With the new trend in board games for adults, kids board games are evolving too. Games have moved beyond the old classics and on to new choices that offer more fun, strategy, and even education. A bit of geography or even basics of coding can be fun! Seriously!
Have you ever tried to play a board game with a five-year-old? Perhaps Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders? I have, and it can be fun but it’s also a bit …. well… random.
From their constant need to be moving to still learning how to lose well, board games with kids can be a challenge. For the adults, there is, of course, the added issue of having to play a rather simple game.
Admit it, once you’ve played Candy Land as an adult, you’re good for a while. Literal luck of the draw and no strategy whatsoever, this classic game is really a passive game to see how it turns out. I’ve often hoped my son or daughter wouldn’t pull that dreaded ice cream cone or whatever it is that sends you all the way back. That was stressful at 4-years-old.
This is why I am excited to report that with the arrival of the modern board gaming craze, children’s games have begun to evolve too! It is my opinion that although a game aimed at kids can teach something, it also needs to be fun on its own, with or without a lesson.
Also, since parents are most often the …err… participants in such games, it is important to me that the game be at least a little fun for adults as well.
I go into the specifics below, but here’s a quick look at some of the Best Board Games for Kids:
6 to 10 years old – Ticket to Ride, Dragonwood, and Kingdomino. Be sure to see below for variants of Ticket to Ride that can help kids learn geography of anywhere from Africa to Asia to Europe. Also included is Codenames Disney which teaches basics of coding in a fun way.
If you walk through the game aisle of any big store like Target or Wal-Mart, you will see a huge variety of games aimed at kids. Some are what I call mass-market games; goofy games that are churned out for the masses to meet some new craze. Think the Baby Shark game that is basically just a repackaged magnetic fishing game.
Let’s challenge our kids … help them learn to form complex strategies, to think outside the box, and help them understand abstract thoughts and concepts.
New Games for Preschool (Ages 3-5)
With games aimed at preschoolers, one of the key issues is the inability to read. Games need to either be wordless or ones that adults can play with the kids, but still has very simple instructions, game play, and short length.
In the past these games have been things like Hungry Hungry Hippos, Memory, Connect 4, which have evolved over time to include games that teach more complex ideas and concepts.
Part puzzle, part board game, Silly Street is just like it sounds. Meant to be played with 4 players, this game is great at helping build confidence. It encourages kids to play, sing, act, and tell stories. Other players sometimes act as judges, which requires a bit of adult mediation at times, but there are a lot of great laughs.
The best part is that no matter who wins, there is always a dance party at the end. I had a five-year-old (who is usually a sore loser) proclaim at the end of our first game that it was okay if he lost because at least he got to dance. You can’t beat that!
When I first stumbled on this game, I wasn’t a huge fan. Of course, this was because this was given to me as a game meant for adults. One game with a four-year-old and I knew who the real audience was. A picture version of Mattel’s matching game: Apples to Apples, Slapzi is great for getting kids to think outside the box. With a hand of cards that most often end up splayed out on the table, players match their picture cards to word cards.
From the makers of Fluxx and Lunacy, this one is technically considered an adult game. However, without any words, this is perfect for any age. For the younger ones, it’s basically a matching game, but as kids get older, they can begin to develop more complex strategies.
A cooperative board game, which will keep games from ending in tears. Together you form a plan, collect the keys, beat the ogre, and get the treasure. Of all the Peaceable Kingdom brand games, this one is probably my favorite with Dinosaur Escape coming in at a close second.
This one is technically a classic, however, with some tweaking, this one has been changed to accommodate preschoolers and it is amazing. Quick games, some strategy, and learning pattern recognition, this one is perfect for non-readers and a building block for other more difficult versions of the game.
Games for Kids in Grade School (Ages 6-10)
I’ve found that this age group holds a wide variety of games that kids can play dependent on their skill level, dexterity, and reading level. However, at this age kids really do want to try and play more adult games. If a kid can play a game and needs some minor help in order to play, I usually try to let them join in. However, there are some great games that really lend themselves well to this age group.
A game of dice and cards, I like to think of this one as a fantasy card game with some light strategizing and many monsters are defeated. There is some light reading involved, but nothing that a beginning reader couldn’t handle.
Winner of the 2017 Der Spiel de Jahres game of the year, this is Dominos with a twist. Quick, full of strategy, and easy to learn this one is perfect for young gamers. Best part, once kids learn the rules, they can play this one on their own.
Teamwork and clues, this one is difficult, but in that just right way. It requires players to really think about their clues and think on their toes, without giving anything away. Although there are several versions of this game, I’ve found this one to be best for young players as they are very familiar with the material.
Want a fun way to teach geography? Pick a location and Ticket to Ride has probably made a version of it. Europe, Nordic Countries, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, India, Africa, and Asia. There are several junior versions of the game as well, but I’ve found that the average grade-schooler who can do basic reading, will be able to play all of the full version of the game.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this one because this is one that I have been begged to play. I’ve even been forced to drag this game on a picnic because the kids I know love it so much. Admittedly, the younger ones struggle with the reading heavy cards, however that doesn’t seem to deter from the enjoyment of it and they even win.
Specialty Games for Kids
There are several regular adult games that come with some version for children. Blokus Jr, Catan Jr, Carcassone Jr, and more. Although I could obviously include those in the list, I think it would be more interesting to mention some games that are meant to specifically teach certain skills or ideas.
Basically, a puzzle game, Code Master allows you to travel through 60 levels, using programming logic to move your meeple. It can be a bit challenging for some kids and I recommend that an adult help walk them through it if that is the case, otherwise they may lose interest. The concepts learned here are important though and worth the time to learn and play.
Build Your own video game. That alone should sell a kid on playing. It’s like Legos meets Minecraft. One can play the game with only the app; however, research has shown that kids learn better with tactile experience so having the game board as a way to help teach concepts is great.
This is one game that I really wish existed when I was a kid. The goal is to get your pawns from zero to 101, which you must get exactly. Moving is a mixture of dice and basic arithmetic operations. There is even a multiplication cheat sheet for those who may struggle. I’ve heard some complaints about this one being difficult to learn, which is why I recommend watching this tutorial video by one of the makers of the game.
Math and wizards. I admit this may have been the reason I played this. Another math operations game, this one is a bit stealthier in its teaching method. Scales up as kids continue to learn more advanced math skills.
Before I Go…
The biggest thing I want to stress is that it is okay to ignore the age ranges on games. Some will say they should be played by younger kids, while an older kid can still enjoy them. Some games will say meant for age 10+, when an 8-year-old with good reading skills could easily play it.
I had a 7-year-old beat me in Boss Monster once, a game that says for ages 13+.
There are hundreds of games out there for kids and admittedly, some make me shudder just thinking about them.
Yes, I’m thinking of you, Pull My Finger. Games with very little replay value and who are only fun the first half a dozen times before they get shoved into the back of the closet and are forgotten about.
It’s my hope and true belief that the board games I’ve shared with you here will be ones that get pulled out a little more often and passed on to other kids once yours outgrow them.
Last update on 2021-05-17 at 22:38 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API