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Family games nights are a great way to unwind during the holidays

Interactive yet educational games are the perfect way to kick back and relax with family and friends, while having fun and creating lasting memories.

Here are some classic board games, puzzles and cards that are sure to raise the spirit of the holidays in your household:

Cranium Cariboo
Cranium Cariboo whisks kids away on a magical treasure hunt on the tropical island of Cariboo, where little ones will discover castles, boats and colourful balls. Each turn gives players the chance to match fun drawings, unlock secret doors with a special purple key, and discover hidden treasures. Work together to find six treasure balls and open the treasure chest.
Recommended for ages three to six, the game is best played with two to four players. Cariboo's matching activities reinforce basic lessons - ABCs, numbers, shapes and colours. Each round of Cariboo takes about 15 to 20 minutes to play. There are beginner and advanced cards for growing minds. $26.99

Pengoloo

What do you get when you take 12 irresistible wooden penguins from the South Pole, coloured eggs, icebergs and dice? One cool game that offers an interesting twist on the classic memory match game. Setup is easy. Recommended for ages 4 and up, the game is very straightforward.
Roll the coloured dice. Pick up two penguins. If the egg(s) under the penguins match the colours you rolled on the dice, put the matching penguin(s) in your scoring track. If both eggs match, take both eggs and roll again. Pass the dice to the next player. With luck, memory and help, the winner must collect six penguins. Play time is 10 to 15 minutes. (blueorangegames.com) $29.99

The Secret Door
Valuables have been stolen and we have till midnight to sift for clues through an old mansion. This award-winning whodunnit mystery game, for ages five to eight, is made by Perth, Ont.-based Family Pastimes (www.familypastimes.com), whose motto is "playing together, not against each other."
Children and adults work together as a team (up to eight players) to figure out the mystery of what is behind the Secret Door as the clock keeps ticking. The company has a lengthy lineup of games for all ages. $16.99

Jenga Max
Many of us remember the original Jenga, where you take turns stacking blocks in the shape of a tall tower until a player makes a wrong move and blocks come tumbling down - at which point, everyone hollers "Jenga!"
Jenga Max, a slightly more challenging game, is a surefire way to entertain kids. Players must hook or hang plastic pieces from the top of a tower in various directions without upsetting the balance of the contraption. Be the last player to successfully hang a game piece and you win.
For two to six players, eight years and older. $22.99

Apples to Apples
Hilarious is the word most often used to describe the game Apples to Apples.
The Party Box version of the game, for four to 10 players aged 12 to adult, requires a sense of humour and imagination. Select the person, place or thing on the card in your hand that is best described by the verb, adjective or adverb on the card played by the judge. Laugh out loud as the judge turns over each player's card to reveal the witty and often downright silly answers. If your card is chosen as the best match, you win that round. But no worries: Everyone gets a chance to be the judge. The game comes with more than 1,000 cards. $39.99

Ottawa Citizen

Organizations: Family Pastimes, Party Box

Geographic location: Cariboo, South Pole, Perth Ottawa

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