I have always loved board games. Growing up with a brother that hogged the Nintendo 98.7% of the time, I embraced board/card/dice games. My mother still shudders (and laughs) when I ask her if she wants to play a game with me.
My grandfather loved Farkle and taught all my cousins the love of the game from a very early age. Every family gathering has included dice and a score sheet. We have taught our spouses and as the next generation grows, we will teach our kids as well.
One of our favorite things to do in our (limited) spare time with family is play games. Puzzles, board, card, outside, matching, memory, strategy, teamwork – we want it all. My kids get a new (non-electronic) game for every Birthday and Christmas. Needless to say, we have a closet full.
My sons are 3, 6, and 8. Some games we have ‘teams’ with the little boys to make sure they are included. Other games are played with our oldest when the smaller ones are napping or playing independently.
There are a gazillion games out there and my life’s mission is to play them all! These are just a handful of my family’s favorites that get the most action.
1. PICTURE WORDS BINGO GAME
Picture Words Bingo is the game that all 5 of us play. My 3-year-old is equally excited every time he makes a match. I love the reactions so much I claim bingo caller 100% of the time! It is a family favorite.
2. SNEAKY, SNACKY SQUIRREL
Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel is simple to play. Spin the wheel and collect the acorns. Once you get them all you win! Sometimes you steal, sometimes the wind blows and you have to start all over. Great for 3 and up! Games do not take long and easy to set up and clean up.
Educational Insights created the game and they have some other fun ones too! Check out Hoppy Floppy’s Happy Hunt which is a good travel size and Frida’s Fruit Fiesta for an alphabet version.
3. SHARK BITE
Shark Bite recommends ages 4 and up… my son was 2 when he started playing (always supervised due to dice) and everyone loves it. You roll the dice and hook a fish that matches the color. The shark will pop up jack-in-the-box style at random and everyone squeals. Games are quick and lots of belly laughs happen all around. However, my favorite part is it does not require any batteries!
4. MY FIRST CASTLE PANIC
When you play My First Castle Panic either everyone wins or the Trolls win! Kids do not always work together so it is a skill that must be practiced at my house. I love the idea of this game, where players must work together to defend the castle. Preschoolers can play too since there is no reading and they need to match colors and shapes. My 3 year old still needs help and usually plays with a buddy or he does the job of collecting the trolls we beat.
Santorini is a great game for quick play (notice a theme on the quick play.) The rules seem quite simple – build a city in layers and the first person to the top of a building wins. This quickly turns into a game of strategy and clever maneuvering. My 6-year-old watched the game a couple of times and can also play now.
Once you get the hang of the basics and depending on the age of players, you can add in the God Cards. They add extra powers and moves that change up the gameplay and creates new challenges. I have a feeling this game is one of the better investments in the game cabinet because it will grow with the kids and can provide lots of fun for adult game nights too.
6. TICKET TO RIDE: FIRST JOURNEY
My girlfriends never let me down… they talked about their love for Ticket to Ride and I jumped on the Junior version for my family! My husband and I both had a blast playing it with the kids. Each player has a couple “tickets” from one city to another. Players must pull cards, match the colors on card to the tracks on the board. Once the path is completed from the destination, their ticket can be redeemed. Once 6 tickets are completed you win. This is a good way to learn logistics and problem solving through play.
7. CATAN JUNIOR
Another Junior version… I have forced everyone (adults too) in my family to play Catan once. Then we play four more times. It is that fun, seriously. As players roll the dice goods are distributed to players, you can swap them in the ‘market’, with other players, or the bank. Use those goods to build ships and place settlements. My oldest (8) is a champ at maximizing his stash of supplies and dominating this game.
Roll the dice and add a hanger of that color. The creation will bend, wobble, evolve, and sometimes come crashing down. Good for hand and eye coordination. Suspend teaches players about being patient and focusing on the task in front of you. Easy to pack and travel.
This always comes with me on my Momcation. It’s fun to play alone, family and friend gatherings, and adult game nights too!
Game night has taught us to win gracefully and lose with honor.
Neither of these skills is inherited and takes practice. Sometimes we have to work together, some games are all by chance, other times we must use logic to succeed. Each lesson is equally important in children and adults.
Your kids and grandkids will forever cherish the memories and pass on these lessons to future generations. Whatever your game of choice is, please play it and enjoy the family time.