Some of my sons went through a chess-playing phase when they were young, and of course most kids are up for the occasional game of checkers. Because of this, years ago I fell in love with a coffee table with a painted checkerboard on the top that I saw in the LL Bean catalog. I imagined that if we had such a table, there would be countless cozy winter nights with snow falling outside, a roaring fire in the family room fireplace, and my five boys huddled around the coffee table playing endless, spirited games of checkers and chess. (I know that sounds a little too Norman Rockwell-esque. But a mom can dream, can't she?)
Instead of paying top dollar, though, my husband and I bought an unfinished table made of sturdy oak and finished it ourselves, with barn red paint on the bottom and a light stain on top. Then I went to town on the checkerboard, measuring everything out very carefully in an attempt to make our coffee table resemble the one they sold at LL Bean.
The table turned out really nice, if I do say so myself.
I bet if my boys went to their friends' houses and saw coffee tables like this one, they played games on them all the time. I think with kids, the things they see day in and day out at their own houses are never as interesting as the things they see at their friends' houses--even if they're the very same things! We have both a Foosball table and a ping pong table, but they never got as much use as I thought they would. They saw the most action, of course, during times when our boys had friends over. (Meanwhile, their friends' Foosball and ping pong tables were gathering dust at home.)
Our sons always loved to play pool at their friends' houses, and I always used to wish that pool tables weren't so expensive so we could get one for our own house. But you know what? It's just as well, because that big old thing probably would have sat there lonely and neglected in the basement while they played pool elsewhere.
We did have video games at our house, though; and much to my husband's chagrin, playing video games was one activity our guys were just as happy to do at home as at their friends' houses. So on those snowy winter nights, they may not have been gathered together around this checkerboard coffee table...but at least they were together--in the basement, gathered around the N64.