The Best Summer Toy for Moms and Middle School Boys


Remember playing Chutes and Ladders together? CandylandConnect Four? Uno? I loved those games.

OK, not Candyland. I have a few good fuzzy memories of playing Candyland as a child. They include me always drawing a card to jump ahead and never getting stuck in Molasses Swamp. Clearly, my dad shuffled those cards to my advantage or winked a lot during our gameplay.

I am not like him. I do not enjoy games just for the fun of being together. I am like my mom. I play to win. Always. Even when I’m playing with my child. There’s little wonder why I never remember playing that game of pure chance with my boy. I moved him right along to Sorry with some choice-making strategy.

But he’s twelve now. What do we do when it’s just the two of us?

He scoffs at games unless they are on a screen and require a remote of some sort. And, you know, as I said – I play to win. So these games are not fun for me. I think you understand what I am saying here.

Imagine my delight, then, when I purged and organized the family bookcase and found an old Christmas gift from grandma.

The Best Summer Toy for Moms and Middle School Boys | Columbia SC Moms Blog

Tabletop air hockey wasn’t fun when he was five or six years old. I remember arguing. That’s right. I’ll admit it. I, a grown woman, argued with a child.

He wouldn’t stay on his side of the line. He hunched over the board and leaned strongly into it. But it’s not entirely a game of physicality; it’s more a game of finesse. He sent the game piece (or worse, the entire table) flying across the room. I screamed. It got loud. I put it away. For good.

And then years later, this magical moment of spring clean purging came. I took it out and placed it in the giveaway pile. He walked through the den and said, “Oh, I remember this,” and instead of continuing on to his bedroom, he came and sat down on the couch. I had my doubts, but I agreed to stop my cleaning and play. And now it’s a keeper.

I’ve declared this the best summer toy of the year.

  • This thing is an INSIDE GAME and this mama has already been so incredibly hot this year. 
  • This thing is FAIRLY INEXPENSIVE and easy to find. I’m not recommending a certain brand. Grandma went to Target, but Walmart and Amazon can help you out, too.
  • This thing is OLD SCHOOL and you’ll find yourself sharing stories of your own youth with him as you play. He, in turn, tells me a few things and, well, it’s better than what I hear over dinner.
  • This thing is FAST and allows for quick play. Our “counter” goes to nine points, but you can start over again and again. Beware. I’ve found it kind of addicting.
  • This thing combines STRENGTH and FINESSE and middle school boys are refining both. In other words, they love it; but moms can still sometimes win.

That built-in bookcase still hasn’t been completely cleaned and organized, but we’ve had a lot of air hockey play happening in this den lately. It’s included a lot of conversation, a lot of laughing, and a lot of sweet competition. But when I stop winning altogether, that thing’s going back in the giveaway pile…

Until then, why don’t you share one of your favorite indoor games with us?


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Melanie McGehee never knew she wanted to be a mom. Even marriage caught her somewhat by surprise, in spite of the fact that she met husband Andy through a matchmaking service. She thanked eharmony by writing about that experience for an anthology, A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love. Almost two years to the day after marrying him, she stared at two pink lines and wondered aloud, “Is this okay?” His response, “Kind of late to be asking that now.” It was a bit late – in life. But at the advanced maternal age of 35, she delivered by surprise at 35 weeks and an emergency C-section, a healthy baby boy. Ian, like Melanie, is an only child. She’s written much about him during her years with the blog, but he’s now a teenager. Please, don’t do the math. It’s true. Momming in middle age is the best!


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