Looking for the best board games for kids? Get a list of classic games, strategy games, building games, and card games for kids from a seasoned mother of four.
As a part-time homeschooling, work-from-home, mother of four kids (including a very busy toddler), the question I probably hear more than anything else is, “How on earth do you do it all?” The answer, of course, is multi-faceted (and probably begins with a combo of the grace of God and a little obsession with productivity 😉 ), but I also think it has its roots in finding the right tools for success. For our family, a collection of family-friendly board games for kids is one of those tools.
While we do try hard in our home to develop lifelong habits and teach our kids to work alongside us, we believe that play is so very important, as well. We love sports, imaginary games, and plain ol’ silliness… but a little friendly competition over a board game is also hard to beat. So whether you’re traveling this summer or spending down time at home, I hope these favorite games for kids give you some good ideas for entertaining your little ones in a cooperative manner.
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The best board games for kids
I should note that my kids currently range from 2 to 9, and while the 2 year old loves arranging dominos and playing with matching cards, she’s not quite ready for more organized games. So these suggestions are really more focused at entertaining elementary-aged kids (though many of the games could entertain junior high, high school, or even adults as well). Some require the ability to read, but most all of these my 4 year old can still enjoy, especially with a little help from her brothers or a slight adaptation of the rules. I’ve organized them into categories for you, and I hope you find this list of board games for kids helpful!
Click here to shop our favorite board games on Amazon, or read on for more detailed descriptions and reviews of our favorites!
Best strategy games for kids
I’m a certified nerd, so these games are some of my favorites. Part of the beauty of many of these games is that they really aren’t that complicated in essence, though as the kids grow, the strategy of the games can become much more complex – sort of like chess.
Qwirkle – A fun game of mixing and matching shapes and colors to form sets and earn points. Similar to Rummikub but easier for kids since there are no numbers involved.
Rummikub – For your older kids, this game is a little math and a lot of strategy. I have such fond memories of playing this with my whole family when I was young!
Quoridor – This line of games was just introduced to us as gifts this past year, and I love how wonderfully simple the games are and complex the strategy can be. In this game, you can either move your piece toward the opposite side (which is your goal) or place walls to block your opponent from reaching his goal. But you have to be careful not to block yourself (oops!) or run out of your limited wall resources.
QUIXO – A crazy twist on tic tac toe, this game involves removing cubes from the grid pattern and inserting them at the end of a line. Each time you insert a cube, though, it pushes all the other cubes in that line over one space, requiring you to look several steps ahead to be able to get your five “x”s or “o”s in a row.
Classic games for kids
Clue – This was actually my favorite game as a kid (I may or may not have thought I wanted to be a detective at some point!), and my boys love it just as much.
Monopoly – My boys actually found this game in my parents’ game closet last year and then proceeded to play it for two straight days. Ha! Since we finally got our own copy of the game, the fervor has died down a bit, but they all still enjoy a good round of Monopoly.
Yahtzee – My boys played this for hours with their uncle last Christmas, and it’s such a fun mix of luck and strategy!
Building Games for Kids
I’m not sure if “building” is really the proper term, but these are SUCH fun games. And while I often leave out some of the more complex rules, they enjoy the challenge and the visual process of building their points. Plus, these are fun ones for adults to play with them!
Settlers of Catan – You gather resources (based on the rolls of the dice) and then use those resources to build settlements and cities. It’s actually an incredible lesson in supply and demand since each game will have a different high-demand resource. We play simpler versions (leaving out the ports, for example) when my younger ones play, but they still have a great time. It’s only a 4 person game, but the expansion pack allows you to play with 5 or 6 players.
Ticket to Ride – In this game, you gathered colored cards in order to build train routes across the US or world (depending on which version you have). Players take turns building trains, trying to complete their routes (and earn the most points) before others can do so.
Carcassonne – Players take turns laying tiles to build roads, farms, monasteries, and castles. But the catch is that you have to decide where to play the tile, building the board as play develops, and then where to place your men to claim those various locations. Each game is so different from the next because of the ever-changing board.
Pandemic – I realize that this game does not involve much building, per se, but it definitely has a similar feel to the games above. One major unique differences, though, is that you actually collaborate with the other players (who have different roles and therefore different abilities) against the game, in order to try to stop the spread of disease across the world. It’s pretty complex, but my 1st and 3rd graders manage to play it together and have a blast!
Best educational games for kids
Mobi – You have numbers and operation tiles (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and equals), and you work to create accurate math sentences within a specific timeframe and with the tiles you draw. It can be a fast paced competition or a slower collaborative effort, depending on which variation you choose.
Math Dice – It’s a very simple mental math dice game, and my boys love it. It requires some basic addition skills, so it’s probably best for first grade-ish and above, but it’s fun, easy, and super portable!
Scrabble – Such a classic game, and another one that can obviously become MUCH more competitive… but I think it’s never too early to let kids work on spelling and playing with words. From the time my kids could spell things like c-a-t, they’ve enjoying trying to create words with the scrabble tiles. And I’ve loved seeing them come up with their own rules as they play: sometimes they use a dictionary, other times they spell only names, and others they can build without having to connect to the rest of the words… it’s super versatile and a great way for them to explore language.
Kanoodle – This is the only one-person game I’m including in today’s recommendations because, honestly, I like the collaborative nature of board games. But I do love how this game challenges a kids’ spacial awareness… all three of my older kids love playing this game for solo down time!
Card games for kids
Ok, I admit, the games above are great, but you may have noticed that some of them are a little pricey. So what are the best board games that are relatively inexpensive? Card games all the way. And while they may not be the best games to play while actually in the car, they are perfect games for traveling to new places (grandma’s house, the beach, the airport, etc.) because they are lightweight and small.
Blink – This is the perfect game when your kids wants “just one more” before bed. You deal all the cards between two players and then work to match the shapes, numbers, or colors of the cards in your hand to the card on top of the discard pile. First person to play all his cards wins! An entire game takes about 2 minutes, but they can play round after round after round.
Skip-bo (and Skip-bo Junior) – I always played Skip-bo with my grandparents when I was young, and I still enjoy playing it with my kids today. With numbers 1-12 and several discard piles, it’s a fun but somewhat complicated game. Skip-bo Junior is an easier version that my 4 year old loves… both are great options!
Classic card games for kids – My sweet mom loves classic card games, and she continues to teach my kids and play with them. I remember that she taught both my boys to play Solitaire when they were just 3 or 4 years old! So don’t forget the value of a good classic deck of cards, with which you can play gin rummy, go fish, old maid, crazy 8’s, war, solitaire, and more!
Best games for preschool kids
As I mentioned, my little ones are helped by the older siblings to play games that are perhaps a bit too complicated for most preschoolers to play alone. Here, though, are a few of our favorite games that don’t require big brother to help.
Sequence for Kids – Honestly, I think I only played this game with them once (the very first time), and I don’t even remember the rules! But it truly is a game that 3-6 year olds can play without needing help, and it’s fun and strategic.
Kaboom – This one is a bit more raucous than the others, but it is definitely entertaining. It involves building little block towers before a timer runs out while your opponents lob little wooden dice at your towers.
Sorry – I couldn’t decide if this belonged in the classic or preschool list, but since my kids start playing it without help around age 3, I thought this was the best spot. You just take the top card, telling you how many spaces to move your game piece and try to get all four of your game pieces to “Home.”
Do you have any favorites not listed above? Do tell! We are always excited to try new popular board games for kids around here. 🙂
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