It’s late summer and the pandemic rages on in most parts of the country. You’ve done all the crafts, played with all the toys, read all the books…more than twice. It’s hard finding new things to do, especially if you have little kids.
It’s also hard to have things to look forward to if you’re not going anywhere or doing much of anything. We joke in our house that today is Blursday, just like yesterday and the day before it were, too.
Enter Family Game Night. Put it on the calendar and make it a theme party with a fun dinner. Maybe this week is Silly Hat Night and next week is Mismatched Sock Night. Be goofy with your kids. They’ll love watching you be silly.
Granted, there isn’t a rule saying that Family Game Night (FGN) has to be a board game, although that’s what this post is mainly about. Lots of options exist for non-board games with your kids. We love hide-and-seek in our house. My brother and I pretty much lived on card games as kids. Go Fish, anyone? Or if you have a large family, you could have your own tag football game in the backyard or out in the street. Kick the soccer ball back and forth. Show off your basketball skills.
Board games are also great fun. We started a FGN last year and it’s been something the kids always look forward to. Back at the beginning, it was just once a month because that’s all we could spare on our calendars. Now, we could have one every night! Haha
If starting (or continuing) a FGN is in your future and you’re looking for some great board games, here’s the ones that top my lists of varying categories, depending on what your family is looking for.
Every family’s arsenal of board games should include at least a few of these.Clue: Ages 8+ The original who-done-it game, this promotes problem solving, strategy, and laughter as you watch your kids pretend to be characters from the game. Anyone else always want to be Miss Scarlet?
Monopoly: Ages 8+ This one takes a time commitment, for sure. But set it up somewhere in the house that you can leave it for a couple of days and take it in chunks. Monopoly teaches money management, math, economics, and a lot more. I still have scars from playing this game with my brothers as a young kid and they always made me go bankrupt, but it was also so much fun.
Scrabble: Ages 8+ Get out the dictionary (or have it pulled up on your phone) and have fun getting creative with word play.
Guess Who: Ages 6+ This game teaches process of elimination, grouping, and identifying patterns. Great for younger kids and you can always modify it or play with a child who is younger than six to help them get the hang of it.
Battleship: Ages 7+ Boys and girls love to destroy their sibling or parent’s battleship. Teaches process of elimination and strategy and can be modified with younger players if they team up with an adult.
Jenga: Ages 6+ The classic stacking game, this is fun for anyone of any age and as long as you don’t care if a little brother or sister knocks it over, you can involve younger kids, also.
The Game of Life: Ages 8+ Kids will love getting married and filling their car with kids. The newer versions have pets you can add to your life, too. Teaches you about the value of different career choices, also, since kids see what kind of salary you receive based on profession and whether or not you go to college. Great conversation starters!
For the Young Ones
If you have little kids at home, having a FGN can be a challenge because attention spans are so short. If you want to start playing games like these together, be willing to quit without finishing, and bend the rules (or let go of them altogether) in order to keep up the fun.
Candyland: Ages 3+ This is truly a classic game, but it’s a must to play with your little ones. Teaches counting, is quick to play, and is a great first board game once your little toddler is ready. Combine it with Chutes & Ladders and you have the whole package of first board games.
Scrabble Jr: Ages 5+The full version of Scrabble can take a long time and get pretty intense. This can be a pretty simple game and you can modify the rules to keep it fun with your little one.
Eye Spy: Ages 5+ Another game that is easily simplified for a younger player, there is no reading or counting required in this game. Simply find pictures on the cards and push the bell. Kids will love ringing the bell, albeit sometimes too much. 🙂
Red Light Green Light: Ages 2+This comes with three games to play, including red light green light with a motion sensor. Great for kids who can’t sit still or need to be worn out.
VATOS Magnetic Matching Game: Ages 3+ Great for littles who love to stack rings and match things up. If your toddler enjoys putting things in order again and again, this game is perfect for them.
Sorry!: Ages 6+ Even though this says ages 6+, I’ve played it with younger kids and you just modify the rules a bit. Kids can get the concept of moving their game pieces a certain number of squares at a very young age. My suggestion is to work on moving one game piece at a time, remove the Sorry! cards from the deck, and simplify the rest of the cards to only move forward the number of spaces on the card.
Pass The Potato: Ages 2+ Hot Potato with an upgrade, this potato talks and has a motion sensor to respond with commands when you slow down passing, among other funny sayings that kids will crack up at.
For a More Mature Crowd
Have older kids in the house? Wondering what you can do with them that doesn’t involve a screen? These games require a little more smarts and take a longer amount of time than other board games.
American Trivia: Ages 9+ Great for families who also enjoy games like Trivial Pursuit, this has two different levels of questions and several different categories of trivia. Excellent way to teach your kids (and yourself) something new about our country.
This That and Everything: Ages 12+ Another great trivia-esque game, you’re given a card with a list of items on it and you have 30 seconds to have your teammates guess them. However, if you don’t know what the items are on the card, it will be pretty tough slugging. It reminds me a little bit of Scattergories if you’ve played that game.
SponTUNEous: Ages 8+ Missing karaoke night? Have a kid who is always wanting to sing around the house? This one is for you. No talent required.
Ticket to Ride: Ages 8+ The goal is to build trade routes across North America before your opponents. Reminiscent of the Oregon Trail computer game, if you ever played that as a kid. There’s also a younger version that doesn’t take as long and has simplified rules.
Risk: Ages 10+ Dominate the world through battles and victories, earn troops and move around territories. This game involves strategy and teaches geography.
For the Brainiacs
Have kids who love to read almanacs? Maybe someone who is always giving you trivia questions? Or perhaps a kid who is a quick puzzle solver? These games are great for kids who love knowledge and aren’t afraid to show it.
Pickles to Penguins: Ages 8+ This is a matching game, but you have to build commonalities between the cards in play and the cards in your hands. If you stretch it too far, then you have to grab penalty cards. Great for building lateral thinking skills.
Rummikub: Ages 8+ One of our family’s personal favorites, this is kind of like scrabble with numbers. You have to build number patterns and sequences, can connect them with others on the board, and the first to play all their numbers wins the game. Easy to modify for younger players, too.
Brain Box S.T.E.A.M: Ages 8+ We have several of these Brain Box games and they’re wonderful for home and when you take a road trip and need to kill some time in the car. You have to study the trivia side of the card, then flip it over and try to remember as much as possible. Great for learning new things about all kinds of topics.
There are also a couple of great trivia games listed in the “For a more mature crowd” section above that are perfect for family members who love stumping others with their random trivia knowledge.
Something For Every Age
Have a household with teenagers and elementary aged kids? These games are fun for a wide variety of ages and don’t take a lot of time.
Family Scavenger Hunt: Ages 6+ We’ve played this game informally on zoom calls with friends and it’s so much fun. There’s also an outdoor version of the cards to get everyone outside and running around.
Beat the Parents: Ages 6+ Do you know enough kid facts to beat your kids in a trivia game? Do your kids know enough adult trivia to beat you? That’s what this is all about.
Sushi Go: Ages 8+ Great card game that teaches math and strategic thinking. You play three rounds and highest score wins. The various cards add up differently depending on what other cards you have already pulled from the deck and the kicker is that you pass your hand of cards around the table after each turn.
Old Maid (and other simple card games): Ages 3+ Old Maid, Crazy 8s, Go Fish, and Memory are all classic card games that never get old, no matter your age. We still play these games together and they’re great for traveling…you know, when we can go places again. *wink, wink*
For a Good Laugh
Let’s be real – life is hard sometimes, especially lately. Laughter helps lighten the load and makes everyone feel better. If you’re in the mood for some belly laughter, then check these out.
Twister: Ages 6+ Great for kids who are always moving, or those who don’t move enough, this is the classic game of feeling ridiculous in compromising positions. Super silly and so much fun.
Speak Out Kids vs. Parents: Ages 8+ In order to play this game, you have to be willing to look and sound ridiculous. It’s so great after a stressful day or to build some connection with your kids. There’s something magical about laughing at yourselves.
Say Anything: Ages 13+ This is a great game when you know the people you’re playing with because you have to guess what your opponents will choose. Basically everyone answers a question and the judge gets to pick which answer they like the best. Then everyone else tries to figure out which one the judge picked. Answers don’t need to be correct, so things can get pretty hilarious depending on who you’re playing with.
Telestrations: Ages 12+ Great for families with older kids but you could simplify the game for younger ones, too. This is like the game of telephone, only drawn instead of spoken. You get a phrase to draw, then pass your drawing to the next player, who has to write down what they thought you drew, and the next player in the circle has to draw what’s written.
Headbanz: Ages 7+ Guessing what card is on your forehead is pretty funny when everyone else can see it except for you. Super easy to play, you ask everyone else yes or no questions to determine what your card is before the time runs out.
Invisible Think: Ages 10+ This game is pretty simple but will leave you laughing. One player wears glasses and has to draw something without being able to see. Then everyone else has to guess what the drawing is supposed to be.
My hope for your family is many years of joy and laughter playing these games together because we all need more of it in our lives.
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