Traditional Toys and Games for the Christmas Holidays

The Christmas holidays will be upon us soon. How will you keep those little people busy?

Below, I list some old favourites: games that you can hold, carry in a bag or a box, or that you can use a pen and paper to do. This is stealth learning at its best, games that could help your child with history, general knowledge, engineering, negotiation, working under pressure and logic. But most of all, they are FUN!



1. Screwball Scramble - Recommended to my son when he was in Year 5 by the head of Maths at Westminster Under School! The aim: to guide a shiny ball around a challenging obstacle course with agility and skill. Players also have to focus on beating the clock. Determination and persistence are key when taking on the Screwball Scramble challenge. (1-4 players - Age 5+)

2. Downfall - The basic design has changed since I first played this in the 1980s but the game is the same. On your side, you try to get all your counters down through the cogs before your opponent does, on the other side. Take care though, because a wrong turn could lead to your …...“DOWNFALL”. (2 players - Age 7+)

3. Crazy Eights, Go Fish, Old Maid, Pig and Whist - all with a pack of cards. These games are great fun and brilliant for sharpening up analytical skills, concentration and memory. Instructions will be easy to find on the internet and I suggest you play with a pack of cards that has pictures on that your child might identify with: I’ve seen Harry Potter, Kings and Queens, Famous Scientists, Art, Inventors and Fossils and Gems. When you are not playing cards, be creative and have a quiz using the pictures on the back.

4. Rush Hour - a traffic jam logic game - which, believe me, is a great challenge even if it sounds like your worst nightmare. Yes, it is available as an app, but if you are trying to reduce screen time this is perfect. Your goal is, obviously, to escape the traffic jam and get your car out of the jam by sliding blocks around the board. This will definitely sharpen up your mind and there are four different levels of play so everyone can have a go. (1 player - Age 8+)

5. Top Trumps - many packs exist but my personal favourites are Wonders of the World and Creatures of the Deep with the alien-like freaky goblin shark, the massive Japanese spider crab and the Megalodon. This is how I learnt that Bungle Bungle is a real place in Australia. Each card contains some numerical facts and the aim of the game is to compare the values on your card with those on the card of the other player ...and then try to trump it - ha ha! on so many levels - thereby winning your opponent's card. If you’ve never played it, you really, really should try. But choose a subject you are interested in - it will make the game more fun. (2 or more players - Age 6+)

6. Jenga, a block stacking game which you have surely played. But did you know the name comes from the Swahili word kujenga, which means "to build"? Without knowing it, when you play Jenga, you are learning about engineering - forces, tension, load - and how easy it is to topple a building in an earthquake. The record is 40 complete stories with two blocks into the 41st but most players are very lucky if they can get more than 30 levels before the whole thing comes crashing down. Can you get above 30? (2 -8 players - Ages 3+)

7. Revision Fun For Clever Kids - Of course I had to include this! It’s a puzzle book with elements of general knowledge and science - perfect to give your child a break from traditional workbooks. (Perfect for ages 8-88)


These games take the pressure off, but keep the brain on. And they are FUN. Warm things up on those chilly winter evenings with something other than a tablet or a TV screen.... just for a few minutes. What are you waiting for?