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Picking Right Games Is No Child's Play

December 03, 1987|From Times Wire Services

Games for children of all ages have been popular holiday gifts for years, but it pays to know what's inside the box so it won't end up on the shelf.

Most games may look appealing at first glance, but it's best to take a second look, said Jeff Conrad, a professional games designer for International Games, who recommends spending a little time and thought in choosing a game before spending any money.

"Walk through a number of toy stores to get a good idea of the variety of games on the market," he said. "Stores carry different products and the best way to learn about all the possibilities is to shop and compare."

Conrad suggested that you ask yourself the following: What does this game offer? Will it be boring after one or two plays? Would I want to play it if I were my child's age?

Take a Walk

After that, take a second walk around the store because "often things don't seem as wonderful the second time around," he said. "Those games that do should be considered as gifts."

When buying games for children, Conrad suggested the following:

Bright and unusual colors and shapes will grab a preschooler's attention. If you're not excited by the game pieces, your child won't be either.

Look for games that will continue to challenge children as they learn new skills. In educational games, choose those that cover basic skills such as counting, alphabet, opposites and shapes.

Boxes and instruction booklets should be simple and clear, with easily understood explanations of the rules and use of all game pieces.

Keep an eye on the size of the game pieces. They should be easy to handle but not so small that the child will lose interest or become frustrated. Avoid small game pieces a child may be tempted to put in his mouth.

Price is relative. Some of the most popular games, such as UNO, cost about $4. Elaborate games can be expensive but not necessarily more fun.

Look for phrases such as "wild cards," "mystery cards" or "action cards." These indicate that the game has a few surprises, bound to liven play.

Determine how many can play the game at one time. The more flexibility here, the better.

Bigger doesn't mean better. A large box containing oversize components and a big plastic stand doesn't guarantee a good buy.

Games in the "low-tech" action board category are perennial favorites as they are durable and children tend to get physically involved in the activity, such as maneuvering for a shot, shooting a ball, knocking down pins or defending a goal.

Such games also encourage family participation, since parents and children find it easy to play together.

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