I have a lot of cousins (and children of cousins). Often it is these far-away relations that can present the greatest challenge in gender-fair gift giving. It’s easy to get sucked into perceiving age and gender as the two constraints on your giving when you don’t know the passion du jour of the child in question. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the Fair Play Cousins, but do I know what each one of them is most excited about or interested in right now? Nope. No I don’t, and I don’t harbor a lot of guilt about that. Instead, I try to stick with gender-fair, age-appropriate books or games with broad family appeal as well. As I’ve said before, games are great for all sorts of development, and are also family-friendly. So, when Fair Play Supermom asked for a recommendation for a Fair Play Cousin turning nine soon, I suggested Apples to Apples Jr.
Apples to Apples (the regular, grown-up version) is an extremely simple game of word play. A rotating “judge” plays a card with an adjective, and the other players select a card with a noun to fit the adjective. The judge decides which player best matched the adjective, and the players defend their selections. This is a terrific vocabulary lesson, as well as an exercise in creativity. Matches can be a sort of traditionally “best fit” or something absurd or clever. This is an opportunity to teach about all sorts of literary terms like oxymoron, synonym/antonym, simile, and so on. My favorite thing about Apples to Apples is the flexibility of game play – you can play an intensive, discussion-rich version focused on the words at play, or you can play a casual, tangent-sparking version good for large settings or parties.
Normally this would be the part of Game Night where I would explain how to adapt an adult game for younger players. Apples to Apples (regular, grown-up version) does require the same sort of adaptations I recommended with Taboo – allow young children to pass on, or trade in, cards with people, words, or events with which they are unfamiliar, or to have those explained ahead of time. Very young children may most enjoy playing on a team.
I also recommend Apples to Apples Jr because it is the same game as the grown-up version, with fewer proper noun references to pop culture. Often I steer away from the Junior versions of classic games because often the child version is a dumbed down game that differs fundamentally from the regular version. Not so with Apples to Apples Jr. Although both regular Apples to Apples and Apples to Apples Jr have extensive decks of words, if you prefer not to have to skip cards with young children, Apples to Apples Jr may be a better selection.