Like in my "BEEP BEEP Go to Sleep" blog, let me start by saying I'm not get referral fees for this; I'm just interested in telling like-minded parents about a REALLY cool gift.
My son received Engineering Ants a week or so ago for his birthday. It has quickly become my favorite learning game in the house. It is nothing short of brilliant, and if you are looking for a game that will encourage out-of-the-box thinking, collaboration with mom/dad/sibling/whomever, and repeat play, this game has got it all.
The basic concept is that all the players work together to rescue three ants and return to the anthill before the ant eater makes it to the ant hill. There are obstacles that you must overcome to rescue your pals, which is where the fun starts. You have to get past a giant spider, overcome a cliff, get over quicksand, etc... You have a large stack of cardboard punch out gizmos, pipes, clamps, and connectors with which you can build anything that comes to mind to help you overcome the obstacle.
Below, my wife and son (4 years old), collaborate to build a fire engine with ladder that we could use to get over a fallen tree. My son had the fire engine idea, and we got to work.
Below my son uses a trampoline on poles to get over a hot geiser:
The wonderful thing about this game is that it encourages different game play each time, because it gives you so many widgets that you are enabled to try many different things when you come to a new obstacle (or eventually the same obstacle, once you've played all the obstacle cards). We built an airplane, a pogo stick, and I ALMOST got to build a floating chair a-la the ATeam's trash bag chair from nearly 3 decades ago:
Speaking of the A-Team, what a great problem-solving group of hackers. Maybe I'll do a blog on them one day. :]