Crazy for Castles!
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Turn your child’s fascination with knights or princesses into an opportunity to stretch their minds. We’ve found a set of books and games that will spark their imaginations, propelling your living room back to medieval times.
Days of Knights and Damsels, by Laurie Carlson. Fifty hands-on activities that teach what life was like in the days of yore. Kids can fashion a coat of armor out of milk bottles, pen secret proclamations in invisible ink, or construct their own hourglass. From dipping candles to concocting curds and whey, this brings an ancient world to life. $15. Ages 5-12.
Castle: Medieval Days and Knights, by Kyle Olmon. A pop-up book chock-full of feasts and foes, battles and bravado. $19.99. Ages 6+.
Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones. Set in medieval times, this story about a young heroine (and hopeful witch), stuck in the flying castle of a tricky wizard, is sure to become a classic. Skip the movie and get the book. $6.99. Ages 11+.
Games and Toys
Carcassone: Fight for control of the medieval French town of Carcassone! Players must elude knights, ward off thieves, and exert their growing influence, as they lay tiles to build cities, roads, and monasteries. A great alternative to Monopoly, the Carcassone series is a brain-stretcher the entire family can play together. $24.95. Ages 8+. www.riograndegames.com
Castle Keep: Defend your keep and you’ve secured your castle walls, but let in the rogues and you’re through. A visual, pattern-matching game where players arrange tiles by color or shape in order to build their own castle and destroy their enemy’s! Easy enough for the younger knights in the family, it will grow with them, honing their strategy and decision-making abilities. But educational benefits aside, it’s just plain fun. $12. Ages 8+. www.gamewright.com
Folding Castle Playset: The sprawling turrets, spacious courtyard, and winding stairs of this wooden castle are sure to delight your budding royalty. And the fact that the whole thing can be folded up and stored flat will delight you as well. Complete with four playing figures (more can be bought separately), this medieval treat has most of the major bases covered. Princesses can walk their horse majestically across the drawbridge, while traitors bide their time in the dungeon below. $69.99. Ages 4+. www.melissaanddoug.com