07 June 2019

Top Tabletop Games as voted by Grades 5 & 6


It's my second year doing a board game club for grades 5's and 6's at a school.

Last year I had them vote on their favourite games, it only seemed fitting to do it again this year.

So here are this years Top 5 table top games as voted by Grade 5&6 students!

#5. Happy Salmon


Such a simple, yet fun and boisterous game!

#4. Pit


Pit was #3 last year, fell a spot. But it's amazing how this commodity training game continues to be popular.

#3. SOS Dino


This cooperative game to save the dinosaur eggs, and the dinosaurs themselves, is great for building team skills and problem solving.

#2. Fabled Fruit


Rising from #5. Collect fruits, steal them, or create chaos through redistribution, so that you can juice fruits faster than your opponents.

#1. Uno (Spaz)


Yes, Uno itself is fun. But have you ever played SPAZ Uno? Divide the cards up amongst the players, then going around the table one at a time each player places a card face up (like war), if there are two consecutive matching colours, there is an accompanying action. Green grass, slap your hand on the table or floor; Red heart, slap your hand on your heart; Yellow fever, slap your hand on your forehead; Blue sky, raise your hand in the air. If you are the fastest to do the action, you collect the cards on the table and add them to your deck. What happens when you get a wild card? You have to do all four actions as fast as possible. For safety, remove jewelry on your hands, wrist, and take glasses off. Enjoy!


Here are 6-10 to round out the top ten:
6. Exploding Kittens
7. Who Farted
8. Prey Care
9. Beasts of Balance
10. Poo!

15 May 2019

Lessons learned from Dr. Thira's "The Community is the Medicine" Wellness Training


I recently attended a two-day training with Dr. Darien Thira, a clinical psychologist based out of BC, but also an expert in using community based interventions for wellness, particularly in Indigenous communities.

I wanted to share some of the main insights that I gained from the training. Some of the insights are lengthy, some are short one sentences.

Post Colonial Thinking
One of the first pieces he addressed was the importance of thinking in a non-colonial fashion. It sounds easy, but it is really difficult to do. Colonialism has impacted everyone is some shape or form.

Good Enough Parenting
It's not everyone's favourite term, good enough parenting. But if you are a "good enough" parent, your child will have the foundation to reach 90% of their potential. If you are a perfect parent, if that even exists, that will make up the remaining 10%. This is an important message that you can still be good enough to raise a successful child, you don't need to be perfect.

Successful Helping Relationships
There are three things Dr. Thira identified that helpers can bring to the table to make an effective helping relationship: who you are, being useful, and being safe.

He later presented a different interpretation of what makes a helping relationship work. In the past it was identified as 40% extra therapeutic factors, 30% the helping relationship, 15% hope, and 15% technique. Dr. Thira said 40% is the clients readiness to change, 30% is the therapeutic relationship, 15% is the counsellors readiness, and the remaining 15% is technique.

Re-framing Depression
Dr. Thira presented a different definition for depression, that it is a realistic view that lacks imagination for hope.

Trauma Braid
Our Survival Instinct to Traumatic Event Coping to Colonization Terms
Flight to Anxiety to Addiction
Freeze to Depression to Suicide
Flight to Rage to Violence

This is an interesting flow of how our natural instinct may correlate with a response to trauma, which then has a colonization impact.

Successful Circles Created for First Responders
Dr. Thira emphasized that circles should be small to contain the safety.

Circles should go through four phases or steps: past, present, future (individual), future (community).

Many circles, in my experiences and Dr. Thira's stop at the second step. We talk about the terrible thing that has happened and how it impacts us presently, but we never talk about what we are going to do about it on an individual and community level.

Counselling is Spritiual
Dr. Thira said that counselling is spiritual. It is a placebo, a non-medical effective intervention.

Don't Say "Stop It"
When it comes to addiction or problematic behaviours, there is a tendency to say "just stop it." However, as any addiction counsellor knows, the behaviour needs to be replaced with a healthier habit.

Replacement Technique
Building upon the replacing a habit with something healthier, Dr. Thira outlined the following steps:
-Identify the Problem Behaviour
-Purpose of the Behavior. The answer to this question "What would I lose if it stopped?" is the purpose of the behaviour.
-Problem Behaviour Advantages.
-Problem Behaviour Disadvantages
-Replacement Behaviour

As you begin to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a behaviour it becomes easier to identify a customized replacement behaviour. The new behaviour may not have the same advantages, but the costs of the disadvantages should be greatly reduced.

Balance Respect & Care
It is a delicate process for helpers, who want to help, to show appropriate respect and care for clients. If we do things for them, we are caring but not respecting. Balance needs to be found when supporting individuals.

No Respect Responses create Low Self-Esteem
Dr. Thira encouraged us to be careful with our words, and what we may be unintentionally telling someone when we try to give them advice.

As some examples if we try to give advice to protect them, we are in way telling them that they are vulnerable. If we give advice to solve, they have a problem. If we want to use advice to be fast, they are slow. To help, they are helpless. Because we have they answer, they are stupid. Because we are strong, they are weak. To fix, they are broken.

Low self-esteem is then expressed in two ways according to Dr. Thira. Despair or Arrogance. Despair then tends to create a victim state of being, and arrogance a bully state of being.

Dr. Thira said that the antidote for advice is a question.

Post-Traumatic Growth
Wounds have the ability to become gifts.

Importance of Creating Safety 48 hours after a traumatic event
Dr. Thira gave a timeline that if safety is created within 48 hours of a traumatic event, it lowers the chance that the emotional fallout of the event will create the symptoms of post traumatic stress.

This for me personally emphasized the importance of walk-in counselling clinics to be available to create an emotionally safe environment for individuals. However, keep in mind that 40% of counselling success is client readiness, and a client may not be ready to deal with a traumatic event 48 hours after ward.

Validation-Invitation 2-Step
First, validate the person or the situation. To validate the individual consider validating the person themselves, their social connections, culture, or principles. To validate the situation, validate emotions, thoughts, observations or needs. Personally, I tend to do more validating of the situation.

Second, invite. Seek information, and then create steps to change.

Scaffolding
I Do, We Do, You Do. Can also be considered as modelling.

Four Branches of the Wellness Wheel
The primary model driving Dr. Thira's interventions is the Four Branches of Wellness:
-Caring Connection
-Respectful Empowerment
-Contributing Purpose
-Cultural/Spiritual Wisdom

When the four branches are in unison, it creates self-worth and a worthwhile life.


For more information about Dr. Darien Thira visit Thira.ca


Picture at top: Myself with Dr. Darien Thira

12 May 2019

Anticipated Board & Card Games of 2019


I'm a bit late to the party, but I thought I would share board and card games that I am looking forward to in 2019.

First, I want to fully acknowledge that KickStarter is my addiction.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way. Here are games that I am looking forward to, or those games with an asterisk that I was looking forward to this year and have received.

#10 Kill The Unicorns

If there is a game and it includes unicorns, my family (cough daughter cough) wants to have it.

This is a blind bidding game where you try to catch as many unicorns as possible.




#9 Volleyball High

This is a crisp newly anticipated game. There are not many volleyball themed games out there, so that's where this game piqued my interest.




#8 Kaboom Universe

Rescue the dinosaurs!!!! That's about as simply as I can put this game. Oh, and there is aliens.

It's a random cut-throat card game. Right up my families alley.

Turn on English subtitles for this video...




#7 Talisman: Kingdom Hearts

They had me at "Kingdom Hearts" and that was all that was needed.

I have never played Talisman, so this will be my gateway when it arrives.




#6 Critical Core

Colleagues over at the Geek Therapy Network brought this game to life. It's marketed towards building social skills and confidence for youth on the spectrum, but I am hopeful it can be beneficial for all youth in building confidence and social skills.




#5 Unstable Unicorns: Chaos and Control*

I mentioned unicorns earlier. We are already big fans of Unstable Unicorns, so when two exclusive decks came up, we were in.

If you have played Unstable Unicorns, it's the same basic game, just these decks either create control, or chaos.




#4 Trick Shot

My son and I enjoy playing Blue Line Hockey. It's fun skating miniatures around and scoring goals. However, Blue Line Hockey is from 1968 - it's dated.

Trick Shot looks like a fresh take on the game, with a push your luck mechanic. It definitely looks healthier than a 1968 game.



#3 Sonic the Hedgehog: Battle Racers

Sonic is all over the media, it's like it's 1992 all over again.

Besides unicorns, miniatures is another aspect of games that my family likes. The idea of racing our favourite characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog universe seemed too good to turn down.

Plus, Sonic looks like Sonic.




#2 Throw Throw Burrito

From Exploding Kittens to Bears vs Babies, my family loves their games.

A fast paced card game that includes dodgeball where the ball is a burrito? Sounds like crazy fun for family game night!




#1 Conspiracy: The Solomon Gambit

My family had the cool opportunity to play test this game. It was a neat experience for us to try a game and provide our feedback.

We loved the idea of out bidding hitmen contracts to retrieve the secret suitcase.

We are thrilled to see a game that we were involved in come to life. Which makes this game, the most anticipated, for me and my family, of 2019.


02 January 2019

My Family's Most Played Board Games in 2018

Thanks to my love for stats, I track mine and my families board game plays. Here are the top 10 games that we played most in 2018.

10. Exploding Kittens

There was a time, a year ago, where it seemed like we played this game every day during the summer. Alas, our desire to defuse kittens that are accidentally blowing stuff up has slowed this year.


9. Doctor Who: Time of Daleks

There are not many Doctor Who games on the market, and this one is worth while. It's a semi-cooperative game, and the more players the easier. There is nothing quite like choosing your favourite Doctor and companions, and then saving the universe from the Daleks.


8. Dixit

Apples-to-Apples but with pictures. The game is great, and it is simple to play.


7.  Unstable Unicorns

My daughter LOVES this game. So much so that we hunted down the booth at the Comic Expo and got some extra swag. The art is fun, but this is a cut throat game. Feelings will get hurt.


6. Zombicide

My son LOVES this game. There is something anxiety inducing as your squad gets cornered by wave after wave of zombies. We love that this is cooperative and that we have to work together to survive.


5. Monza

I was surprised how much we played this game. I think it's the colour matching of the dice to the tiles as you race around the oval track that makes my kids like it so much. It's simple problem solving.


4. Fabled Fruit

The game that never ends - or at least feels that way. Each time after you use enough fruits to make a juice, another juice option replaces the completed one with a different set of rules.


3. Emojito!

The game that all kids of counsellors are/will be playing. It's a fun way to try to express and read emotions. You can play as a team against the game, or individually. I like it for it's ability to create emotional language. Check out my post on Nerdy Parenting for more.


2. Happy Salmon

This game will get really loud! Especially as your hand gets smaller as you find a matching partner to high five, switcheroo, fist pump, or happy salmon with.



1. Beasts of Balance

You need a tablet for this game to work. But it is magical to watch as you balance beasts on the plynth to watch them come alive on the tablet. Migrate, cross-breed, or power them up to unlock different beasts.


01 January 2019

My Family's Top 10 Video Games of 2018

Welcome to 2019!

I did a quick poll with my kids (8 & 10) about what their favourite games to play this year were, despite release date. We had a little debate, and then concluded with our Top 10 list.

10. Roblox

Free to use. Can be played on many different platforms, which makes it popular in my house for modern day couch gaming.

9. Kirbey Star Allies

Up to four players for this game, as long as Kirby has that many allies.

8. Halo: Master Chief Collection

Nothing more fun than switching between previous and present graphics and then trying to get the kids guess which is modern day. Appreciate how far modern consoles have come in 18 years.

7. Mario Tennis Aces

No one plays tennis in my family. We don't watch tennis. But when you combine Mario and Tennis, it's a lot of fun.

6. Trials Fusion

The ATV is the least eventful, and the unicorn with a cat is everyone's favourite. Add bailing to make it even more entertaining.

5. Kingdom Hearts

It's amazing that this originally came out in 2002 and I only heard about it in 2017. The story and the Disney combination make this a favourite.

4. Mario Odyssey

Countless hours. Many challenges even after the "main story" is done.

3. Minecraft

The game that never ends, unless you are in survival mode. So much to see, so much to create.

2. Fortnite

You know you have a boy in the house when.... you have to play Fortnite. The cross-console play has helped this become popular in the house multiplayer play.

1. Spider-Man

Never before have I bought a console just for a game, until this year. New York Island is your area to explore and save. Plus there are many suits to choose from to make your Spider-Man game feel personable.

Thanks for reading! And here's to more gaming in 2019!

15 May 2018

Top 5 Board Games for Grades 5-6, voted by Grade 5-6 Students!


This school year I started a board game club at a school where I am a school counsellor. It has been a great experience for me and the students.

Now that we are entering the final weeks of school, I had the students pick their top five games, and then from everyone's votes we will be playing their favourite games for the last weeks of school.

These rankings are from the students themselves, which I think will help those looking for board/card games to play with this age group.

Please do keep in mind that since it was a club during lunch break we only had 30 minutes to play, so many of the games that we played were short and easy pick up and play games.

A fun card game where you collect different fruits to make juices. With the fabled system, the game continues from where you left off. No two games will be a like (except for the start).

The creative art work and character titles created a lot of chuckles for this age group. It is a simple who-dunnit card game where you don't want to get caught with the character that farted!

This game has been around FOREVER! It's a fast paced trading game that simulates the stock market as each player trades goods to corner the market.

A game where you risk the odds of picking a card and then passing the hand along as you try to make the highest scoring meal.

A cut throat game. Players try to be the last one standing as they diffuse exploding kittens, while intentionally trying to blow up their peers. This game allowed for opportunities to express winning and losing in helpful ways (didn't always happen, given how cut throat the game is).


Now you know our play list for the last weeks of school!

Honorable mentions (to round out a top 10): Beasts of Balance, Formula D, King of Tokyo, Fauna, and Timeline.