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6 Classic Games to Play With Your Grandkids

Twister or Candy Land, anyone?

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photo collage of different board games and family playing
Sean McCabe
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While decorating my Christmas tree last winter, my 10-year-old granddaughter spotted a miniature Twister ornament on one of the branches and asked about it. I explained how the beloved childhood game worked, and her eyes lit up. Then she laughed, imagining a game that involved contorting one’s body into awkward positions on a plastic mat. That’s when I knew I had to find a Twister game for her.

On Christmas morning, she squealed with delight when she unwrapped her new gift, and by noon the living room floor had been cleared for a rousing game of Twister. This got me thinking; how many other classic games from my youth were still available — and would my grandkids enjoy them as much as I did at their age?

Nowadays, the concept of playing outdoor games with neighbors until the streetlights come on is a foreign one to many children. In the 1960s, we didn’t hunker down in front of the television for hours to play video games. We were outside to play hopscotch, dodgeball and red rover until our parents called us in for dinner.

We also spent our leisure time indoors playing board games with the entire family. It was a great way to engage in friendly competition while learning a few life skills. Monopoly taught us about financing and real estate investments, Battleship forced us to think in terms of tactical strategies for survival, and the game of Life showed us how to move forward while tackling financial hurdles. (Got a $500 car repair, late rent payment and a new set of twins? No problem — ask the bank for a loan!) I want the next generation to share the same joy I experienced playing these games. The good news is that many of them are still available, just waiting to be discovered by people who, like me, are searching for ways to connect with their grandkids.

Here are six oldie-but-great games that are sure to entertain family members of all ages — and don’t require a television or computer screen.


This game often made me blush when I played it at middle school parties. Having my elbow wrapped around David Rhoades’ knee was enough to make my heart race. Originally named Pretzel, this game was invented by Charles Foley and Neil Rabens, and it was considered risqué in 1966 since it involved people wrapping their bodies around one another on a mat. But in May of that same year, Johnny Carson played the game on his television show with actress Eva Gabor, and Twister sales skyrocketed. This party icebreaker still reaps mega-sales and is a game that combines good exercise with hours of fun.


My sister and I would stay up past our bedtime and play Old Maid under her blanket with a flashlight. Sometimes we made bets — whoever drew the Old Maid card had to share their bag of penny candies with the winner. It was all fun and games until my dad caught us playing after midnight and we were grounded for a week. Old Maid is a simple, Victorian-era card game designed for two or more players. The game’s object is to avoid being stuck with the Old Maid card. Each deck has colorfully illustrated cards in matching pairs of couples — plus one card with a single Old Maid. It can also be played with a standard 52-card deck. The game was popular in the ’60s and ’70s and is still a great way to teach young children to match, pair and recognize numbers. Along the same lines, card games such as go fish and crazy eights are also good choices to play with the grandkids.


Parcheesi (also called Ludo) is a cross-and-circle board game first played in ancient India. I knew it was an old game because my grandparents were already familiar with it and played it on the back porch when they were on babysitting duty. It was a great way for my siblings and me to interact with them while we sipped cream sodas and munched on Jiffy Pop. The object of this four-player game is for each player to move their pieces from the starting position (the circles in the corners) to the home square at the center of the board. Parcheesi was first introduced to the U.S. around 1867 and is one of America’s oldest trademarked games. In 1967 when the centennial edition came out, Parcheesi saw a resurgence in sales and is still a popular game today among adults and children.


I played this game for hours with the neighborhood kids whenever it was too rainy to go outside. Oh, how I dreaded getting my mouse stuck in the trap! Sold by the Ideal Toy Company, Mouse Trap was the first mass-produced three-dimensional board game to hit the market in 1963. It involves two to four players who build a mousetrap, collect cheese pieces and attempt to catch their opponent’s mouse in the trap. This is an entertaining, interactive game that grandchildren of all ages enjoy.


The game’s title made it a natural draw for kids — especially kids like me. Candy was my kryptonite (I had the cavities to prove it), and every time I played my mouth watered for chewy, sugar-coated gum drops and frosted gingerbread men. Candy Land was designed by Eleanor Abbott and introduced by the Milton Bradley company in 1949. It’s a simple board game with a winding, linear track around places such as Gumdrop Mountain and Lollypop Woods. The game involves the story of the lost king of Candy Land, and each player’s goal is to reach the Candy Castle before their opponents. Since Candy Land, acquired by Hasbro in 1984, requires no reading and limited arithmetic skills, it’s a great game to play with grandchildren ages 3 and up.


My sister was addicted to this game and often won, which I’m sure is why she begged me to play as soon as we finished our homework each day. A classic dice game, Yahtzee made its debut in the U.S. in 1956 by game entrepreneur Edwin S. Lowe. Although it sold poorly in the beginning, it gained popularity in the ’60s, and today some 50 million games are sold every year. The object is to score points by rolling five dice to make various scoring combinations. Since strategy is involved, the game should be played with children 8 and older.

Some of my fondest childhood memories include other beloved games I would play with my sister on rainy days, like Chinese Checkers, KerPlunk and Connect Four. Today I’m ready to make new memories with the grandkids, one game of jacks or Old Maid at a time.

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