Board Games for the Bored

As the pandemic wanes, our columnist taps into her nostalgia for board games with a fresh-out-of-the-package Scrabble.

June 22, 2021 | | Headwaters Nest

Even as vaccines roll out and Covid case numbers drop, the longed-for “all clear” signal remains dauntingly elusive. So we continue to look for new ways to entertain our kids and keep life bearable. For some parents, the guilt of the kids’ screen-time creep is overwhelming, so we drag them out for walks around the neighbourhood or a nearby trail. Others have pulled out the old Wii to play some Mario Kart as a family. Or maybe it’s shooting some hoops, if you’re lucky enough to have the surface and the net – everything to do with the outdoors from sports equipment to wood for decks to hot tubs is nearly impossible to find, and when you do, the prices are exorbitant.

With everything old being new again, and as the weather warmed enough to allow for open windows, I recently felt a burst of nostalgia for board games. Board games for the bored. My love of board games comes naturally. I was lucky enough to experience a bit of cottage life growing up, and the memories of those days washed over me as I sought out more family activities.

My dad’s side of the family had two little cottages side by side on the edge of Six Mile Lake. Many memories of the times we spent there are burned in my head and heart. The smells of Ontario’s near-north instantly take me back – pine and campfire and Canadian Shield filling my lungs as we drove through the last few kilometres to the lake. (“Follow the little arrow signs! Left! Right! Don’t forget the one missing a sign is the final left!”) Long days on the burning white-hot wooden dock, waiting to see what the catch of the day would be, as the wood crackled and creaked in the sun. Paddle boating to the “island” across the way (really no more than a small outcrop, with a few trees to hide you from your parents, even if just for an hour). Dock spiders. Slappy porch doors. Baby raccoons living under the steps, coming for treats with their tiny hands stretched out to take your offering.

My Gramma Kirwin ran the show. (She was Dad’s mom – and while he is a Lee, she remarried after the death of his father and took the new surname. Her given name was Elizabeth, but, a sign of the times, she went by Betty.) Gramma Kirwin told everyone what was for dinner, when it would be ready, which chores needed to be done and where you could sleep for the night. Her sweet nature didn’t mean she didn’t have full control. Upwards of 20 people might be crammed into the two cottages when you took into account my dad’s sister, step-siblings, half brothers, spouses and kids. It was a lot to co-ordinate.

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  • When all the work was done, it was time for after-dinner games. Now I imagine it was time for a few after-dinner drinks as well. While some of the older kids made their way outside to listen to music around the fire and drink beer from stubbies, the adults pulled up chairs to start the evening’s table games. Euchre was the card game of choice.

    As the youngest at the table, I watched the euchre games, blinking and squinting at Gramma’s hand until my head swam in confusion over the convoluted rules. I perked up when she offered other games, though. Like poker – easy rules, friendly wagers. Rummy – easy to understand and getting a run was so gratifying. Rummoli – rummy plus poker – a Canadian tradition. And finally, Scrabble and Life – two classic board games.

    The sunnier days of spring and waking up in Mono to the smell of the pine forest must have reminded me of those long-ago days, when we functioned without computers, social outings or much of any interaction with the outside world. My family balked when I said I was placing an order: “What? Scrabble? No thanks.” I went to search local stores, but sadly, the games section was cordoned off as nonessential during the latest lockdown. So I searched for Scrabble through the local online marketplace – gone before I could transfer my funds. So I turned reluctantly to Amazon.

    I pulled our new Scrabble out of its wrapper, opened the box and instantly tore the corner of the lid. (You know the agony. Masking tape to the rescue. Sigh.) But we were off. We’ve been playing at dinner ever since, running a tally and going into tie-breaker games. We’ve all had turns winning, allowing silly words, passing, and pulling excellent triple-word scores from the jumble of letters on our racks. Sometimes we’ve been forced to throw in the towel, but we’ve also battled it out to the final letter and an empty velvet letter bag.

    Recently we’ve added Jenga and some easy games of Connect 4 to our repertoire. I’m searching the house for Monopoly – that’s next. We’ll fight over who gets the Scottie dog token, and who gets to be banker.

    More Info

    Storytime with Miss Shannon!

    Join the online virtual storytime circle from the Orangeville Public Library – anytime! Orangeville Public Library has shifted all kids’ programming online until further notice. Not to miss a beat, the library is adding storytime via their YouTube channel with the lovely Miss Shannon, who presents upbeat, topical stories for kids. (Enjoy a few minutes to yourself while your little ones are engaged!)

    For the makers Yes, Caledon!

    We love the recent announcement by Caledon Library – their most southern branch is being re-envisioned. The modernized Valleywood branch will house a maker space and recording studio, as well as spaces for working, learning and meeting. Imagine 3-D printers, crafting supplies, audio and video capture and editing tools! The library collection will have a focus on supporting these new services plus tech, making and creative arts. Watch for progress and opening dates to come.

    Go on a Goose Chase

    Did you know Orangeville has designed two self-guided scavenger hunts, great for walking with kids and discovering the public art of the town? Two routes lead you through Orangeville, and you’ll work through the GooseChase app to solve clues about each piece. (Printable versions are available through the Orangeville website under “Things to do” if you’d rather go tech-free.)

    • Route 1: Downtown Orangeville, GooseChase app game code: VJVL5X
    • Route 2: Downtown Orangeville, GooseChase app game code: 7D8P45

    Submit a Stamp theme

    Do you have a budding artist, stamp collector or someone interested in Canadian history in your clan? Canada Post accepts stamp theme submissions, showcasing the best of Canada. They encourage the following topics: heroes and personalities, heritage and traditions, and landmark events. This could be a great Canada Day activity, and a chance for your little one to explore some national history.

    Submissions require a brief description of the subject including its significance (your theme’s importance in the Canadian context) and timeliness (how your theme is related to anniversaries or coming events). For details, search “suggest a stamp theme” at Good luck!

    Virtual art classes with Ricky

    Orangeville’s Ricky Schaede is well-known for his fantastical paintings of mystical animals and worlds that are warm, welcoming and dreamy all at once. Maggiolly Art Supplies offers three free online classes with Ricky – for kids to enjoy. Great summertime fun when you need to set up your kids with an afternoon activity. Pick “The Moonlight Lake,” “The Watercolour Bird,” or “The Snowy Owl” and use your own materials or order virtual class materials for pick up at the store (or delivered in Orangeville for $20). Don’t forget to tag @maggiollyart on Instagram when you share the finished creations with the local arts community.

    About the Author More by Bethany Lee

    Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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