Hacking the Game Closet

by Kendra Niehaus


Sometimes the box a gift comes in is more fun to play with and sometimes the best games  are the ones kids make up themselves.

Over the years, my kids have taken store-bought games and puzzles and twisted them to play by their own rules.  For instance, what homeschool parent hasn’t purchased Mad Libs in the hopes that their child would become a grammar genius?  Fortunately for me, the kids took the Mad Libs books off to enjoy them on their own– and last week I discovered they’d altered the game for more enjoyment.  Sometimes they play “Sad Libs” where every word chosen has to rhyme (or have a rhyming root).  Other times they play “Angry Libs” where all the words have a theme or are synonyms of each other.  Once, it involved only words from what they knew of Ancient China.

mad libs


Rather than play one of the 10 Days games (10 Days in Africa, 10 Days in Europe, etc) as a standalone game, they line up two or three of the boards and make their own rules for how to get from continent to continent and from country to country.

10 Days Around the World

All the dice in the house have been gathered for a simple contest of “Who Can Get The Higher Roll.”

dice collection

The marbles and board from Chinese checkers are employed as medium and canvas to create freestyle movable art.

Chinese Checker Art


Three 1000-piece Harry Potter puzzles with similar coloring, previously completed, have been combined to create an epic jigsaw challenge.

HP Puzzles

Ping pong balls are used for sofa pillow-baseball and you can picture the hilarity they produce if you use them to play Foosball.  Exercise balls, jump ropes, buckets and the garden hose have been set up in the yard for a Wipeout-style obstacle course.


And it’s not just pre-made games they hack.  Any household item can be used in a contest.  A bag full of empty ribbon rolls became a match to see who could roll one down the stairs and get it to go the farthest at the bottom.  A variety of bottle caps collected over the years have become the pawns in a type of kitchen floor-shuffleboard.


The weekly recycled cans and plastic bottles morph into enemies that must be crushed under bike and scooter tires.   Sometimes the kids even like to include *me* in their games– like when they pile up all their stuffed animals and test my knowledge of names, gender and to whom they belong.

So this summer when the same old games start to get boring, ask the kids to find a NEW way to play.  Chances are it will be more creative– and definitely more rewarding– than following the rules!

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1 comment to Hacking the Game Closet

  • Renee Jackson

    These are awesome suggestions – being a baseball fan, I love the ping pong idea. Thanks for getting my creative juices flowing.

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