Board games are a hobby for my husband, and our family loves to play board games together on weeknights or Sunday afternoons. However, with 5 children 10 and under, the options can feel limited.
Candyland, Sorry, and Connect Four are simply difficult for the adults to even fain interest and enjoyment, and if kids are good at anything, they are good at detecting fake smiles.
But good, interesting board games do not have to wait for kids to grow and mature. You won’t find them at WalMart, produced by Milton-Bradley, but you can find quality games that the whole family can play together with engagement! The best family board games will appeal to all ages, not only be tolerated by the adults.
Here are some of our family favorites:
Spot-It claims to be for players ages 7 and up, but our 4-year-old daughter regularly wins against her 7 & 8 year-old brothers, as well as against her parents! The game involves laying out 2 circular cards with many icon-like pictures on them. Between two cards, there is always one, and only one, matching symbol. The first one to spot and call out the symbol matched on both cards wins!
It doesn’t require reading or strategy, just a sharp and attentive eye, making it one even the younger kids can not only play, but actually win without help. Playing is not only fast-paced and fun, but it also helps train observation and attention.
Carcassonne is a tile-laying game that we have played, simplifying the scoring rules, with our kids once they are 5 or 6 and older. You keep a small hand of tiles, laying down one per turn, aligning them to match edges with farmland, roads, and villages. When you lay down a piece of road or village, you may put a “meeple” guy on it, who will score points when the road or village is completed (no longer has unfinished tile edges). So you want to lay pieces to create and finish roads and villages.
Carcassonne develops spatial thinking, beginning strategic-thinking, and the theme of medieval farm-villages is just plain fun. We even bring out this game at adult socials because the rules are simple, the strategy is fun and not overly competitive, and it plays relatively quickly.
Carcassonne also does not require any reading ability.
Ticket to Ride is one of my favorite games to play, even when we have an adult group picking a game. We play it with our 7-year-olds and older, with the younger ones being on a parent “team” as the train-layers and card-holders.
First, each player gets “destination” cards — towns to connect with their trains along the printed, colored tracks. Then the player gets a hand of colored cards and more cards are laid out on the table. Each turn you get to either choose two cards to add to your hand or play cards that match track you want to lay trains on. Scoring is based on number of trains laid as well as number and length of destinations connected.
Ticket to Ride moves quickly, securing the interest even the short-attention-span players. The game lends itself to either friendly or cut-throat play, depending on the players and their ability. The rules are straight-forward and few, so it doesn’t take long to go from introduction to immersion in the game, and even elementary-age kids understand the goal and how to achieve it.
It teaches beginning strategic thinking as well as geography and material management. Some reading is required to match the destinations on the card to the cities on the map-board. However, most turns do not involve reading.
Playing games as a family is a great activity that builds thinking skills, sportsmanship, and family culture. Choosing games that appeal to the whole family is an important aspect of building the tradition, so that all involved actually enjoy the game. Consider adding a game or two to your Christmas gift list or activity plans!