of benefits to reap from playing!

But there are blocks and there are blocks.

My kids have tried playing with other blocks before but it did not hold their attention for very long. So when Pamela from My First Games offered us some (many!) blocks for a review, I was keen because I had seen the amazing structures that could be built with Citiblocs, but was apprehensive about whether the kids would like them or not.

My worries were unfounded!

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Citiblocs comes in a range of colours – Cool, Natural, Warm and Camo. There are additional options of vehicles and trees.

Vehicle set

Vehicle set

Trees set

Trees set

Citiblocs is an award-winning toy that has won 17 Toy Industry Awards. All pieces are made from Grade A Radiata Pine from certified renewable forests in New Zealand. Each piece is lightweight but of good quality. I even wondered to myself if I could pass these on to my grandkids in future. Maybe even my great-grandkids!

The unique thing about Citiblocs is that every piece is precision cut to exactly the same dimensions. It sounds like a simple thing, but this sameness  ensures the pieces fit perfectly and enables you to build extremely complicated structures that are held together only by gravity! There is no glue, no magnets, no connectors, no snaps nor clasps.

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All the same size

Just look at that! The minute I saw the picture below I was completely intrigued by Citiblocs and wanted to try building that structure.

You can see many examples of super structures built by Citiblocs fans – both kids and adults. Yes, adults too! There are many examples online showing the challenging super structures built by groups of adults. Check out this video for just one of many examples.

The boys initially started by following the examples provided in the booklets that accompany each set of blocks. They made simple structures, and were not very good at balancing the pieces on top of one another. But over time, they got better and better at it. They learned when they needed to add more blocks on one side in order to counter-balance the weight of the other side. They learned how to make sure they stack pieces on top of each other so that the tower doesn’t end up tilting and toppling over. They learned the different techniques of stacking and came to have their preferred methods. The growth in motor skills was most apparent in my younger boy. At first he could not build tall towers because he didn’t stack the pieces properly causing them to fall over easily. He would get frustrated and needed my help. Now he’s able to build tall towers on his own.

One of his first attempts at building a tower with Citiblocs

One of his first attempts at building a tower with Citiblocs. He did simple stacking.

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After a few sessions of play he decided to work on building a house

We even brought the Citiblocs out for a picnic once. I used the SG50 NDP bag that every Singaporean household gets and stuffed some blocks in along with a picnic mat. The blocks kept him busy while I kept an eye on my youngest who was running around the playground.

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Block picnic!

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Outdoor play! Make use of your SG50 NDP bag by throwing the blocks in and going to the park.

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Experimenting with building techniques

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A long ramp leading up to a carpark

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Bridge over a river

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Building with a spiral staircase

Spikey pineapple? Porcupine?

Spiky pineapple? Porcupine?

Pirate ship

Pirate ship

The boys play with Citiblocs both individually and collaboratively. Collaborative play is my favourite. Seeing them work together to build something is any mother’s delight. They can busy themselves with a building project for a good long while! This was one of their big projects – three towers with bridges connecting them.

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Working on a bridge between two towers

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Adding finishing touches to the towers

Their completed structure

Their completed structure. The three of us worked together on the crooked bridge.

They were very proud of their structure!

They were very proud of their structure!

Elevated crooked bridge

Car crossing the crooked bridge

They call this the "ang ku kueh" tree

They call this the “ang ku kueh” tree

Here they built a city with an airport, carpark and roads.

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Looks like a mess but there was some order to it

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Airport, control tower and runway

Car park

Car park

And there was another project where they brought in Lego and other toys to play together. We built the train I was eyeing but extended the train tracks. On the carriage was a cage for the dinosaurs, the roof of the train was a landing pad for the aeroplane, while the mammoth was the train driver.

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Another time Ellery made a building and used cardboard to draw the road/lake around it. I liked how the boys brought in other elements to their play and did not confine their make believe to just the blocks.

Drawing the road or lake?

Drawing the road or lake?

My youngest daughter, turning two soon, was initially too young to do build anything with the blocks. Her favourite activity then was to quietly steal the blocks from her brothers and stuff them in her little bag. Now though, she does some simple stacking. I’m sure that in time she will join them to build their tall structures.

"Keep! Keep!"

“Keep! Keep!”

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The boys challenged me to use all the blocks to build something. So I did! A massive vase.

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All 400 blocks

If you are thinking of how to occupy the kids meaningfully this March holiday, and especially if you are looking for something that is not electronic, does not involve a screen, and encourages creative play, you should get some Citiblocs for your house! Even if they only build a really tall tower, one of the best things is the pleasure of knocking it over :)

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Bish!

You can get Citiblocs from My First Games, a store that specializes in selling games for children. There’s a promotion now on where you can enjoy 30% off your purchase of Citiblocs if you enter the following code: CTBTHIRTY. It’s a case of the more the merrier with these blocks, so that’s a great promotion to take advantage of!

Happy building!

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Disclaimer: We were generously given the Citiblocs for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

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I’ve always loved playing boardgames, though after the kids came along I didn’t have much opportunity to play them anymore. I have fond memories of playing boardgames with my family when I was growing up. My parents were very into Monopoly and there used to be regular Monopoly sessions among my parents, uncles, and aunties that lasted way past our bedtime. It was always lovely to hear the adults bantering, jibing, and joking with one another while they played.

When we were older, there were monopoly sessions among our neighbours and cousins, especially during the school holidays. I also remember playing boardgames with my cousins when I went to stay at my grandmother’s house during school breaks.

And then there were the word games like Scrabble and Boggle that I still adore to this day largely due to the influence of my Mum, whom I’m sure can still easily trash us at them! She’s a real master at word games.

My school friends and I also used to gather at each other’s houses to play various boardgames late into the night, and I had one friend in particular who came up with the funniest extra rules just to keep things exciting!

So, when I think of boardgames I think of family and friends, of happy times, and of good memories. And it is for this reason that I very much wanted my kids to discover the joy of playing boardgames. I have long wished to revive the tradition of ”boardgame nights” at our house  to create special memories for the kids too.

To get my children interested in playing boardgames, I started to look for children’s games that were attractive, and simple, but yet not so simple as to make them lose interest quickly. When I heard about My First Games, I was really excited to see the wide range of children’s games available. Most of them I had never even heard of! There were so many fun and interesting games, I didn’t know where to start.

Thank goodness for Pamela, a boardgames enthusiast and the founder of My First Games, who gave me some recommendations. One of them was Quoridor Kids, which I chose to go with in the end.

Quoridor Kids is a game of mice and mazes that has children scurrying their mice to the opposite side of the playing board. The first mouse to reach the other side wins. It is not a simple task though, as each player may move their mouse 1 space at a time or decide to block their opponent with a wall. Yet the maze that is built may cause delays for every mouse, including their own, as it approaches the finish line.

The kids love the game and it has proven to be something they pull out to play repeatedly. Here are some reasons why we love Quoridor Kids.

Attractive & Well Made

It may seem a bit shallow to pick a game because of how it looks, but I think for kids half the battle is won when the game looks like it’s going to be fun, even before they know what it’s about. With a cheery yellow board, cute little mice, matching pieces of cheese, and a handful of little green walls, the kids couldn’t help fingering the pieces, asking what the different parts were for and how to play the game.

Everything is made from wood, and it’s so sturdy I can see it withstanding years of play. I’ll probably be able to pass this on to my grandchildren, if there are any!

Little mice trying to get their cheese

Cute little mice trying to get their cheese

Simple Rules

With an attractive game set, all that children want to do is start playing immediately. It’s a good thing that there aren’t that many rules, and most of them you can learn as you go along. The rules are also simple, making it easy for young children to understand.

Basically, try to be the first to get from one end to the other. Always leave the other player at least one way to get to the other side. You cannot move diagonally. When it’s your turn you can either move or block, not both. Easy peasy!

Playing the game

Playing a couple of rounds before bed

Strategy

It is fascinating to see how the kids discover more strategic play as they gain experience with the game. The very first time, they tried to rush across only attempting to do some blocking at the end when it looked like they were going to lose. Then slowly, slowly, they started to think ahead. Being older, Asher is more able to catch on to the strategy aspect and carry out his plan, adjusting it as the game proceeds. There have been a few times where I was completely blind-sided by him, and he was extremely gleeful about his successful surprise attacks that helped him win. Ellery tends to play more for the moment, but he often has an idea of what he hopes to do during the game (like whether to block first, or start moving first).

Trying

They love playing this game with their grandfather

Adult & Kids Version Essentially the Same

Quoridor Kids is actually the kids version of Quoridor, which is targeted at adults. However, the rules are exactly the same! The only difference is the size of the board. Quoridor Kids has a smaller 7 x 7 board, as opposed to Quoridor’s 9 x 9 board. The smaller board means game play is shorter and better suited to the attention spans of young children. I think it is amazing that the kids version and adults version are virtually the same. Quoridor Kids is not simplified just because the game is targeted at children. What that means is when you play with your kids, you’re going to enjoy the game too! It’s one of the rare games that my husband has actually sat down to play with the kids. And that says a lot!

Always Different

No two games are the same because the maze is built up by the players as the game proceeds. However, it is possible to devise your own version of the game because of the opened-ended nature of the board and it’s pieces. On their own, the boys came up with variations like having to reach the exact square where the cheese is at; pre-building part of the maze and hiding the cheese inside then seeing who would reach their cheese first; allowing players to slide the walls, instead of just building them up, etc. It’s interesting to see what they come up with when left to their own devices.

No two games are the same

No two games are the same

A new

Devising a new way to play the game

Opportunity to Teach Values

Well, this applies to all competitive games really. Things like following the rules, not cheating, taking turns, being a good loser, and being a gracious winner. All these things can be learnt while playing Quoridor Kids. There were more than a few instances of “Hey! You already put that piece there you cannot take it away!”, “Mummy, he is cheating!”, and “AHAHAHA! I WIN!” accompanied by  “Wahhhh! I don’t want to lose!”

Yes, many teachable moments.

There is much less drama now when they play Quoridor Kids. Learning to say “good game” comes more naturally to one boy than the other, but both are learning and improving.

Bonding over Quoridor Kids

Bonding over Quoridor Kids

Quick Game Play

I like playing with the kids, but sometimes I really just want to move on to other things. Each round of Quoridor Kids lasts no more than a few minutes so I can easily play a few rounds before doing other things. It’s especially good when Alyssa is fussy and wants my attention but the boys want some of my time as well. I can play a few games and move on to play with Alyssa, and they feel like they’ve had some time with me. Better yet, when I’m distracted by Alyssa I often make bad moves, so the boys are more likely to win. They are happy, I am happy. Win-win!

Playing with Por Por

Playing with Por Por

It is no wonder that Quoridor Kids has won Game of the Year before. With simple rules but so many variations in the outcome, it’s beautiful, really. Beauty in simplicity. It’s a game that will be a pleasure for adults of all ages to play with kids.

You can purchase Quoridor Kids from My First Games. It makes a nice addition to your home collection of games, and also makes a good gift (Christmas is coming!) You can check out the store for many other children’s games as well.

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We received a discount on Quoridor Kids, but I would have bought and reviewed it even without a discount because the game looked, and is, so good!

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