Monday, February 16, 2015

Best Games for Kids


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

 Gaming with Kids: Part 1

We own many board games and we play them often. I mean, besides playing games throughout the day with Munchkin and Bean, Albz and I play games most nights with our friends. Many would call it an addiction, but by our standards, that's not a bad thing. We are always on the lookout for new games to try. TableTop, Kickstarter (we recently backed Tiny Epic Galaxies, Conan and Spirits of the Rice Paddy) and our favorite board game reviewers (Shut Up and Sit Down, The Dice Tower, Toys Are ToolsBoardGaming, Dad's Gaming Addiction) are our go-to sources for new games. Not to mention Amazon, because Amazon is always eager to share similar board games to the ones we just bought... which means we have an ever-growing list of over 200 games on our wish list.

So needless to say, we love board games! And one thing that I want to do is share our love of board games with our kids. Board games are a great way to work on social and communication skills, build strong strategic and logic skills, practice linguistics, math and science, among other wonderful learning experiences. The best part is, if your child is a reluctant learner, they may be more inclined to play a game and not even realize they are learning!

For young ones, I absolutely recommend playing games made by Peaceable Kingdom. They have many award winning cooperative games, meaning that everyone works together to win. There is no one winner, so hopefully there will be no tears at the end of the game. This will also help children learn how to work as a team to overcome obstacles. We love these games because the main emphasis is on play, instead of competitiveness. Learning how to be a respectful player is important. No one wants to play with someone who rage quits (and those people certainly exist).

Simply Fun, eeBoo, Educational Insights, Asmodee, ThinkFun, Gamewright, SmartGames - These are the companies we love the most (for children's games). They make artistically beautiful, challenging, interactive, interesting, and wonderful games. I highly recommend checking these companies out if you haven't already. In particular, SmartGames creates logic games for one player, which may be an ideal game for a child who prefers to play independently.

So here is a list of some games that I would absolutely suggest. I grouped the games by age range, but honestly use your own judgement of your child's abilities. With most games you can tweak the rules to include younger players. I also provided the suggested age range on the game, the number of players required and the play time.

Games for Toddlers

Here are my suggestions for children ages 18 months to 2+ years old. 


Roll and Play Board Game from ThinkFun


Move and Groove Game from ThinkFun



Hello Sunshine Game from ThinkFun

These three games are AMAZING. If you want to start playing games with your kids at a really young age, these should be on your list. Each of these games comes with a plush and a deck of cards. The learning possibilities are endless. These games encourage creativity, active play and gross motor skills. Toddlers can work on their color, image and word recognition skills while moving around and playing. There are many prompts that will gently ease your toddler into gaming, like learning to take turns and follow rules.

Games for Preschoolers




My First Carcassonne Game is a tile placement game. Much like the original Carcassonne game, each player will take turns choosing a tile and placing it somewhere where the roads line up. In this version, you only place your meeples when a road closes. You will either play until you run out of tiles, in which case the player with the least amount of meeples wins. Or you play until someone runs out of meeples. My First Carcassonne is simply awesome and it's a super fun family game of strategy.
4+
2-4 Players
20 Minutes to Play


Robot Turtles is a game that teaches children the fundamentals of programming. Yep, that's right. Programming. And considering most 4 year olds can already operate a smart phone or tablet, it seems only fitting that you teach them a little bit more. So whether you homeschool or simply want to incorporate some fun STEM activities into their day, I highly recommend Robot Turtles. It's really easy to learn and there are different difficulty levels. You can get really creative with this game and each time you play will be a different experience.
4+
2-5 Players
10-30 Minutes to Play


The Ladybug Game was created by a 6 year old in 1st grade. It's a cute game that introduces math concepts like counting, addition and subtraction. Each player will choose a ladybug and make their way to the finish line. Along the way you will collect bug tokens which will help you move forward or send you back if you don't have enough.
3+
2-4 Players
15+ Minutes to Play



Boggle Junior Game is a classic. I loved Boggle growing up. One neat thing that works great with Boggle is having flash cards with sight words on them. Because then you are not limited to the words that the game comes with. It opens a lot of doors, but you are limited to 4 letters unless you play without the base. Keep in mind that the game already comes with plenty of words (in two levels) and if they master them all then you might as well move on to the regular Boggle game (they have 5 and 6 letter options). We love playing Boggle because it's a fun way to practice spelling words without making it feel like a chore. They can work on picture, letter and word recognition.
3+
1-2 Players
10-30 Minutes to Play




Zingo! Sight Words is another great way to practice sight words, but instead of spelling them, you will be matching the words. Zingo plays like Bingo and is easy to learn. They also have other games, including Numbers, Word Builder, Time-Telling and the original Zingo game. These games are great for supplemental learning activities.
4+
2-6 Players
15+ Minutes to Play


Haba Animal Upon Animal is a fast paced animal stacking game. You roll the die and that tells you how many animals you can stack. Players race each other to be the first to stack all their animals. Animal Upon Animal works on developing fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. The game pieces are cute and fun to play with, even if you aren't playing it as a game. Little ones will have so much fun stacking them and seeing how high they can get the creatures before they topple over.
4+
1-4 Players
5 Minutes to Play



The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game from Educational Insights is a super popular game, and for good reason! Toddlers and preschoolers will love this game! Simply flick the spinner and use the squirrel tweezers to collect the corresponding color. Each player will have their own tree stump to store their acorns in. The acorns come in 5 colors and the player who fills their stump first wins!
3+
2-4 Players
10 Minutes to Play


Frida's Fruit Fiesta Game from Educational Insights is similar to The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game, but instead of collecting acorns, you are collecting letters. Your child will be working on important fine motor skills and letter recognition. The player who create a line of fruit first wins! Think bingo, with fruit and a cute toucan.
4+
2-4 Players
10 Minutes to Play


Froggy Boogie is an adorable memory game. Players will choose a baby frog to play and the goal is to get to the last lily pond without being spotted by their mommy. The mommy frogs are sleeping in the middle. When you roll the dice and move, you'll have to choose one of the eyes in the matching frog and see if they wake up. If they do, then you cannot move. Otherwise you move forward. Players will race to the finish and have a lot of fun!
4+
2-4 Players
10+ Minutes to Play


Sunny Patch Verdie Chameleon Beanbag Toss from Melissa and Doug is a game that works on gross motor skills. There are two sides with two difficulty levels to play (vertical - harder, horizontal - easier). This game works on hand eye coordination, number recognition and counting skills. You'll be tossing the bean bags into the holes. This game can be played indoor and outdoor.
3+
1 or More Players
10+ Minutes to Play


eeBoo Categories Game is a game of looking, sorting and set-making! This game focuses on observational skills and logical sorting skills. The goal is to collect many sets of cards with something in common. The categories include musical instruments, sports, groups of the same animal, food, bugs, wheels, etc. The players who collects the most sets wins. 
5+
1-4 Players
10+ Minutes to Play


eeBoo Preschool Lotto Game is a simple game for beginners that combines the classic memory game with bingo. There are 6 player cards to choose from and each features a different theme, like pets, vehicles or food. Each card has 6 tiles to match. If you are playing with two children, you'll want to play with the 12 tiles that match their cards. If you want to make the game slightly more difficult, simply add in a few extra tiles. They will be face down, so they will have to use their memory skills to find the matching tiles. Player to complete their card first wins, though we usually play until everyone is finished.
3+
1-6 Players
10 Minutes to Play


Trucky 3 is a really unique game and your children may not even know they are playing a puzzle! Basically the object of the game is to fit the pieces inside the truck without any edges sticking out. It's truck-tetris. Children can play with it as a toy or a puzzle. There are 48 challenges that come with the game.
3+
1 Player
Play Time Varies


Castle Logix and Camelot Jr. are similar, with Castle Logix being more suited for children 3+ and Camelot Jr. for children 4+. We are quite fond of puzzle games that challenge the mind and there are many challenges that come with this game. You'll be playing to create interesting castle designs. When we first began playing, we simply showed them the pieces and asked them what they could create. Once they were more familiar with the pieces, we handed them the challenge book. The challenges range from easy to complex and we keep children entertained. These games will help to develop logic and spatial reasoning skills.
3+/4+
1 Player
Play Time Varies


Richard Scarry Busy Town is a huge game that I suggest playing on a floor or a large table (seriously, the game is 6 feet long). Children will have fun solving mysteries and matching objects. They will work on their observational skills by counting and matching objects. This is a game that builds teamwork skills, though is still competitive.
3+
2-4 Players
10+ Minutes to Play


Bamboo Quattro Game is a strategy game of growing bamboo. Simply put, you'll be growing bamboo and trying to grow 4 in a row. Children will be working on their logic, reasoning and concentration skills. It's easy to learn and understand.
3+
2 Players
10 Minutes to Play


Stone Soup by Peaceable Kingdom is a cooperative memory matching game. Players will work together to make the soup by matching ingredients. Everyone wins or loses together. If you've ever read the book, then you will love the game!
5+
2-6 Players
15-20 Minutes to Play


Spot It! Educational Set is a set of 4 card games. These games are also sold individually. This set includes the alphabet, animals, basic English, and numbers and shapes game. There are different ways to play, but we typically just shuffle the cards, place them in the middle and draw two. That player will then make a match and then the next player takes their turn. If a player cannot spot the match, then they voluntarily pass. Children will be working on their letter, numbers, and picture recognition skills.
3+
1 of More Players
10+ Minutes to Play


Hi Ho Cherry-O is a game of picking fruit. You'll use the spinner to determine how many fruit to pluck. The first person to pluck all the fruit from their tree wins. This version of the game also includes a puzzle. Children will be working on their fine motor skills, counting skills, and color recognition skills while playing.
3+
2-4 Players
10+ Minutes to Play


Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game is a cooperative and educational game. Children will learn about 25 edible and medicinal herbs along with ailments that can be healed with those herbs while playing. Children will be working together to make their way up the mountain and back home to grandma before nightfall (otherwise grandma will come find you). The illustrations are beautiful and extremely detailed. It's a great game to introduce to children, especially if you love spending time outside in nature. If you take your children hiking, you can quiz them about the herbs they find and see what they learned!
4+
1-4 Playes
20+ Minutes to Play

Games for Children 6+


Some of the following games are recommended for children 8-12 years old. But if they are familiar with playing board games, watch a play through or download the rules and see if they are ready. You may be surprised by their capacity to understand the rules of games that are aged above them. For instance, Bean (age 5) loves playing My First Carcassonne and when we tried out Tsuro (8+), it was pretty similar and she totally beat me!


Tribbit is a fast-paced game of sorting and matching sets. It's easy to learn and quick to play. Children can even time themselves to see how many sets they can complete before the buzzer goes off. Sets can include frogs with vests, canes, hats, glasses, mustaches, etc. A set includes 3 cards with a similar feature. The first player to complete 5 full sets earns 2 tokens. Then you set a timer and the remaining players have time to score too. The player who earns 5 tokens first wins. You can play this game with younger children by omitting the timer and tokens and first person to 5 sets wins.
8+
2-6 Players
Play Time Varies


Catan: Junior is a must-have for any game collection. Catan is basically the grandaddy of Euro games and the Junior version is a wonderful introduction to the Catan family (seriously, there are so many). In Catan Junior, you'll be playing as pirates exploring the seas, setting up hideouts, and collecting resources. Each island you build a hideout on produces a different resource, which can be used to build more ships to explore more and you can collect gold... all while trying to avoid the ghost pirate captain! The player who builds 7 hideouts first wins!
6+
2-4 Players
Play Time Varies - 30+ Minutes to Play


Ticket To Ride is all about building train tracks! You'll start out with a main objective card which tells you the major route you need to complete for points, additional routes which are shorter and earn you less points, and some colored train cards. Use the matching train cards to build train tracks on the routes you choose. There are many variations of this game, including Europe, Asia, Nordic Countries, and The Heart of Africa, just to name a few. This version of the game is based on the railways in America.
8+
2-5 Players
30-60 Minutes to Play


Tsuro: The Game of the Path is a tile placement game. Players will take turn choosing which tile from their hand they want to place and then move their dragon stone to the end of the path. Your goal is to be the last dragon on the board, though you may run out of tiles and tie with other players who managed to stay on the board. Some of your tiles may make other players dragons move forward and possibly throw them off the board (some competitive players do that).
8+
2-8 Players
15-20 Minutes to Play


Bananagrams is an anagram game. You can play competitively or cooperatively (for instance, pairing a younger child with an adult who can help them spell words). Players will take turns placing tiles in crossword grids to spell words. This game is especially great to take on the go or on vacation, since everything fits inside a small banana shaped pouch. Preschoolers can also use the tiles to practice spelling on their own.
7+
1-8 Players
Play Time Varies


Qwirkle Board Game is a strategy game of mixing and matching. Play tiles of the same color or shape and score points! This is an easy game to teach and is a fun party game. It's also great for children or adults who are not as familiar with playing games. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins!
6+
2-4 Players
45 Minutes to Play


Blokus Game is a fast paced strategy game. Each player starts off with a pile of tiles in their chosen color and one at a time places a tile on the board. The player at the end of the game with the fewest tiles wins! This game only takes a minute to learn and varies each time you play. Children who love puzzles will love Blokus!
7+
2-4 Players
30 Minutes to Play


ThinkFun Rush Hour is a single player logic game. There are 4 levels to play, from beginner to expert, to keep things fun and interesting. Choose a challenge card in the level you want to play and set up the cars in the grid. You'll be playing to slide the cars out of the way to let the red car get through and escape the traffic. There is also a junior version for younger players: Rush Hour Jr. (5+).
8+
1 Player
Play Time Varies


Rummikub is a tile-laying game of rummy. The game includes tiles in 4 colors, ranging from 1-13 and includes two wild tiles (with moon faces). You are playing to create matches (3 or 4 of the same number in different colors) or a run, like 1-4 in the same color. You can use the wild tile to substitute numbers. You can also take other players tiles, so long as it is a legal move (for instance, if they have a red, orange and blue 3 and you need the blue 3, you need to replace it with a black 3 because you can't leave it with only two tiles) or you can replace the tile with another one. It's a fast moving game and easy to learn. I personally prefer Rummikub over playing rummy with cards.
8+
2-4 Players
30+ Minutes to Play


Morphology Junior is an incredibly creative game. Your job as the morphologist is to create a word like "bike" using the pieces provided. There are easy and hard words to choose from, so this game can easily be played by children and adults. The other players will then guess what word you created. The game is not limited to using pieces (like cubes, strings and peg dolls) to create words. You can also use sounds and other methods to give them clues.
8+
4 or More Players
30+ Minutes


Rory's Story Cube Complete Set - Original - Actions - Voyages is a dice-rolling storytelling game. I'd personally go straight for the complete set, but they sell them individually. You'll roll the dice and create a story based on the images. Keep in mind that just because the image may be a cactus, it is not limited to just being a cactus. It could represent a desert, a dry place, some thing with spikes, etc. Your imagination is your only limit in this game. It's a great party game and is easy to learn.
8+
1 or More Players
15 Minutes to Play


Once Upon A Time is a storytelling card player. Once you've finished shuffling the cards, cut the deck and look at the card on top. The player who looks the most like the person on the card begins (if it's not a person, simply choose another card). You'll deal out a hand of cards, including a card that is the final line to your story and should be your goal. You'll choose a card from your hand to begin. You have to use the word from your card to include it in your story and you can continue telling your story so long as you have cards to play. If you ever start rambling, you should pass to the next player or someone might interrupt you (with an interrupt card). It really is a fun storytelling experience and will absolutely promote literacy skills.
8+
2-6 Players
30-60 Minutes to Play


Dixit is a game of wonderful illustrations. Each player will start with a hand of cards and on their turn they will choose a card and either make a sound, say a word or phrase, or do something that would clue the other players to what could be on their card. They will then place their card face down on the table and the other players will choose a card from their hand that is the most similar to that thing. For example, you could say "Hansel and Gretel" and your card could show a picture of two children in a candy village. Another player could play a card with an ugly, troll lady with children in jars preparing to cook them, another player could play a card with children taking a walk in the woods. The main player will then shuffle the cards and turn them face up in a row. Players will then vote on which card they think is the main players. You basically want to make them guess it correctly, but not all the players. Other players will get points if their card is chosen too. It's super fun and easy to learn and is a great party game. Each game is different and it's even more fun with the expansions!
8+
3-6 Players
30 Minutes to Play


Timeline Inventions is a card game that is based on real life discoveries, events and inventions. You will literally be creating a timeline as you guess the dates of each invention. If you love history or simply need an easy way to memorize dates, this is a wonderful game for you! Timeline has a ton of varieties: Historical Events, Science and Discoveries, Diversity, Music & Cinema, American History, and Americana. You can play them separately, or you can combine them with some of the other sets.
8+
2-8 Players
15 Minutes to Play

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There are so, so many wonderful games to choose from. I hope this list has given you a few good ideas on where to start! Please let us know if you ever have a question about games. We would be happy to answer your questions or help you find the perfect game for your family!

I'll be sharing our own advice and advice from others parents on playing board games with kids in our next post!

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What are your favorite board games? What games would you absolutely recommend for someone else? What games do you consider "essential" to a collection? What games do your kids love? What games do you play on family game night? We'd love to hear!
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