Our Gambling Game

Sandra Dodd

When my kids were little we played a game I called "gambling." I wouldn't say "Do you want to play that thing?" I'd say "Let's gamble."

They had to have money to gamble, and so they'd bring pennies and nickles and I would too, and we'd have wooden bowls or some containers, and we'd always play on my bed. I'd get those sets of cards that are by grade and have school categories, and I'd go to the next page every time (they're bound with one rivet/screw thing on one end) and choose one that would be a little hard but not impossible. Sometimes we used dice, but I never hesitated to skip one I knew was too hard, or to use a different category without announcing it.

We'd go through all the kids, usually youngest to oldest, but sometimes we'd rotate, or I'd offer it to the kid who hadn't won lately or who might know it because of some recent thing.

If the kid knew it, he got a penny. If not, I got a penny. If it was unknowable because they'd never ever heard of it, or if it was too hard, no pennies were exchanged. Great answers got two pennies. Pointing out a flaw in the question got a penny.

When it was too hard I'd explain briefly what the answer was and why. I'd try to add one little bit of interesting info, but wouldn't make a lesson of it at all.

We just played fast and for fun and there was a lot of laughter. Often there would be a globe on the bed, and a map and maybe a calculator or something else by the end of it, and when it stopped being fun for someone, we'd all quit.

They always won.
And I always found out some things they knew that surprised me, and I was able to discover some things I might want to make more available to them. That's part of how I knew what to strew. I haven't told this story for a long time, maybe since before I was collecting web pages. 🙂 I should put it out there...

See also SandraDodd.com/strewing

We didn't go with the subject categories, but just randomized it all and treated it all like one giant category, mostly. I remember avoiding the spelling stuff, because even when they knew LOTS of math and geography and history, they still couldn't spell. When I was in school it was the other way for me.
See also SandraDodd.com/subjects and SandraDodd.com/checklists


I'm adding a note years later. This was at our old house, and we probably played eight or ten times over the years Kirby,the oldest, was 8, 9, 10. He was 11 when we moved. By then, all the kids were getting allowance, and I was more confident about what they knew.

When we had played, though, it was sweet and funny and bonding and made us all think, and made us all feel good.

Marty, who was younger than nine years old when we "gambled," lives in that house now with his wife and children.