Conversation on typical summer day at home: (Parent to kid:) Beach? (kid to parent:) Not again! (P to K:) Pool? (K to P:) Been there, done that. (P to K:) Mall? (K to P:) But we've seen all the movies already!
Well, it was a good try. Looks like another day of TV watching and Web surfing. Can't something be done about eliminating August from the calendar - anything to get school to start sooner? The kids may waste just as much time in school as they do at home, but at least it's the teacher's problem, not ours. If the inevitable dog days of summer boredom have already dawned at your household, fear not; I've got a sure-fire recipe that will amuse your children, teach them some strategic skills and let them connect with you and your past in a way they may never have had the opportunity to before - through classic on-line games.
Risk, as you may remember, is the board game that lets you conquer the world with a set of dice. It's a game that requires thought, planning and, perhaps most of all, street smarts, since you have to try to outguess your opponents. And with the massive multiplayer LandGrab Risk-style game (landgrab.net), your kids will get a great introduction to how to think about strategy by joining one of the dozens of on-line public games available anytime. You play against users of the site from all around the world, none of whom you know, so it's a good opportunity to try out different strategies to see what works best. For some good strategy ideas, check out www.totaldiplomacy.com.
Battleship, another old standby, is also out there on the Web, in the form of SMS (www.sinkmyship.com), where you fire torpedoes at the ships on your enemy's board - an enemy who can be either a computer or another human. While less strategic than Risk, Battleship does have an element of trying to outguess the other player, and there's still enough of a psychological element to make it interesting - especially when you know there's a mysterious "someone" on the other side.
When the electronic gizmos and gadgets that kids use for entertainment begin to dull, try Risk or Battleship, the classic games you probably played yourself as a kid. Both sites are free, and your kids will be doing some heavy thinking as they try to figure out what makes their opponent tick - guaranteeing that their brains will still be functional when September rolls around.