If you follow us on Instagram, you know that I love board games almost as much as I love books. It’s my favorite way to interact with my kids and has been a major pastime during 2020’s quarantine. Games are a great way to increase logic, math, cooperation, and strategy skills. Plus, they are just plain fun!
But let me be clear…not all games are created equal. Games like Candyland, Hi Ho! Cherry-o and Chutes and Ladders make me want to gauge my eyes out. I can’t handle insipid games that don’t involve skill. I also don’t like games that take a million-and-one years (I’m eyeing you, MONOPOLY.) So below are favorites from my household of game-loving geeks. The best board games for each age so even parents of toddlers can actually enjoy game night and not want to flip the table when the game is almost over and you have to slide back down to the first slot.
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Best Board Games for Age 3+
1. Hiss – Help your child learn their colors in this snake building game. Whoever has the most snakes at the end wins!
2. Eye Found It – Race to get to Cinderella’s castle before the clock strikes midnight. This seek and find game is a cooperative one, so everyone wins or everyone loses. You and your little ones will look for hidden Mickeys, fire hydrants, cats, and a plethora of other little items. They will delight in finding their favorite characters along the way.
4. Pengoloo – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) A color-matching memory game for the whole family! The first person to find an egg of each color is the winner, but watch out, your opponents might just steal one of your eggs!
5. The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) Another fun color game for little ones, with a special squirrel grabber to help build hand strength. Be the first squirrel to fill your stump with an acorn of each color, but be careful! If your opponent spins a sneaky squirrel, they can steal one of your acorns!
6. Shelby’s Snack Shack Game – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) Work on early counting skills with this adorable doggy game. You will work on recognizing numbers 1-5 AND work on beginning addition and subtraction skills in this game.
8. My First Carcassonne – When older son started playing more advanced strategy games, my younger son wanted to get in on the action. This simple tile placing game is quickly learned but involves lots of strategic placements. You want to get all your players on the board before your opponent, so you need to learn to play for yourself while keeping an eye on what others are doing. For the record, my Father-in-Law would probably tell you it’s his favorite game on the list too!
Best Board Games for Age 5+
1. Swish Jr. –A version of a game for older kids, I love that this works on visual and spatial skills, but the best part is that it’s waterproof making it perfect to throw in your pool or beach bag!
2.Blokus – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) I started playing Blokus when my husband and I were newly-weds. It’s a Tetris-like game that has looking to get rid of all your wacky-shaped pieces while working to block your opponents from placing theirs. It’s wonderful for spatial relations and one that my husband and I routinely play without our kiddos.
3. Race to the Treasure – If your child has trouble with losing, work together on a cooperative game! This path-building game has your team racing with the trolls to be the first ones to the treasure.
4. Goblet Gobblers – A more advanced version of tic-tac-toe, this game allows the gobblers to cover each other, so you need to be on your toes as you aim to get three in a row!
5. Rivers, Roads, and Rails –Three games in one. this road-building game helps with spatial relations. I love that with multiple ways to play, it always feels fresh.
6. Spot it Jr. – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) This is the junior version of the must-have older game. Our boys loved this face-paced slapping game when they were young. It’s a great one to pack in a suitcase for travel too. Many an hour has been spent playing this game in the airport between flights around the holidays.
7. Suspend – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) This game says 8+ but our littles ones loved it as early as 4. Try to add your sticks to the balance wire without knocking it all over. The difficulty builds with colorful dice you can spin. Of all the games on the list, this is probably my husband’s favorite to play with our kids.
Best Board Games for Age 6+
1.Monster Match – This silly monster matching game has kiddos racing to find many-eyed, leg, and arm monsters while collecting the most donuts to win. It’s all fits in a little monster sleeve perfect for on-the-go fun!
2. Ticket to Ride: My First Journey – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) We are big into strategy games around here. The adult version of this game is a classic, but it’s just as fun to play with your kids in this slightly easier (and faster) version.
3. Quirkle – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) Color matching, shape identification, pattern work, and counting skills are all needed for this game, so it’s no wonder it’s a Mensa game-winner and a favorite for many adult game lovers. This is a game you’ll be playing as a family for years to come.
4. Ice Cool – Winner of quite a few gamer awards, this game is a fast-paced, action-packed strategy game of tag. Flick your penguin around the board as you try to collect your fish while one of your opponents tries to catch you!
5. Sushi Go – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free)Another fun strategy game that ages so well, sushi go featuring cards worth various points. Collect your favorite sushi offerings as you try to score the most points by the end. Dessert is always worth a bonus! My kind of game.
6. The Genius Square – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) You can play this logic game alone or with a buddy. Roll the dice, set the board up with obstacles, and race to get your Tetris-like pieces on the board first. It’s far trickier than it looks at first and is a wonderful visual puzzle.
7. Sequence – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) My husband and I play this alone or with the kiddos at least twice a month. Try to get five pieces in a row twice over if you can, but watch out, your opponent will be trying to block you at every turn!
1.Labyrinth – To be honest, this game looked so lame to me that I put off buying it for years even though it was recommended to me over and over again. I was missing out! I love this strategy game with its constantly moving game board.
2. Rat a Tat Cat – A memory game and counting game all in one. Try to get rid of your Rats and keep only the Cats, to help you collect the least amount of points.
3. Sleeping Queens – Use math skills and strategy to try to wake the most Queens using kings, Knights, and sleeping potions to help you on your way.
4. Carcassonne – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) This strategy game has players working to collect the most points by building roads, abbeys, and castles. A classic game that is different every time you play.
6. Gnomes at Night – Raise against time as a team to collect as many treasures as possible by helping each other get through the magical maze.
Best Board Games for Age 8+
1. Monopoly Deal – We’ve already established that I’m not a fan of Monopoly, but yet I love this fast-paced version of the classic game. Another one that is great for travel!
2. Zeus on the Loose – This is a great game to practice addition and subtraction with your kids without them realizing! Be the person holding Zeus when the pile reaches 100, but be aware that gods and goddess cards can change your luck.
3. Code Names – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) When you have 20 minutes to play, this is the perfect game. It’s doesn’t take long to learn but it’s different every time you play. Give your teammate a one-word clue to uncover your agents but don’t uncover the bomb.
4. Spy Alley – This is Jackie’s favorite family game. She plays with the entire family. It is unlike any other game. The goal is to obtain your key, codebook, disguise, and password and get back to your embassy before you are caught. The twist? Everyone can see everything you collect along the way so this game requires a strategy to win. Don’t do what her husband does and never look at your identity. He has never won ever.
6. Shadows in the Forest – Get ready for a game in the dark! This game can only be played at night (or in a windowless room) as the lamp holder moves around the board and tries to illuminate the raccoons hiding. Get your raccoons from one side of the game board to the other before they are all captured to win.
1.Kingdomino– (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) Another multiple award winner, this strategy game has you building up your lands as you try to collect the most points in a 5 x 5 square. A quick, fun game of strategy for everyone in the family.
2. Sushi Go – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) Any game that makes a game with sushi is a game that will go over perfectly in my house. Build sushi, pass cards, and play three rounds. Whoever has the most points is the winner.
3. Dragonwood – Capture creatures and enchantments while trying to defeat dragons and get points. If you are stuck and home and are in need of an adventure this is the perfect game. And this might be the only time it’s ok to stomp, scream and strike your way through the house.
4. Simply Suspects – Choose a character, roll the dice and figure out who each of your opponents is before anyone guesses your identity. There are free guesses in this fast-moving game that requires skill and deductive reasoning as you eliminate possibilities one by one.
6. Election Night – An educational game that teaches addition, multiplication, state abbreviations, geography, AND electoral college votes? Sounds like it would be boring, but it’s far from it. We’ve been having a blast playing each night and I’m shocked at how much my kids have learned already.
7. 13 Dead End Drive – I played this booby-trapped game when I was little, so I had to purchase it when it was rereleased. My kids love playing the secret murder and trying to steal the old lady’s money before the detective can arrive to thwart their plans.
Best Board Games for Age 10+
1.Villainous – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) Revel in your dark side as the villain of your choice. Try to re-write the classic Disney movies and beat the heroes before your opponents do. You can advance your own agenda or throw wrenches in the way of the other villains. Only the most dastardly villain wins!
2. Forbidden Island – A cooperative game for adults, players work together to try to collect the 3 treasures and get off the island before the island sinks!
3. Bob Ross, Art of the Chill – This relaxing game has each player working to paint a different landscape before Bob paints it first. Collect chill points, master certain painting techniques, and appreciate the artwork.
4. Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) Probably the most complicated board game on this list, but also one we play again and again. It’s my oldest son’s absolute favorite. Each year you build up the difficulty of the game as you work to defeat villains, collect heroes, and even beat Horcruxes at the end.
5. Dragon Realm – A more advanced version of Dragonwood, this game has each player working to slay dragons and collect the most points. My kids love playing with the little troll people too.
6. Catan – (TARGET link buy 2 get 1 free) You’ve probably heard reference to this game before because it’s known as a serious gamer’s game, but my kids love to collect and trade resources as they race to build up their settlement first!
7. Suspicion – This is the most fun family game where everyone is a jewel thief. The first person to steal the most jewels is the winner but it requires strategy and deductive reasoning to complete this heist.
Board Games on My Shopping List
Want to give games as gifts for the holidays? Check out this list of Book and Game pairings!