October 23, 2010 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Help me play with my nephew and not go crazy.

I'll be spending a week at my dad's house, to nurse him back to health after shoulder surgery.

There lives Captain Cute, my 10 year old nephew, who loves the heck out of me and wants to play. Which is great. Except that he wants to play
1. video games (drive me batty)
2. monopoly (makes my skin crawl)
3. mousetrap (meh-it's only fun when building, then what?)

I want to play
1. Cribbage, hearts, and other card games (too complex for him yet, or require a group)

Plus, he is 10, and somewhat impulsive, bouncy, impatient, distractable, etc. And I am feeling old.

What might he enjoy that I might have fun at, too? Any and all ideas welcome. I'm open to simple crafts and projects, also, and able to spend a few buck for Cutie's happiness.

Please help me not feel like a stodgy old stick in the mud.
posted by SLC Mom to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (34 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Apples to Apples?
posted by k8t at 10:57 AM on October 23, 2010

Best answer: If the kid can handle Monopoly, he can handle card games. It's just a matter of figuring out the right one. How about rummy?
posted by box at 10:59 AM on October 23, 2010

I just bought my nine-year old cousin a remote-control car and he loved it to PIECES. It's fun to play with inside and outside. (Just pick up some extra batteries.) We also spent a whole afternoon flying kites together recently. It was really fun for both of us.

He might also like simpler card games like War or Gin Rummy.

If you have an extra digital camera hanging around, maybe he could make a short movie? Even filming his toys acting out a story could be cool and engaging, depending on the kid.
posted by kate blank at 11:03 AM on October 23, 2010

Oh, the other thing you can do with remote-control cars is build a obstacle course for them.
posted by kate blank at 11:04 AM on October 23, 2010

I was at the height of my card playing years around that age -- gin, gin rummy, hearts, all kinds of nonsense. If he really likes you, he might enjoy learning a "grown up" card game you're fond of. Worth a shot, anyway!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:08 AM on October 23, 2010

He's not too young at all for most card games. Also, I've known kids that age who really got into Mah Jongg - the novelty factor of the fun lingo and the tiles might be a winner.
posted by thatone at 11:14 AM on October 23, 2010

Teach him poker. He'll be thrilled.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:23 AM on October 23, 2010

He's 10. You're old. The question is whether you want to help him grow or want to be known as the uncle that's not any fun. My advice would be to relive a bit of your childhood, it's not too late. Don't hurry the poor kid into becoming you.
posted by wkearney99 at 11:25 AM on October 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Teach him to cook. Especially fun stuff like Mac'n'Cheese or chocolate chip cookies.

Nthing the card games. Gin or Rummy would not be beyond him, or you could bring Uno or Phase 10. Dominoes would be another game that would be great to teach him, and if you get bored with the game you can make domino tracks to knock down.

If he likes building things maybe you could bring a big puzzle to work on during your visit. It could be something you set up and work on the whole week. You could even take turns, 15 minutes on video games = 30 minutes on the puzzle. At the end of the week you'd have something that you'd done together.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:33 AM on October 23, 2010

He's just had shoulder surgery. Is it comfortable for him to be using both hands? Can he even use both hands? Games where you have to e.g. hold cards in one hand (concealing them from the other player) while playing them with the other might be a bit awkward.

If he can play cards, of course, shithead is good. It may have other names if you don't want to call it by that one.
posted by Lebannen at 11:43 AM on October 23, 2010

My advice would be to relive a bit of your childhood, it's not too late.

It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:47 AM on October 23, 2010

This is a golden age for new boardgames. Go together to a really good game store and pick something out.
posted by LarryC at 11:56 AM on October 23, 2010

Teach him poker. He'll be thrilled.

More importantly, teach him to cheat at poker, and how to tell when others are cheating. He will be the most popular 5th grader in the history of 5th grade.
posted by elizardbits at 11:57 AM on October 23, 2010

My eight-year-old loves complicated multihour board & card games:
Settlers of Catan
Tales of the Arabian Nights
Shadows Over Camelot

I am also Old and have no tolerance for Monopoly or video games, and yet I find these three very interesting and playable. Arabian Nights, in particular, is more like one of those "choose your adventure" books than a game.
posted by apparently at 11:58 AM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

My stepbrother is around that age and is obsessed with Lego. Buy a couple of sets and take them with you. It's new toys, which will be more interesting than his existing stuff, and it's building, which will be fun for you.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:15 PM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

it's not cheap, but this rube goldberg machine kit gets rid of the silly game part of mousetrap, and it looks like something that could keep everybody occupied for hours.
posted by lemniskate at 12:22 PM on October 23, 2010

Lebannen, I assume from the post that the OP's dad is the one recovering from surgery, not the OP's nephew.
posted by umbĂș at 12:52 PM on October 23, 2010

Teach him cards. I started cribbage with my dad at six or seven. Cribbage, pitch, gin rummy, any of the poker variants, even honeymoon bridge.
posted by catlet at 1:12 PM on October 23, 2010

posted by cheemee at 1:25 PM on October 23, 2010

Yeah, he can definitely learn cribbage. Also hearts, rummy, memory games (you can play with a regular pack of cards, just match reds to reds and blacks to blacks), (purchased) Yahtzee, Catan, Carcassonne.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:48 PM on October 23, 2010

At that age I was playing all manner of card games - some quite complicated - so no reason why you can't teach him some.

Board games, if he likes monopoly he's clearly got a decent attention span and may well enjoy them.

Cook with him.

Find a project you can do together - something that needs doing round your dad's house, that you could do together as something nice for your dad?
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:57 PM on October 23, 2010

War is a great card game for that age group. Jenga is also a good suggestion.

And, as a Mom who games, please rethink the video games! Try shopping around for one that sounds more interesting to you that you both can play together.

They DO exist.
posted by misha at 2:25 PM on October 23, 2010

Checkers, Connect Four.
posted by anaelith at 3:21 PM on October 23, 2010

Best answer: Ticket To Ride. It's a little like Empire Builder (a.k.a. The Crayon Train Game), but the gameplay doesn't require as much math. Pretty fun and I got pounded by a seven year old the last time I played it.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:44 PM on October 23, 2010

backgammon, dominos, checkers, mah jong. Poker, definitely, with a cheat sheet to start - I taught my kids poker before they were 10.

Have you thought of going for walks and just talking?
posted by b33j at 3:49 PM on October 23, 2010

Ugh, don't play video games with him. Teach him a game that doesn't require electricity / being stimulated by a screen.

Settlers of catan would be fun. When I was that age I loved playing rummy and crazy 8s with my mum and my friends. And crib. Poker is great, as is Rummoli when you can get more than two or three players. I used to go to our cabin with my parents and a friend and we LOVED rummoli. We used pennies as chips and would make our own board (so the prep time was fun too). Rummoli has one hand played as a poker hand, so its a good introduction to the game.
posted by custard heart at 4:16 PM on October 23, 2010

Best answer: Uno!
posted by emelenjr at 4:40 PM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Settlers of Catan board game I linked above requires a minimum of three players. There is also two-player card version available. If it will just be the two of you, be sure to get that one!
posted by apparently at 6:35 PM on October 23, 2010

Best answer: Origami/ try out various designs for paper airplanes

Magic/science kits; look up science experiments like color-changing red cabbage juice; baking soda volcano etc, learn simple card tricks and other magic tricks and the two of you can put on a show for his grandpa.

Cooking, absolutely

video games:
If he has an older system, Katamari Damacy is fun and a bit different from other games you might have played

board/card games:
There is a great reference website,, that has reviews of lots of games. You're looking for a game that plays well with 2 players (Settlers of Catan does not, for example) and works for someone who is 10. Here are a few possibilities to start with:

card games: (might be too gory? look at reviews/photos of the cards)

board games:

logic games: (kids are often better at this than adults are!)

word games:
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:56 PM on October 23, 2010

Make oobleck and teach him about non-Newtonian fluids.
Make regular pizza or dessert pizza with lots of toppings.
Make bread clay or milk plastic. Milk plastic has the added advantage of being stinky, which I imagine a 10 year old would enjoy.
Play the exquisite corpse writing/drawing game.
Google "science experiments for kids" for other stuff you can do in the kitchen without much equipment.
If he likes Monopoly because of the money aspect, try getting him to play for pennies for whatever card game you like.
Any pets? You could work with him on training either a dog or a cat to do a trick (cats are harder though). I've even seen videos of fish that could do obstacle courses.
posted by anotherkate at 11:08 PM on October 23, 2010

Ten years old is probably old enough for him to understand and enjoy Waterworks and Mille Bornes.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:35 AM on October 24, 2010

The newest versions of Mousetrap have changed subtly to ensure they don't last long after the building is complete.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 9:20 AM on October 24, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everyone! There are a bunch of excellent ideas in here.

I am definitely looking for the 'play' aspect of things here. I have science, walking the dog together, talking, etc., pretty well covered. I just need something for when he wants to 'show' me his video game for half an hour.

Considering his attention span, Rummy and Crazy Eights sound like my best bet. The board games sound great too, esp Settlers of Catan and Train to Ride, because he has more patience for board games than cards.
Sadly, Toys r Us has crap. I picked up a game of Blockus, which looks simple but challenging. I will need to do some on-line shopping before my next visit.

Thank you!
posted by SLC Mom at 12:41 PM on October 24, 2010

Blokus will be great. You can play with 2 people (each of you takes 2 colors) or play with 3 people if your dad wants to play (each take 1 color and take turns playing pieces from the fourth color).

Settlers of Catan is terrific but the board game will only work with 3 or 4 players -- it won't work with just 2.

Ticket to Ride is fun and will work with 2 or more players. It historically had been on the expensive side, but it looks like the price has come down. It's a very appealing game (nice pieces and artwork, which draws people in). If you like set-collecting games like rummy, TTR is similar to that -- you collect sets of colored cards in order to purchase train routes that take you where you want to go.

Carcassonne (blue box) is another great one that plays well with 2 or more, and is cheaper - probably half the price of TTR. The story is that you begin with a blank table -- you are settling a countryside, and you draw and place pieces of the "map" as you go. You can claim features on the map (a road, a city, etc) by putting one of your men on them, and get points depending on how big that feature gets (you can keep adding pieces to your city to get more points, for example) and on whether it gets "completed" (so you should not expand the city infinitely, you should enclose it at some point). You can block another player from expanding, or (on the flip side) you can add pieces to their city to make it hard to enclose. If you find the rules confusing at first, play without farmers the first time.

Pandemic is a great game, substantially more complicated than the ones above, if you're feeling ambitious. It's a cooperative game, where the players are all on a team of doctors trying to avert the spread of pandemic diseases. You all play against the game. If you are patient enough to figure out the rules (which are not too bad, but will take a bit of reading), and he has a good attention span, this could be good.

These are links to the online game store (they also give small grants to community organizations and school programs to buy games, so I like them). Amazon also sells games, and games can often be had on ebay and the like for cheaper.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:35 PM on October 24, 2010

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