Love and Logic: Back to the Future

We watched Back to the Future on my birthday because… well, do I really need a reason?

The plot gave me an idea for a simple game: Child travels back in time and she has to convince Mom and Daddy to make the right decisions so that she can be born.  In the movie, Marty has to convince his mom and dad to get together before he disappears from the family photo.  So, I wrote down Child’s name (3 letters, though your child’s name may be longer) and made the 5 cards below.  The aim was to try and get the card with the date of Child’s birth before all of the letters in her name got erased.

Example timeline cards

November 1997:

Daddy starts working in the jungle. 


Daddy decides to work in his uncle’s garage

October 2001:

Mom comes to Ecuador. 


Mom is thinking of accepting a job in India

January 2002:

Mom decides to go to the jungle on vacation.         


Mom goes to the beach

December 2007:

Daddy and Mom decide to get married.


Daddy and Mom break up.

June 2012:

Child is born

Love and Logic: Cancer

A family member recently succumbed to cancer of the esophagus.  Child had many questions about his life and his death which I answered as best I could.  She seemed to have some very specific concerns: the first being the fact that he was so young when he died, specifically, he was the same age as Child’s father.  Child wanted to be reassured that her father would not get cancer and wanted to know the causes.  Then she wanted to know what happens inside the body when one gets cancer.  This comes partly from a concern about our dog who also has cancer.  Finally, she wanted to know about cures.  Child already understands how the different elements of the immune system react to harmful viruses and bacteria; but the immune system doesn’t respond to cancer because it spreads through cell division.

This game is meant to explain the biological aspects of cancer: how it blocks healthy cells and how chemotherapy kills off both cancerous and healthy cells.  It is not a precise or detailed simulation, but it is enough to give a child the basic idea of what sort of a disease it is.

To play, you will need a pencil, a hundred board (such as the one below), a set of cards numbered 1-100 (shuffled), and “cells” cards such as the ones below.

The game is co-operative, though you may take turns to draw and play.

To play:

Shuffle the “cells” cards and draw one.

  • If it says “healthy cells”: draw two number cards and draw Xs on every number between the two numbers.  For example, if you draw 63 and 71, draw Xs on 63, 64, 65…71.  However, if any of the numbers already contains a cancer cell, you write no Xs, and lose your turn.  If your healñthy cell was laid down before you draw the cancer cell, then only the cell with the number corresponding to the cancer cell is transformed from X to O.
  • If it says “cancer cells”: draw 10 number cards and make Os on the corresponding squares.
  • If it says “chemotherapy”: draw a number card and erase any Xs or Os on all of the numbers from 1 to the number drawn.

Keep playing until the board is complete.  If the healthy cells outnumber the cancer cells, you win.

“Cells” cards:

Healthy cells Cancer cells Healthy cells
Cancer cells Healthy cells Cancer cells
Healthy cells Chemotherapy Healthy cells

Hundred board:

91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100
81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90
71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80
61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70
51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60
41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50
31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

In memory of Shane Bailey


Love and Logic: Adjacents

Sometimes small numbers are harder than big numbers.  That’s because kids don’t necessarily learn math in a linear fashion.  Child can easily tell if I try to cheat her out of $20 when I owe her $750 in Monopoly rent, but still stumbles over 8+1.

To remedy this, I came up with a simple game I call “Adjacents”.  Each player gets four cards, of which they need to make adjacent pairs.  The game is short and each round will not take longer than 3-4 minutes, though you can play several rounds.

For example: 4+3 and 2+6 make adjacent pairs (4+3=7 and 2+6=8; 7 and 8 are adjacent numbers).

To play:

Deal four cards to each player, which they spread face up before them in any order.  They take turns to draw from the deck and discard one of their so that they always have four cards until one player has two adjacent pairs.

Added challenge:

The cards are dealt face down in a row.  Players may peek at the two outside cards once, and they may obviously look at the cards they draw before placing them face down.  This way, players have to remember what they have and mentally check the math.

Love and Logic: Hundred Board Sillies

Hundred boards are an excellent way to help children develop number sense.  In this game, they have to work out where a given number might be.

Write the numbers 1-100 on cards and have your child arrange them on the floor.  Hide a surprise under each number: a coin, a candy, a card with silly instructions such as “hop on one foot” or “kiss mom”.

Write two sets of the numbers 0-9 on cards and put them in a bag or shuffle them in a deck. 

The first player draws two numbers and arranges them as they choose, so for example, if you draw a 2 and an 8, you can have 28 or 82.  Find the number and see what’s underneath!  Play to an agreed-upon stopping point, or play until you’ve finished the whole board.

Love and Logic: Time

One simple DIY game is to make or find 4 dice-sized cubes out of paper or wood.  On one die, write the numbers 1-6 and on the second, 6-12: these will represent the hours.  One the remaining two dice, write 00, 05, 10, 15, 20 etc.  If you have two players, each player takes one “hour” die and one “minute” die. 

Choose a time at random, draw it on an analog clock, and see if a single player can make the time or if they need to work together to do it.  If the player does it alone, they get the point; if they do it together, they both get the point.  End the game when someone reaches 12 points.

Daddy Daddy and Child Child