Tips & How To's

5 Tips for Playing Board Games With Younger Kids

I have two kids, boys, currently aged 5 and 7. We’ve been playing board games as a family almost from birth. Over the years, I’ve been constantly impressed by their ability to pick up and enjoy some of the most complex and involved modern board games.

The 21st century board game explosion has spawned hundreds of great games geared toward children of all ages. There’s nothing wrong with those games.

But I don’t think you should stop there. In my experience, kids are learning machines! Introducing them to more advanced games can be a great fun way to challenge their math, logic and reading skills.

Here are some ideas to help you choose games to play with kids.

1. Ignore Recommended Ages

The recommended ages listed on the sides of the board game boxes are almost always completely meaningless. Unlike recommended ages on LEGO boxes, board age ranges are an extremely poor gauge for complexity or appropriateness. These recommendations certainly don’t speak to the amount of fun a child might have with the game.

Sometimes it’s OK to use the age as a judge of relative complexity. For example, it’s fair to assume that a Haba game listed as ages 3+ is less complex than another game listed as 8+. But that doesn’t mean a 7 year old won’t enjoy Monza, nor does it mean that a 5 year old won’t be able to grasp Formula D with a bit of hand holding.

There may actually be a pretty good reason for the odd age listings. Games sold in the US market are subject to the The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which is (apparently) a very ambiguous law that regulates the safety of products sold to children under the age of 14 [source]. It can be costly and time consuming to go through the testing and approval process. Sometimes distributors will stick an “Ages: 14+” on the side of the box and I believe sometimes the regulator will set the age based on their own findings.


  • Sometimes the age suggests inappropriate themes. For example, a 10 year old is probably not ready to face the violent moral dilemmas in Dead of Winter.
  • Obviously, if a kid hasn’t figure out how to not put small pieces of plastic in their mouth, you might want to stick to card games. There’s no real age limit on this 🙂

2. Game Length is irrelevant

If your kids are anything like most kids, the game length listed on the side of the box is several orders of magnitude longer than your kid’s attention span. But that’s ok. You don’t have to “finish” the game.

If they’ve never played the game before they won’t know the victory conditions. I’m not advocating lying to children. I’m just suggesting on coming up with more condensed victory conditions if you believe your children won’t have the attention span to get through the entire game.

In most cases, this can be done without changing a other rules:

  • If you’re playing a game with victory points, you can simply lower the total victory points needed to win.
  • If the game has a fixed set of rounds, knock off one or two rounds.
  • Or, simply set a reasonable time limit. This can work well with adventure games, or longer strategy games.

With some games that depend a lot of long strategy, you will lose that aspect of the game. But with the most complex games, kids will need more time to grasp the full strategy anyways. By playing shorter games, you’ll be able to keep them in the game, while teaching them bits and pieces of strategy.

3. Avoid “Take That” Mechanisms

Games with heavy reliance on “take that” mechanisms can be devastating to children. Maybe this goes without saying but, kids aren’t really accustom to the concepts of being screwed over or stabbed in the back. Doing something to take away victory points they just worked hard to earn IS MEAN and WILL make them cry.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to avoid playing those games altogether. I’m just suggesting avoiding take that or modifying the way you play those games.

For example, a key aspect of the Munchkin games is playing extra monsters and other cards against opponents in a fight. I simply don’t do this, I learned quickly that this does not go over well. It doesn’t take away at all from the humour or cooperative aspects of the game. One day they’re realize (or we’ll tell them) that they can play those cards against their opponents and it’ll open up an entirely new aspect of the game

4. Don’t Avoid Math and Reading

Games are probably the single best way to trick kids into learning.

Most 4 year olds can count the pips on a 6-sided dice. I’d argue that dice games are the best way to teach kids simple math.

Reading is a little more nuanced. Games with simple written commands can be a great way for kids to learn how to read. Card games with longer descriptions can be ok too. Kids are great recognizing pictures, once you’ve read the same card a few times, there’s a good chance they’re going to remember what the card does.

Card games with hidden hands and complex can be a little harder to play with kids who are still learning to read.  You might be able to play the face-up hands until they learn the game. But for some games where hiding cards is really important, this might not be an option. Use your best judgement, obviously.

5. Help Them Win

If you’re playing to win, you’re doing it wrong. Kids are going to have a more positive experience if they do well and have a strong finish. They’re not going to be very happy to watch you show them how to to lose.

Playing games with kids should be a fun learning experience. Take time to hold their hands. If you see them make a strategical mistake, take a moment to explain the implications of the move and talk about different things they could do and why they might be a better idea. DO NOT tell them what to do. Do give them the opportunity to disagree with your advice.

In Conclusion, Don’t Under-Estimate Kids

Candyland, Battleship, Monoply Jr, Sorry, playing cards and all those old staples are certainly one way to waste a rainy afternoon at the cabin. The modern offerings from the likes of Haba (I really don’t know any other modern kid-focused publisher, sorry) are a great iteration on the “kids game.”

But seriously, your kids are smart and they love play.

Obvious Caveat: Your milage may vary, all kids are different.

Tips & How To's Web Development WordPress

How To: Tweak Disqus CSS for Twenty Fifteen Theme

After installing the twenty fifteen theme I found that disqus’ comments were butting up against the edges of the layout.

You can fix this by adding the following Custom CSS


@media screen and (min-width: 59.6875em) {
	#disqus_thread {
		margin-top: 8.333%;
		margin-left: 8.333%;
		margin-right: 8.333%;

@media screen and (min-width: 38.75em) {
	#disqus_thread {
		margin-top: 7.6923%;
		margin-left: 7.6923%;
		margin-right: 7.6923%;
Tips & How To's WordPress

The Best Way to Synchronize WordPress Uploads

One of the most annoying things about setting up a dev environment for an existing WordPress site is syncing the content. Pulling down the database is trivial, even a large site will have a relatively small database dump. I often use the WordPress Duplicator plugin. But a site with years of photos and other uploads can have gigabits of files and it’s not really ideal to have to pull those all down from the site.

Today I came across a solution that made me feel stupid for not having thought of it. Iain Poulson posted 5 Ways to Sychronise WordPress  Uploads Across Environments, IMHO #4 is the only one you really need to use:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteBase /wp-content/uploads/
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule ^(.*)$1 [L,P]


So for any file requested within wp-content/uploads/, that does not exist, it will serve the image from

The only minor downside with this approach is the lack of offline. If you lose access to an internet connection, you lose access to the live site files, obviously.

Tips & How To's

How To: Find Out The Price of Bitcoin

What is the quickest way to find out what price bitcoin is at, you ask?


Update.  I added a bunch of currencies and made tinyurls for them.


Tips & How To's

Bitcoins: How The Hell Do You Buy Them?

This week I bought bitcoin and it was a lot harder than I would have ever thought.

With bitcoin being the most popular and valuable fully virtual currency of all time, I expected the process of buying bitcoins to be straightforward. “After all, I can purchase anything from deodorant to diamonds on Amazon at the click of a button, a virtual currency doesn’t involve shipping or handling should even easier,” I thought.

Turns out I was completely wrong. My basic expectations were:

  • The transaction should be quick, if not instantaneous, no more than a couple of hours.
  • I should not have to leave my house.

Finding a service that fit these criteria was very difficult. I asked Reddit and I asked Google. When you ask Google how to buy bitcoin, the top result is an aptly named The site is a fairly simple database that lists the available options for your country.

I started looking through the options listed on the site and immediately discovered that the usual forms of instant online payment – credit cards, or paypal – seem to be out of the question. The bitcoin community is extremely concerned (and rightly so) about fraud.  A bitcoin transaction is irreversible, so any form of reversible payment is not an accepted way to buy BTC.  Sellers are afraid of fraudsters ordering large amounts of bitcoin, then disputing the credit card payment. When I asked Reddit a lot of the commenters seemed to imply that this problem was unique to BTC transactions. In reality, I’m not sure how it’s different than any other online purchase. If I order something from Amazon, I can always call up my CC company and claim I did not make the purchase. There was also quite a lot of implication that the banks are actively trying to suppress bitcoin, I’m not really sure if I buy that either. In any case, the bitcoin establishment is not willing to deal in credit card or paypal payments.

One simple solution to the problem of fraud would be to limit the size of the transactions. That way if a payment was lost, the seller would only be out a small amount of BTC.

I found, a Canadian site that accept online Interac payments  and only allows orders less than $50 (0.01 – 0.1BTC currently). It seemed like the perfect way to buy bitcoin. Unfortunately it turns out, the Canadian banks are moving away from processing online payments via Interac, my visa-debit card did not work.

Next I investigated buying bitcoin directly from one of the bitcoin exchanges. As far as I could tell all of the exchanges seem to have a similar two step process.

First, you send them proof of identity and residence – a scan of your drivers license, passport, etc and a scan of a utility bill – it can take up to 5 business days for an employee to manually verify this information.

Second, to actually get your money into there account you either have to do an electronic fund transfer (basically an online bill payment) or a wire transfer – this can take another 1 – 3 business days. That’s right you could be waiting up to 8 business days in order to buy a completely virtual currency! UNACCEPTABLE!

If you’re investing thousand of dollars in bitcoin, this is not completely unreasonable, for a large transaction a wire transfer may even be the preferred method of payment. But if you’re only looking to buy a small fraction of one bitcoin, this is quite cumbersome.

The only option that met my criteria was a site called It’s a site that matches buyers and sellers one-to-one based on geographic location. Sellers can choose to accept any arbitrary form of payment they want, including paypal. Buyers and sellers have a rating and feedback score similar to sites like ebay. The weird thing about the listings though was that most sellers only accept cash, in the form of deposits to their personal bank account! I.e. driving over to their bank, talking to a teller and depositing the money. WTF? I can only imagine having a bunch of people depositing cash into your account raises all kind of red flags.

I was able to find a couple of sellers who accepted – the nearly instantaneous – Interac e-mail transfers. And that is how I was finally able to buy bitcoin from the comfort of my own home…

By sending a non-trivial amount of money to a stranger online and waiting.