If you love a good family game night but are in a rut, this gift guide has you covered. These are our family’s favorite board games for kids, complete with age recommendations.
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Before we had kids, my husband and I loved playing strategy games together. We spent many evenings huddled around our tiny kitchen table playing Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Zooloretto with our other childless, newlywed friends.
Now that kids have entered the picture, we don’t have the freedom to spend hours in the evenings playing complex games, but we still love a good game night.
Our oldest son is borderline obsessed with playing games, and has been since we first taught him Candy Land when he was three years old.
Below, you’ll find a list of our favorites. This list goes beyond the classics (though some of those make an appearance because they’re just SO good). These are the games that we have played over and over. They are the ones that I enjoy playing with my kids, too (unlike Chutes and Ladders, which I really can’t stand…sorry).
If you’re looking for a spot-on Christmas or birthday gift or just want to change things up during your next family game night, these board games for kids are sure to please!
FYI: If you have preschoolers, these card holders for kids are a must-have. They’re pretty inexpensive, and they make playing card games so much easier. We use them for Uno, Old Maid, Crazy Eights, and a bunch of other family favorites.
Our favorite board games for kids
Perfect first games for ages 3 and up:
Busytown: Eye Found It! (ages 3+)
This GIANT board game is so fun! The board itself is over six feet long, which my kids think is really exciting. It’s a cooperative game, where players are trying to reach picnic island before the hungry pigs devour everything in the picnic basket. Cooperative games are wonderful for building teamwork (rather than exacerbating sibling rivalry), and for helping even the youngest of players to be winners. It’s simple enough that a three-year-old really can play, but hunting for the “Gold bug” items makes it fun for older siblings as well (my six-year-old still enjoys it).
Spot It! (ages 3+)
I love this game, and I’m amazed that sometimes my kids legitimately beat me! It’s basically just a stack of cards with pictures on them. Between any two cards there is always one and only one matching symbol. The first person to spot the match gets the cards. This is the basic one, but there are lots of other versions, too.
Tenzi (ages 3+)
I’ve written before about our love of Tenzi in this post about our made-up game: Dice Wars. It’s simple enough that a three-year-old can play, but entertaining for adults, too. There are a bunch of different ways to play to make it more or less complex for older or younger players. ***HIGHLY recommended***
The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game (ages 3+)
This game has a simple goal: be the first player to collect an acorn in each of the five colors. It’s great for young preschoolers since it doesn’t require any reading skills, and it helps teach colors, turn-taking, and fine motor skills. It’s not a thrilling game for me to play, but it’s a short and sweet game that effectively introduces little ones to the core skills of game playing.
Candy Land (ages 3+)
Did you know that Candy Land has been around since 1948? Fun fact: it was invented by Eleanor Abbott while she was recovering from Polio because she wanted to create pastimes for children who were also recovering. Cool, right? In any case, there’s a reason people have been playing Candy Land for 70 years. It’s simple, it’s quick, and there’s something exciting about knowing that at any moment you might jump forward or be sent back by drawing a tasty treat. This was the very first game we bought Little Man (now 6), and we played it hundreds of times in the first few months we owned it. Even still, it regularly gets pulled out of the game closet.
Awesome games for older preschoolers (Ages 4+):
Enchanted Forest (ages 4+)
We bought this game several years ago at the recommendation of Mel (from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe). It’s like a more complex version of memory, and it’s made by one of my favorite games-makers: Ravensburger. My kids LOVE it, and it’s a great one for stretching your brain.
Uno Attack (ages 4+)
The official age recommendation for Uno is ages 7 and up, but my four-year-old plays it all the time with us and does just fine. It’s actually his favorite game! Sometimes we have to remind him which color or number to use, but he does pretty well on his own. At its core, this game is all about matching numbers and colors, so it’s perfect for preschoolers. When we first started playing, we would actually keep our cards face up on the table, just so I could help him know what cards to play, but now he does it on his own most of the time. And if you’ve never played the “attack” version of Uno, you need to. The little kid giggles that erupt when the machine spits cards are hilarious.
We bought this game for our boys for Christmas last year, and it is still one of our favorites to play. It’s a cooperative game, which is fabulous because, let’s be honest, my boys need all the practice they can get learning to work together instead of competing against each other. It’s a whodunit challenge (like the classic Clue, but much less macabre) to find which of the 16 suspects stole Mrs. Plumpert’s prized pot pie. It’s recommended for kids 5 and up, but my four-year-old plays with us just fine with a little help. ***HIGHLY recommended***
Guess Who? (ages 5+)
Another classic, and for good reason! Guess who is a great game for teaching kids about deductive reasoning and strategic questioning. It’s officially recommended for ages six and up, but I think most five-year-olds would do just fine. My four-year-old likes to play, too, but he does best when playing on a team with someone older.
Games for school-age kids (6+)
Sleeping Queens (ages 6+)
Although it’s supposedly meant for older kids, I just bought this for my six-year-old for Christmas. From what I know of playing it myself, I think he’ll really enjoy it. Besides how cool is it that it was invented by a kid?! ***HIGHLY recommended***
(Update 11/9/2020: This has become one of our family’s all-time favorite games! As in, we will need to buy a new copy soon because we’ve worn the cards down so much! It’s cheap, easy to learn, and is a great sneaky way of teaching math skills.)
Ticket to Ride (ages 8+, age 5 with help)
This is is my favorite strategy game (and we have a bunch of them). I know you may not think of Ticket to Ride as a kids’ game, and I didn’t either until last Christmas break when Little Man wanted to learn how to play. He was five at the time, and I was sure it would be too complex for him. But with a few accommodations, he did great! We play with everybody’s cards face up on the table so we can help him strategize what routes to take. It takes away some of the mystery and subterfuge, but it’s still a great game.
Dragonwood (ages 6+)
Of ALL the games we own, this is the one I choose when it’s my turn to pick for family game night. It’s not too long (most games take 20-30 minutes, and it has a great balance of strategy and luck. The basic premise: collect cards to roll dice and attempt to earn points by capturing creatures from Dragonwood, like the Gooey Glob and the Angry Ogre. The illustrations are fabulous and it’s a great game for families with kids of varying ages. The box recommends it for ages 8+, but my 6-year-old plays it just fine. ***Highly recommended***
Labyrinth (ages 8+)
I played this game over the summer at my parents’ house. I haven’t actually played it with my kids yet, but in a couple of years, I know my oldest will love it.
(Update 11/9/2020: It’s officially on my shopping list for Christmas this year!)
Now it’s YOUR turn…What are your favorite games to play with your kids?