School has been out for a little more than a week or so and many a household has likely already heard this sing-song refrain:

"I'm boooored."

Combine that with temperatures going up and up and somehow heat-stretching afternoons to impossible lengths for parents, grandparents and other caregivers.

Here's a suggestion.

Let them be board. As in, let them play board games.

It could be good for them and you.

A simple online search for "benefits of board games" offers some reasons why.

Board games:

■ Boost cognitive skills by exercising the brain

■ Reduce stress, which helps out the immune system.

■ Increase language skills, math skills and more.

■ Help to lengthen attention span.

■ Teach teamwork, sportsmanship and manners, as well as critical thinking and logic.

Research studies or psychologists are often cited to back up these benefits, but when the dice are actually thrown, the cards played or the game piece placed, the clear winner is really this:

■ Board games are fun.

It's the only entertainment medium that makes you pay direct attention to the people around you, said Matt Simpson, manager at Board Fox Games, 623 Main St.

He and the store's owner, Trudi Wagner, play about two new board games each week, learning the details and benefits of every game in the store.

If you are ready to go beyond the classic board games — ie. "Candy Land," "Clue," "The Game of Life" and so on — they can make suggestions from experience.

"I can't recommend what wine to have with dinner, but I can totally recommend a board game to go with your personality and family," Wagner said.

She has great memories of playing classic board games with her siblings, but games have come a long way since, say, multi-day binges of "Monopoly."

Board Fox specializes in Euro-style games that are sometimes referred to as designer games, she said.

"They are less reliant on random luck and more reliant on strategy," she said.

Most can be played in an hour or less, meaning you can get more rounds in or play multiple games and increase the chances that an afternoon will pass more quickly and enjoyably.

There also are board games that can sneak in lessons in math, science, reading and writing along with the fun, said Simpson, who fell for board games as a kid in the '80s playing "HeroQuest" and "Battle Masters."

He knows of one customer who attributes his son overcoming struggles with reading to the board game "Star Wars: Destiny," which pushed the boy to read to play, Simpson said.

Mixing education with games is a soft spot for Simpson, whose wife is a teacher.

He has even created his own game that blends natural science with strategy. It's named "Ecosystem," and its artwork was created by local artist Lindsay Falsone. It is set to be published later this year by Genius Games, which specializes in STEM educational games.

While you'll have to wait a bit longer to get a copy of "Ecosystem," there are plenty of board games Wagner and Simpson can set you up with now and a few games they point most folks to straightaway.

However, keep in mind that "there's not a once size fits all with games," Wagner said.

The board game someone else likes may not be the game for you, so ask questions and be sure to mention what games you like or don't, number of players, ages, needs and interests.


Here are some board games recommended by Trudi Wagner and Matt Simpson at Board Fox Games:

■ "Suspend" from Melissa & Doug is Simpson's go-to game for families or groups, as it can be played by littles to grandparents.

Here's how you play. You roll a die, which gives you a color correlating with color-coded notched wires. Choose one from your share of the game's 24 wires and try to hang it on another wire on a stand.

As the games goes on, the whole thing begins to resemble an off-kilter old TV antenna. Knock any wires off, they go in your pile. First person to hang all their wires without knocking anything off wins.

Just so you know, the yellow wires are the toughest to hang because they don't have a center point, Wagner said.

■ For the younger set, "Animal Upon Animal" from HABA is an option. And even if you're not age 4, you will likely find it fun, Wagner said.

It's a stacking and balancing game using wooden pieces in the shapes of animals, such as a penguin, sheep and serpent. The object is to be the first to get all your animal pieces stacked on top of the crocodile's back. If you knock any animals off while building, you get more animals. First player with all their animals stacked on the crocodile wins.

■ If your kids need more of a challenge, try "Tic Stac Toe" by Melissa & Doug.

"It's like 'Connect 4' meets tic tac toe," Wagner said, but its 3D and you've got to get four across to win.

The stackable pieces are durable so "you don't have to worry about paper pieces getting torn up by rambunctious children," she said.

The box says the game is for ages 8 and up, but "I've seen little kids play this and get the concepts just fine," Wagner said.

■ Tired of playing against each other? Try a cooperative board game such as "Forbidden Island" by Gamewright.

"This is a fantastic game," Wagner said.

The general idea is that players must work together to find several treasures before the island they are on "sinks." Either everyone wins or everyone loses, she said.

Every time the game is played, it changes slightly as players can choose to be different characters, the island format switches and the level of difficulty can increase.

■ If you like chess, but don't want to sit through a lengthy game, then try "Onitama," designed by Shimpei Sato, Wagner said. (Tip: If you like a game created by a certain designer, look for his or her other games as you'll likely enjoy those too, Wagner said.)

"Onitama" is for two players, and each player has four pawns and a taller monk. The object is to eliminate your opponent's monk or to cross the board and take the monk's starting place. However, each player's moves are dictated by five cards that circulate between the players.

Each time the game is played, different cards are used.

"It's beautiful in its simplicity and its complexity," Wagner said.

■ "Carcassonne," designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, is the game that coined the term "meeples," aka little wooden people, Simpson said.

It's a tile-placement game that creates a landscape of cities, farmland, rivers and roads on which each players strategically places his or her meeples. Depending on where the meeples are located as the tiles are put down, the meeples can earn points for their player.

No two games are alike, but if players need a change of landscape from the original "Carcassonne," there are other versions — "Carcassonne: Safari" just came out last year — as well as game expansion options.

It seems a little complicated, but "trust me, they will catch on," said Simpson about elementary-age children. And he's speaking from experience as he used to play the game with his boys when they were younger.

■ For a game suitable for more players, there's "Just One" from Repos. It's a mystery word game that can handle up to seven players in teams.

"You have to think very creatively," Wagner said.

■ Another way to bring fun to a party is with "What Do You Meme?"

Players must match captions to photo cards to create memes that are then judged.

The nice thing about how this game is packaged is that the cards with more mature content are wrapped separate from those that are more family friendly, Wagner said.

"So you can play as a family or after dark," she said.

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