Games
Games for Kids
Party
Name of Game: Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?

Origination date: 2007

Number of Players: 2-4

Length of Play: 30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low to Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Remembering, Understanding

Costa: Level I

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Judgment

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? is actually another version of Trivial Pursuit, with more gizmos and the opportunity to be ingloriously bumped out of the game by failing to answer one simple question—which, of course, is also what happens in the television version of this game. The object of the game is to answer 11 questions correctly and win a million dollars. Much of the fun of this game is contingent upon who is playing the game. Most of the questions are moderately easy, but there are some difficult zingers which may frustrate middle school kids. The game is fun for kids but I don’t like the fact that kids can be removed from the game so easily—by missing several questions. There are, of course, safety valves to protect against this, but these safety valves won’t help much if the luck of the draw gives a player two difficult questions in a row they can’t answer. Middle school kids like to play this game but as a learning tool the old game of Trivial Pursuit is better.

Name of Game: Balderdash

Origination date: 1984

Number of Players: 2-6

Length of Play: 30-90 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Evaluating, Creating

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Influence, Describing

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: Balderdash burst upon the scene in the mid 1980’s and hasn’t faded away since. The object of the game is to get to the finish line before the other players. Along the way, middle school kids will have to guess the correct definition of obscure words and create made-up definitions of these obscure words which can cause other players to believe their answer is the correct one. For example, the word, “skewbald” may come up. All players will create a definition for the word, “skewbald.” The player-created definition are collected and then read aloud, along with the correct definition. The more players who identify any made-up definitions as being the correct definition, the more points they get. And, as a bonus, if any middle school child correctly guesses the true definition of the word, they get more points. (Note: The definition of “skewbald,” as everyone knows, is that it is a horse which has a coat of brown, black, and white patches.) This can be a difficult game to play, especially if competitors have a good feel for making up definitions which sound as though they may be true. But it can also be a hilarious game to play, especially with a group of sharp-witted friends. If the middle school kids playing don’t have strong language skills, consider purchasing Balderdash Junior—they may have more success playing this version of the game.

Name of Game: Boggle

Origination date: 1983

Number of Players: 2-10

Length of Play: 10-30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Applying, Analyzing

Costa: Level I and II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Experimentation, Judgment

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: Boggle is an older game which has not yet passed its prime. Although similar games can be found on the internet, there is nothing like playing Boggle live with a group of friends or classmates to whet the competitive verbal appetite. The object of the game in Boggle is to create more unique words than your opponents and to out-score them on the race to a predetermined amount of points—usually anywhere between 50 and 100. To be good at Boggle requires both speed and the ability to detect word patterns amidst random letters of the alphabet. What makes this game even better is that players have to find words which their opponents haven’t discovered. Thus, there is no advantage in finding the easy common words. This is a good game for middle school kids to help sharpen their word recognition skills.

Name of Game: Buzz Word

Origination date: 2003

Number of Players: 4-16

Length of Play: 30-60 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Understanding, Applying

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction, Judgment

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: The object of the game in Buzz Word is for a team to score more points than the team they are competing against. Knowledge of idioms and word association skills are important in this game. This game isn’t played very much by middle school kids but it probably should be. If kids struggles with American phrases, idioms, and understanding multiple meanings of the same word, they may not initially enjoy the game, because they will find it to be very difficult. However, if this is the case, having them look through the playing cards and viewing the answers is probably worth the price of the game. For example, when the card for “heart” is drawn, players in the game are given the phrase, “From deep within me…” The correct answer to this phrase is “From the bottom of my heart.” (Players have to come up with a phrase which includes the word, “heart.”) Here is another example from the same card for “heart.” The phrase is “an intimate chat.” The correct answer is “heart-to-heart talk.” This is a good game for helping middle school kids understand associations between words and phrases. Even if kids don’t know the answer, the odds are high someone in their group is bound to know the answer to the “Buzz Words.” Sometimes there’s nothing better than having middle school kids learn from other kids. There is a version of this game called Buzz Word Junior which may be a better fit for middle school kids who struggle with reading, writing, and oral language skills.

Name of Game: Cranium

Origination date: 1998

Number of Players: 4 to unlimited

Length of Play: 60 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, Creating

Costa: Level I, II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Experimentation, Judgment, Teamwork

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: Cranium is the rare game which requires the middle school child to use many different learning modalities in order to be successful. To be victorious, the kid will need to solve word problems, answer factual questions, sing and hum and act out words, and create drawings or sculptures. The odds will be high that most middle school kids will not be good at all four of these types of learning modalities—after all, who is?—but encourage them to stick with it and remind them that it is a team game. The chances will be good that even though, for example, any particular child may hate acting things out, another one of their teammates will love being the ham and star of the show. This game will definitely take middle school kids out of their comfort zone—which, from a learning point of view—is a good thing. The object of the game is to ultimately enter the Cranium Circle and then answer a question from each of the given categories, with the opponents deciding which final category must be answered in order to win the game. Cranium is a very social game and can be very fun to play with four to ten players. There are lots of different versions of Cranium available, but none are significantly better than the original.

Name of Game: Curses

Origination date: 2001

Number of Players: 3-6

Length of Play: 30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Evaluating, Creating

Costa: Level I and II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Experimentation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: Curses is the type of game which drive introverts crazy (because the game rewards extroversion) while the extroverts will clamor about how this is the best game they have ever played. The object of the game is to be the last player in the game to have broken their curses. And how do you get curses? You draw them randomly from the pile of curse cards. For example, a player may draw a curse card which requires them to meow like a cat. For the rest of the game, this player will have to include meowing like a cat while performing various challenges drawn from the challenge cards. Thus, if the player draws a challenge card which requires them to pretend to climb a mountain and they forget to meow while doing so, the other players can ring the bell and catch them breaking their curse. Break three curses and the game is over for the player. The wild part of this game is that, as the curses mount, middle schoolers will have to remember and perform their own curses while, at the same time, not forgetting the curses which belong to their opponents. Watching and listening to this game played by a group of energetic middle school kids is better than the price of admission to a first run movie blockbuster.

Name of Game: Dr. Seuss Trivia Game

Origination date: 2000

Number of Players: 2-6

Length of Play: 30-60 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Remembering, Understanding

Costa: Level I

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Judgment

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: The object of this game is to reach the finish line first by correctly answering questions about Dr. Seuss books. Because of the nature of the game, consider purchasing this game for middle school kids only if they are familiar with many of Dr. Seuss’ books. If middle school kids are not familiar with Dr. Seuss and his books, they will find this game frustrating and nonsensical. For example, here are some of the questions from the game: “A Thanadner is found in which Dr. Seuss book?” and “In And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, what is the very first thing that Marco sees on Mulberry Street?” If kids aren’t familiar with the stories of Dr. Seuss, they will have little chance of answering these questions correctly. Still, I have played this game with both adults and middle school kids and found it to be a blast.

Name of Game: Family Charades In-a-Box

Origination date: 2010

Number of Players: 2-4 (or more)

Length of Play: 30-60 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Evaluating, Creating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Influence, Teamwork

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: This game box contains six games but they are really different versions of the same game, some of which are geared to different ages. Middle school kids will most likely have the most fun playing Kids Charades, Family Charades, or Animal Charades, though the latter may be difficult for some middle school kids because it asks kids to charade some phrases to which they have not been exposed, such as “birds of a feather flock together.” The object of the game is to perform a charade, or act something out so a team is able to guess what their teammate is trying to visually represent. This is a great game for kids who like to be on stage and enjoy the spotlight and a good game to stretch the boundaries for those who are self-conscious about not drawing attention to themselves.

Name of Game: Giant Spoons

Origination date: 2004

Number of Players: 3-8

Length of Play: 5-10 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Understanding, Applying

Costa: Level I

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Experimentation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: Giant Spoons is an exceptionally easy game to learn and play. And yes—it’s essentially the same game that has been played for years and years involving spoons borrowed from kitchen drawers. But this time the spoons are GIANT and plastic and colorful. What middle school child can resist this combination of materials? The object of the game is to be the last player left in the game holding a GIANT, plastic, and colorful spoon. The speed of the game is fast. As soon as the kids have four of a kind—all that is needed to play is a deck of cards—they can take a spoon. Once the first spoon is taken, the other players need to grab a spoon fast. The player left without a spoon is out of the game. Play continues until the last player holding a spoon is declared a winner. (Note: Each time a round of Giant Spoons commences, the number of spoons placed in the center of the table is always one less than the numbers of players.) There isn’t much intellectual depth occurring in Giant Spoons but sometimes there’s nothing wrong with pure fun.

Name of Game: Guesstures (2nd Edition)

Origination date: 2003

Number of Players: 4-20

Length of Play: 15-60 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low to Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Evaluating, Creating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Judgment, Teamwork

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: If you are searching for a silly party game which doesn’t involve electronics or whacking a huge stuffed animal filled with candy, Guesstures could be your ticket to fun. The premise of the game is fairly simple—players act out a word and teammates try to guess which word is being acted out. For example, some of the words middle schoolers need to act out are, ‘bacon, Mohawk, North Pole, mix, melon, and bang.” This sounds easy enough, right? Well, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. The inventors of the game added an element of speed to the game, which is that players act out four words of increasingly difficulty. A simple plastic device in the shape of a movie scene cue card, removes each card from play in about seven seconds. This means each team has about 30 seconds to act out the four words, correctly guess the word, and snatch the card from the plastic scene card holder before it vanishes from sight. Consequently, the element of speed is very important in this game—which is right down a middle school kid’s mode of thought and attention span. This is a really fun game for middle school kids.

Name of Game: Hit or Miss

Origination date: 2006

Number of Players: 3-8

Length of Play: 30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate to High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Applying, Analyzing

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: Hit or Miss is a great game for middle school kids. The object of the game is to accumulate more points than your opponents through mastery of the English language. At the start of the round, a category is given. All middle school kids then list as many words as they can which are related to that category. Each player then rolls a die marked with either a “hit” or “miss.” If the die says “hit” then the player circles one of their words they don’t think other players also wrote down. If the die says “miss,” then they circle one of the words they don’t think the other players also wrote. The circled words are then compared and points awarded (or not) for their ability to guess what other players’ hand also selected. This game relies heavily on the ability to find analogies and make predictions on the commonality or rarity of the words selected. Players who have weaker English skills may be frustrated with this game, especially if they are paired against those who are fluent in their English.

Name of Game: Imaginiff

Origination date: 1998

Number of Players: 3-8

Length of Play: 30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing, Evaluating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Judgment

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: Imaginiff is best played with middle schoolers who know one another well. It can be played with people who don’t know one another very well, but the game won’t have quite as much pizazz. The object of the game is to be the first to reach the center of the board by accurately selecting the most popular answers. Here is how the game works; players draw a card which might have this printed on the face of the card—“Imaginiff [insert name of someone playing the game] were somebody famous, who would they be? 1. The president of the United States. 2. The starting shortstop for the New York Yankees. 3. A famous novelist. 4. A business tycoon. 5. A member of the Philadelphia Orchestra, or, 6. A pilot.” Everyone playing the game then makes their best guess. The players who most accurately match their answers with the most popular answer then get to advance on the game board. Imaginiff is all about making accurate predictions about the players in the game. This is a good game to help develop the social skills of middle school kids and the ability for them to look outside their self and imagine what other players might like.

Name of Game: Jenga

Origination date: 1983

Number of Players: 2-8

Length of Play: 10-20 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Applying

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction, Experimentation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 2 Stars ★★

Description: This game has been around for a long time and there is a very good chance you played some form of it as a kid. The object of the game is to survive the de-construction process of a tower built of either wooden or plastic pieces. The best part of the game for middle school kids will be for them to watch their opponent pull out the wrong piece, which sends the foot-high tower slowly crashing to the ground. This is a fast game to play and there isn’t a lot of intellectual thought which goes into the game but it’s hard to beat for a quick and fun game on a rainy afternoon with your best friend or sibling. Many different versions of this game are available but the basic premise of all the games remains the same—keep the tower standing during your turn at the game.

Name of Game: Likewise

Origination date: 2008

Number of Players: 3-6

Length of Play: 20-40 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Evaluating, Creating

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Experimentation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: In Likewise, the object of the game is to combine two words—an adjective and a noun—and list as many new words as you can think of which fit under the combined word. The winners of the game are the partners who think the most alike and generate the most similar words under the combined words. For example, all players have a partner. Each partner has a small whiteboard. If the words, “red” and “house,” are drawn, each partner, independent of one another, lists as many answers which match “red” and “house” together. Possible answers might include “schoolhouse,” “barn,” “family home,” or fire station.” When time is up, both players compare their answers and look for similar answers. If they both have more similar answers than other player-partners in the game, they get to move their marker one step forward on the scoreboard. The partner-team fastest to the winners circle on the scoreboard is declared the winner. This is a relatively sedate and calm game, unlike wild games like Reverse Charades or Zobmondo!! This is an excellent game to help middle school kids recognize analogies and word associations.

Name of Game: Loaded Questions

Origination date: 1997

Number of Players: 3-6

Length of Play: 45 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Understanding, Applying

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction, Judgment

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: Loaded Questions is a game which hinges on the ability of players to correctly guess who gave what answers to questions given in the game. The categories from which questions are generated include: hypotheticals, no-brainers, personals, and anything goes. For example, the question posed to middle schoolers (and others in the game) might be, “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?” Players then write down where they want to live. The answers are read aloud and the player whose turn it is must try to match the answers with the correct player. The object of the game is to reach the WIN! space and match three players’ answers. This game can be really fun, especially when kids start writing nonsensical answers to the questions, just to throw off their opponents. This is a good game for kids to get to know one another, and also for them to sharpen their guessing skills.

Name of Game: Mad Gab

Origination date: 1996

Number of Players: 2-12

Length of Play: 45 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing, Evaluating

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: Mad Gab is an unusual game—there aren’t many like it in the gaming universe. Any why is that? Here’s why. The object of the game is to accumulate more team points and hence, win the game. No big revelation here. But here is the really unusual part—points are awarded through a middle schooler’s team being able to guess what the words they are hearing really sound like. For example, the reader on a team may say, “Eye Mull of Musheen.” If their teammates blurt out the answer, which is, “I’m a Love Machine,” their team receives a point. During each two minute round, a team has the opportunity to successfully answer three of these “mad gabs.” Of course, if they fail to answer any of the “mad gabs,” the stealer on the other team can take a point for their team by correctly coming up with the answer. To make the game more attractive, there are two levels of difficulty in the game. The green cards are easier to answer than the orange cards, which are more difficult. This game is a lot of fun to play and is a rare game which relies heavily on auditory and listening comprehension skills.

Name of Game: Outburst Junior

Origination date: 1989

Number of Players: 2-20

Length of Play: 10-20 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low to Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Remembering, Understanding

Costa: Level I and II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Experimentation, Judgment

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: Outburst Junior is the kind of game which seems to have been made expressly for extroverted and impulsive kids. Once you have seen middle school kids play this game you’ll immediately understand why this is so. The object of the game is to be the first team to collect 50 points by correctly yelling out answers to the questions being given. Each question has ten correct answers. Each correct answer given by the team is worth one point. There is no penalty for guessing. For example, the statement, “Types of rocks,” may be given to a team. The team then has one minute to blurt out as many types of rocks they can think of, such as granite, sandstone, basalt, etc. Outburst Junior is a great game to help middle school kids learn categorization and organization skills. If the kids playing are very sharp knowledge-wise and find this game too easy, adult version of this game can be purchased. However, sift through the cards ahead of time and remove any cards not appropriate for middle school kids.

Name of Game: Password

Origination date: 1962

Number of Players: 2-4

Length of Play: 30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Understanding, Applying

Costa: Level I and II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Analytic and Social

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: Password is your basic word association game and victory is dependent upon how quickly middle school kids can interpret and understand clues relating to analogies and similarities. The gist of the game is that teams are formed and each side takes turns trying to guess a pre-determined word using one-word clues. Unlike some other word association games, in Password, if the team doesn’t get the word on the first try, they stop trying to guess that word, slide their word list up another notch, and move onto the next word. One of the interesting things about Password is that kids get to look through a cool red-tinted sheet of plastic to reveal the word which is in play. This is a fun and solid word association game. Who cares if it’s over 50 years old?

Name of Game: Pictionary

Origination date: 1985

Number of Players: 4-8

Length of Play: 30-90 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Evaluating, Creating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction, Teamwork, Describing

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: If you are worried about a middle school child being too analytical and logical in their approach to learning, put them in a few rounds of Pictionary to take them out of their comfort zone. Or, if you have a middle schooler who has a flair for theatre and the dramatic and loves to draw, but is constantly confronted with the logic and analysis of schoolwork, hand them the game of Pictionary and watch them bloom and thrive. The essence of the game is for someone on the team to be given a word or phrase, such as “World War II,” and then for them to draw pictures which eventually leads someone else on the team to blurt out “World War II!” A talent for drawing is not required in this game, because what is more important is the ability to quickly determine which drawings, or sketches, will create the most associations in your teammates’ brains and then to lead them to the correct answer. Pictionary can be a very funny game to play because even wrong answers can be hilarious, especially if the middle school kids playing aren’t overly self-conscious. This game does require some background knowledge, and if the word, “Picasso” is what your team has to draw and guess, and if nobody knows of Picasso, then it won’t make any difference how well your teammate can draw. Consider Pictionary Junior if the middle school child playing does not have grade level academic skills.

Name of Game: Pit

Origination date: 1904

Number of Players: 3-9

Length of Play: 30-45 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Understanding, Applying

Costa: Level I

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Evaluation, Planning,

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: The object of the game in Pit is to be the first player to accumulate 500 points while trading for commodities such as wheat, barley, coffee, corn, sugar, oats, soybeans, and oranges. On the surface, it’s really a simple game because during each turn, middle school kids will decide which commodity they are going to try to “corner” and then trade commodity cards they don’t want with other players. When they trade cards, each player is supposed to blurt out, “Trade two, two, two!”—or whatever is the number of cards they wish to trade. Of course, they don’t know what cards they are receiving when they trade, but that’s half the fun. When they have acquired nine cards in a certain commodity, then it is time for them to shout out, “Corner on Wheat!”—or whatever commodity in which they have cornered the market. If the middle school kids play by the rules and blurt and shout out what the game requires, then Pit can be a raucous event and loads of fun.

Name of Game: Reverse Charades

Origination date: 2010

Number of Players: 6-30

Length of Play: 20-30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low to Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Evaluating, Creating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Experimentation, Teamwork, Describing

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: Almost everyone knows how to play charades—a individual middle schooler acts out a word or a phrase and their teammates try to guess the word or phrase. In Reverse Charades, the team acts out a word or phrase while a single player from that team then tries to guess what they are acting out. This is a better group game than ordinary charades because everyone gets involved and, as you can imagine, it can turn into quite a spectacle having nearly everyone on a team trying to act out as many words or phrases as they can in the allotted one minute. The object of the game is to accumulate more points—via accurate guesses—than your opponents. Reverse Charades is a great party game when there are lots of people present.

Name of Game: Say Anything, Family Edition

Origination date: 2011

Number of Players: 3-6

Length of Play: 30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing, Evaluating

Costa: Level II and III

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: The object of the game in Say Anything, Family Edition is to accumulate more points than your opponents through successfully guessing how they will answer on questions such as, “What would be the coolest thing to have in my backyard?” or “What is the most important invention of all time?” Of course, the better kids know the players in the game, the easier the game becomes—but it also increases the hilariousness of the game because of the conversations which take place after the guesses are out on the table. This is also an excellent game to quickly get to know someone. A solid game which avoids some of the bizarre and gross questions which can appear in games such as Zobmondo!!

Name of Game: Scattergories

Origination date: 1986

Number of Players: 2-6

Length of Play: 30-45 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Understanding, Applying

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Experimentation, Evaluation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: Scattergories is a word association game that can be difficult to play, so if your kids enjoy an intellectual challenge and love word games, they will most likely keep bugging you to play the game. What makes Scattergories somewhat difficult to play? Well—it’s because middle school kids may have to come up with unique words no other player has thought of. For example, in a turn of the game, kids may have to come up with words that start with the letter “j,” in the specific categories of: sports, song titles, parts of the body, ethnic foods, villains, things you shout, and birds. If kids write down “jousting” as the word association for “sports” and another player also writes “jousting,” neither gets any points. Bummer. But if a kid writes down “joker” as the word association for “villains,” and no other player has written down the “joker,” then that child gets one point. This is an intellectual game which can be loads of fun. Your biggest problem may be that middle school kids have never heard of this game.

Name of Game: Taboo

Origination date: 1989

Number of Players: 4-10

Length of Play: 20 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Moderate to High

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Analyzing

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction, Experimentation, Teamwork, Describing

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 5 Stars ★★★★★

Description: Taboo is a hilarious group game, especially for older middle school kids. The object of the game is for the team to be able to guess the correct selected word, without using any of the “taboo” words. For example, kids may have to give clues to their team about the word “tennis,” without using any of the “taboo” words such as “court,” “ball,” “love,” or “set.” Taboo relies extensively on verbal and auditory skills. Consequently, no gestures or pantomimes are allowed, which makes the game aggravating but also pleasurable to play. Success in this game requires word association skills, such as the ability to make analogies between words and/or phrases. For players who hate to act out things in pantomimes, Taboo could be a real winner. What’s even better is that the whole family can play this game.

Name of Game: The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Game

Origination date: 2002

Number of Players: 2-unlimited

Length of Play: 30-60 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low—you’re either going to know the answer or you’re not

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Remembering, Understanding

Costa: Level I

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 2 Stars ★★

Description: This is a somewhat unusual game in that victory is contingent upon the kids’ ability to know all sorts of information about things related to survival. Kids begin at “start” and then, with the roll of a dice, move forward to provide the answer to unlikely scenarios such as, “How to escape from a sinking submarine?” or “How to prepare for a train crash?” or “How to treat intestinal parasites?” Fortunately, kids have three possible answers to select from. Sound like a strange game? It is. This isn’t an action-packed game but rather more of a learning game, because when the middle school kids can’t provide the answer to, for example, “How to recognize legionnaire’s disease?” the answer is given to them. This is kind of a geeky game, in that kids raised on video games may think it is the most boring game they have ever played. Still, in the right situation, this game can be fun and informative, and save lives should middle school kids ever be faced with a charging grizzly bear. After this game, they will know what to do. (Hint: Don’t to rub the grizzly bear’s tummy—it won’t work.)

Name of Game: Trivial Pursuit

Origination date: 1991

Number of Players: 2-10

Length of Play: 60-90 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low—the middle school child is either going to know the answer or they are not

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Remembering

Costa: Level I

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Planning, Influence, Negotiation

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: Trivial Pursuit is the granddaddy of all family games. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it’s a fun and good game for all middle school kids to play. Some of the questions are obscure and very difficult, so there is a chance some kids may become frustrated with their inability to know the answers to at least half of the questions. Fortunately, however, Trivial Pursuit is played by teams so that if a child doesn’t know an answer, their teammates may, so not all is lost. (If, however, there are some middle school kids playing the game who have some learning difficulties and short and long-term memory issues, I’d look for another game.) The object of the game is to collect “plastic pies” from each of the various areas—people and places, arts and entertainment, history, science and nature, sports and leisure, and a random wild card—and then answer one final question. Endless variations of the original Trivial Pursuit published since the early 1990’s have been printed so you won’t have any problem finding versions containing specialized questions about television, sports, movies, and eras of history.

Name of Game: Trouble

Origination date: 1965

Number of Players: 2-4

Length of Play: 20-40 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Understanding, Applying

Costa: Level I

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Experimentation, Planning

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: Trouble is an oldie-but-goodie and has been around for a long time. Your parents may even have played this game when they were kids. The object of the game is similar to many other games which require moving pieces around the board—which in this case is to get-your-pieces-across-the-home-finish-line. The most fun with Trouble is punching the “pop-o-matic” or plastic bubble which rests in the center of the small playing board. This causes the die trapped within the plastic bubble to “jump” and to reveal your roll of the die. Trouble can be a heartbreaking game because if your opponent lands on one of your pegs, they can send you all the way back to the beginning, even though you may be very close to your own finish line. Trouble isn’t a complicated game and has many commonalities with Parcheesi, but can be very fun with the right opponents. It can easily be played together with people of all ages, even younger siblings and grandparents.

Name of Game: Wits and Wagers

Origination date: 2005

Number of Players: 3-7

Length of Play: 20-30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low to Moderate

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Understanding, Applying

Costa: Level II

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Prediction

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 4 Stars ★★★★

Description: Do you want to begin training middle school kids for a life of gambling or training their mind to consider the probabilities of their being right or wrong? If you do, Wits and Wagers is the game for you. On the other hand, if you hate gambling and don’t want middle school kids associating with games which involve gambling, then Wits and Wagers is not for you. The object of the game is to accumulate more poker-style chips than anyone else. In Wits and Wagers, a question involving a number is given, such as, “How many feet are there in the length of a football field?” Each kid writes down their best guess (or not) on their white board. The potential answers are then presented for all to see. The twist comes next. Each kid then selects one or two answers they wish to bet on, using odds embedded in the game, such as 1:1 or 4:1. Fortunes can be amassed quickly or lost just as easily, depending on the accuracy and recklessness (or not) of the bids. On a side note, this is a good game for your child to learn something about numbers and measurements and their relationships with objects and things.

Name of Game: Zabmondo!!

Origination date: 2005

Number of Players: 3-12

Length of Play: 15-30 minutes

Level of Intellectual Difficulty: Low

Bloom’s New Taxonomy Level: Understanding, Applying

Costa: Level I

Schank’s Cognitive Process: Influence, Teamwork

Dr. Kid Brain Rating (1-5): 3 Stars ★★★

Description: Zobmondo!! is one of those games in which you shake your head and be glad the kids didn’t invite you to participate in the adventure as an adult. Why? It’s because the object of the game in Zobmondo!! is to answer ridiculous binary questions such as, “Would you rather be eaten by a shark or eaten by a million flesh-eating ants?” Teams are best for this game because the interactions among the kids are what make this quick party game fun. There are official rules for the game but it’s also fun to just flip through the cards and talk as a group about which preposterous situation is the preferred one. Be warned however, some of the situations presented are gross and disgusting. If this concerns you as a parent or teacher, I’d suggest sifting through the game cards ahead of time and removing the most offensive of the bunch. A better version of this game, with situations not as disgusting, can be found in Say Anything, Family Edition.

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