The family that plays together


Manufacturers want more of us to get in the game

Playing board games is a great way to build family bonds and help kids learn.

The perfect family night is:

A. Everyone sitting alone, staring at their own computer, television or Game Boy.

B. Everyone gathered together around a table playing a spirited game of Monopoly, Sorry or Candy Land.

If you chose B, then you're just the sort of people organizers hope will show up at Navy Pier over Labor Day weekend for the Chicago International Toy and Game Fair.

Consumers will have a chance to browse, play and buy the latest in board games and toys.

Game manufacturers will demonstrate more than 1,000 new games and many will have open game boards in their booths. It's perfectly OK to play without purchasing. Or you can simply browse the exhibit halls, maybe stopping to help break the Guinness Book of World Records game-playing records for games such as Twister.

But games are more than just playing around.

Educator Mary Ann Paradise, who coordinates the gifted programs in Lincolnwood District 74, incorporates games in the classroom for her kindergarten through fifth graders. Once a year, her students bring their families for game night, where she watches families mixing with other families as they play.

Paradise finds you can teach, reinforce, improve upon concepts. The games are strategy-building. "[Playing games] supports concepts, but also creates an atmosphere where they are learning to be good group members," Paradise says.

"It's a great way to sit down with your kids in a non-confrontational environment," she says. "You can only help your kids by getting them to think."

And, you don't have to empty your piggy bank to buy some games. A deck of cards costs a buck and the average board game $20-much less than most computer and video games.

Besides, playing games is very European, where game inventors are "semi-celebrities," according to Mary Couzin, organizer of the Chicago show. In Essen, Germany, games are so big that children have a day off school for the game fair there, she says.

No one gets a day off for the Chicago show, but the more than 100 game manufacturers are hoping to encourage a big turnout for their first American event, Couzin says. They are underwriting the cost of the event so family passes are just $10 a day or $20 for the weekend. Individual tickets are $5 a person each day, and a three-day weekend pass is $10 a person. Teachers get in free.

The fair is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 30 and 31 and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 1. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. For information, call (847) 622-3522 or visit

-- Jessica Herman


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