Manic Mondays: Connect 4

By Amy Toman

Everyone seems to be concerned with the hot new item; every Christmas it’s a new toy, video game system, game or board game that everyone just has to own.  I’ve recently seen a particular technological toy on sale for 3 times its real worth, and people pay that much because the stores are sold out. New games are fun and are excellent gifts for those that you love, but what about some classics? What about taking some time to dig through that stuffed closet and see what’s hiding?  Find some of the classic games, the board games that started it all. This is exactly what I decided to do.

As a bit of a reminder, Alethea is a new 5 year old and is finally enjoying playing games; she is able to follow directions and understand how to win the game. Ezra is 19 months, and although he can’t understand how or why we are playing a game, he LOVES to be involved. The most recent classic game that I have introduced to the kids is Connect 4. If you don’t remember, the goal of Connect 4 is to line up four of your colored checkers in the game board; the board stands up and allows you to slide your pieces into the correct slot. As a child, I remember this game being a great way to pass the time: I loved moving the pieces in between my fingers and hearing the sound as they clicked into their slot. It has been just as fun playing it with our children.

There was a day last week that the kids were bouncing off the wall - or more accurately, chasing each other around the house, bumping their heads on the wall, jumping off the bed and worrying me to pieces. Crazy kids cause me to think quickly about how to occupy them (or else deal with the injuries that are sure to occur), so I went rummaging through our catch-all homeschool closet to see what games or activities we had that both of our kids could enjoy and play together. You would think this task would be fairly easy, but with a 3.5 year age gap between a 5 year old and 19 month old it can be pretty tricky.  We have card games, board games, stamps, painting, and a whole host of other things, but only a few that met the qualifications of that day. Connect 4 was one of those games I knew I’d need to try since the pieces aren’t that tiny and there aren’t any cards that Ezra could destroy.

I was absolutely shocked to see how excited they both were about this classic game. I tried to teach Alethea the rules, but decided to just let them have fun with it together, and taught her the rules later that night when Ezra was sleeping. Both of our kids LOVE this game! It is one that Alethea asks to play with daily. She loves to play it by the rules, but also loves to make patterns with the colors and play pretend cash register. Her imagination always amazes me. It was definitely an unexpected plus to see her practicing math skills while playing a fun game; what adult thinks of pretending that Connect 4 is a cash register and that they are a banker exchanging money with customers?

Ezra, on the other hand, is too young to understand the rules, but that didn’t stop him from playing Connect 4 his own way. He has been really excited to play with anything that improves his fine motor skills, and it’s the only way I can get him to sit still. This game does exactly that! Ezra was instantly drawn to the colored checkers and figuring out how to slide them correctly into their spots. He sat and played with this for a good 20 minutes before he got bored and started throwing the pieces around the room.

If you have grandkids, friends with kids, or anyone visiting you this holiday season, I suggest you take a look at some of your old games and maybe bring out Connect 4. I am so excited about this new phase in our life with a 5 year old who is able to understand rules and play games with the rest of the family. Even with all the new hot games available, there is nothing quite like sitting down and playing a classic family game together.