Anyone else crazy about family board games?
It may have subconciously been why I decided to have a lot of children.
The other day my husband pulled out a glass chess set he was saving for a rainy day. It has held a prominent spot on the dining room table since then. Every time I see my boys playing chess together I feel like a superhero. Like I imagine it would feel if your child locked themselves in their room to read a book.
More importantly, there are no words to describe the feeling of finally beating my 13-year-old (the blonde 5-year-old in the photo below). Once. Because who knows teens need to be reminded that parents do have actual skills from time to time? #oldpersonwin
And it takes me back to the time we stumbled upon outdoor chess in a park and the boys jumped right in. Games help form lasting memories and connections.
We often forget to challenge our kids to learn things before the manufacturer’s recommended age. This is our toddler pulled up in his stroller to challenge his big brother – look at that concentration! He had just learned the names of each piece and was beginning to learn the rules. If children can memorize the names of cartoon characters and superheroes, they can understand that bishops move diagonally. True?
why play family board games?
It is easy to feel disconnected in our homes. Between rushing from activity to activity, flying through dinner and dishes and ploughing through homework, life is packed.
And as the little ones become bigger ones, they can easily spend a lot of time behind closed doors. The best way I have found to gather everyone in the same room is with a game.
Bonus Tip: If your teens resist games, play it cool. Start a round with younger siblings or your spouse. Magically, the older ones will gradually appear and often join in for the second round.
board games for many ages
With kids ranging from 5 to 15, it is not always easy to find games that work for everyone. But it’s not impossible. And we’ve done the work for you. This is a list of our very favourite games that work for many different ages and levels.
This post contains affiliate links which means I may receive a percentage if you purchase something through the link at no extra cost to yourself.
Play time: 5-10 minutes
Number of Players: 1 – 4
Get it here: Qbitz
We LOVE this game! Players race against each other to get their cubes lined up exactly like the card portrays, before anyone else. Since one of our boys is ridiculously quick, we started making him play with one hand behind his back, then using his non-dominant hand…we stopped short of blindfolding him so we could stand a chance.
In order to even the playing field, younger children can be given a headstart or given an easier pattern to complete. We have made up many variations of this game and it keeps it interesting.
Bonus Tip: Reward kids for doing the bedtime routine quickly. Playing a quick game in their rooms is a great way to motivate them to not dilly dally.
Play time: 15-20 minutes
Number of Players: 2-4
Get it here: Blokus
Preschoolers can understand the basics of this game and older children can use advanced strategy to excel. The goal is to place all of your pieces while blocking the opponent from placing theirs. The colourful tiles make it appealing for little hands to play with while they are waiting for their turn.
Best of all? It takes only 1 minute to learn!
Bonus tip: Sometimes the travel version of games saves you storage space and is cheaper. Just make sure it will suit the number of people who will be playing.
Play time: 10-15 minutes
Number of Players: 2 – 4
Get it here: Qwirkle
This game came highly recommended by a friend and I love it. It encourages spatial recognition and patterning. Kids try to play as many of their tiles as possible by matching up like colours or symbols. (picture Scrabble without the letters)
Kids can master it well before the recommended age. We enjoy that it is open-ended and does not require a board. Mindware is a tried and true manufacturer of great games, and this is no exception.
Play time: 15 minutes
Number of Players: 1-2
Get it here: Yamslam
I love games that are compact and come in a tin – they are easy to tote about for appointments and quick to clean up. Yamslam is a personal favourite. No need to keep score with pen and paper because chips are awarded depending on what each player scores.
With a little help, even 5 year olds can learn how to roll a full house, a flush and the coveted Yam Slam. This game crosses the age boundaries and requires no set up.
Play time: 5-10 minutes
Number of Players: 2-many
Get it here: 5 Second Rule
We have played this game at the kitchen table before cleaning up and just ‘spit it out’ is the perfect tagline. Players have to name 3 items that fit a category before a tiny silver ball spirals down to the bottom of the tube. It’s amazing how your mind can draw a blank when trying to think of “3 Types of Dogs” under time pressure.
Younger kids often outperform older siblings and adults, which is worth every penny. Use the category cards provided or “freestyle” and make up your own to create cateories younger players will be familiar with.
We love playing in teams and it occurs to me that perhaps the losing team should do the dishes the next time.
Play time: 30 minutes
Number of Players: 3-6 (great party game)
Purchase here: Dixit
This is the only game on this list that we do not own. But so many parents recommend it, I had to include it here. It is well-loved because it encourages story telling and creativity. In fact, some parents suggest not keeping score at all so the focus is on the imagination (not sure that would fly with my competitive boys!).
A storyteller chooses 1 image card and says a short sentence that describes the card. Everyone else has to secretly hand in one of their cards that also fits the sentence. The story teller places all cards face up and everyone has to guess which card the sentence was originally built from.
Don’t tell my kids – I think they’re getting this one for Christmas!
Get it here: Code Names
Not sure when this game arrived on the scene, but it was new to us until recently. My sisters and I played it on our first ever Sister’s Weekend Away. Possibly 32 rounds of Code Names. It led to hysterical laughter, most often at my expense.
Players try to get their teammate to guess as many cards as they can using only one-word clues. For example, the clue “Cross” might lead to guesses of cards that read, “Fingers”, “Angry” and “Church.” This encourages creativity and abstract thinking. And a good dose of mind reading if you’re lucky.
Our kids picked it up quickly and proved they could outwit adult teams with their outside-the-box clues and guesses. I can’t recommend this game highly enough.
must-have card games
No list would be complete without a list of card games that every family will love.
Bonus Tip: Keep a few card games in your vehicle for emergencies such as long appointments or running out of gas on the way out of town. Also keep an empty gas can in the vehicle. You’re welcome.
Click over to this list of rapid-fire card games for the competitive gamer on your list.
I recently read about a writer being thankful her parents made them have Forced Family Fun. I’m always on the lookout for tools that will help there be more fun with less forcing. This list of family board games and card games ticks all of those boxes.
I will update this list as I learn about other must-have family games. Add any recommendations of your favourites in the comments below.