WONDROUS Penguins

Deep strategy and puzzling decisions — analyzed, weighed…then a course of action decided upon — oh the sense of pride when those carefully laid plans turn into a victory.

Yet, board gaming is truly at its best when I see it unleash wonder and joy in a child. Maybe it’s not the ‘best’ design out there or the most intriguing game play for an adult, but there are some outstanding kid and family games on the market that are top-notch when it comes to bringing life and energy to a kid’s day — and in doing so, to mine as well.

The game in my house that has most recently created such excitement and joy is ICECOOL from Brain Games and Brian Gomez. My 7-year old son loves to get this box out of the closet — and he loves just about every aspect of the product.

First off, constructing the penguin school — what a brilliant design concept. My son pushes me out of the way, letting me know that he can handle this part, getting each box setup where it belongs and the white fish in place to keep the whole structure together. Then, while I start shuffling fish cards, he’s already got a penguin on the ice to practice his flicking.

Next, just before we start — my son has to make the all-important decision of which penguin to choose. You can just tell that this penguin choice is a big deal and matters.

image thanks to Deskovehry on BGG

Chosen? And off we go! Time to start flicking penguins! I get intellectually into the game at this point — trying to see how much ‘english’ I can put on my penguin to get it through the door and then spinning off in a new direction. But my son — he’s a penguin-flinger! Flick those black-and-white birds and see where they go! And maybe that wondrous attitude is why he is able to pull off some amazing shots at times.

He likes the role of trying to score fish, but he loves — gets a gleam in his eye — when it is time to be on the hunt — to capture (tag) my penguin! And oh the delight, when he manages to slide around a corner, off a wall, and into my innocent and naive Aptenodyte. Such pleasure that comes from getting to take my penguin’s license from me at that moment.

And then, even when we are all done, this is one of the few games I don’t have to worry about packing up by myself (amazing how kids can suddenly disappear whenever a game finishes). My son is all too happy to get each box back where it belongs, slight amazement every time to see our “game board” suddenly compact into its own box.

I love these moments of WONDER that can come from board gaming and ICECOOL is most definitely Guilty of providing some of those memories.

Which family game brings the greatest sense of WONDER to your family?

For more board gaming stories and discussion, follow me on Twitter @boardgamecrock1

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