“It’s a pizza party!” My son exclaimed in a bad Italian accent as our family gathered around the table. But he wasn’t talking about food. Instead, he was hamming it up as we played a retro Pizza Party game my husband loved as a child. We both have fond memories of playing games with our families as kids. To this day, many of our extended family gatherings involve some friendly competition.
Over the years, it’s been fun to see our game cabinet expand to include ones our kids can play. Of course, we have the classics like Battleship and Chutes and Ladders, but we also enjoy trying newer games. We definitely have our favorites, and I’m excited to share our top game recommendations for toddlers, early elementary kids, the whole family, and on the go.
At two and a half, my daughter is at the prime age to start playing games. She can follow simple directions, understands the concept of taking turns, and enjoys the thrill of winning a game. Her favorite games include:
- First Orchard. We love this game for its cooperative element. The goal is to work together to pick various fruits from the tree before the crow, or the bad guy, as my daughter calls him, makes it to the orchard.
- Sneaky Snacky Squirrel. With its tree-shaped box and squirrel grabber, this game is adorable. My daughter loves filling her log with colored acorns and particularly likes it whenever she gets to steal an acorn.
- How Tall Am I? Kids practice measuring as they assemble character parts to see who can create the tallest person. The silliness of mixing and matching the characters’ different parts always elicits toddler giggles.
With an understanding of basic game principles, my seven-year-old son has graduated to playing more strategic games. His top games include:
- Race to the Treasure. As a team, you create a path to collect three keys and beat the ogre to the treasure. The suspense builds as the ogre sneaks closer, and we debate as a family how to get to the end first.
- Qwirkle. By filling the table with a labyrinth of tiles, the goal is to score the most points by building lines of matching colors and shapes. There are multiple ways to score, and the adding required to play is a perfect way to sneak in math practice.
- Red Light Green Light. The goal is to move a car down the race track by drawing as many green light cards in a row as possible – before hitting a red light. As an added element of fun, the game includes stickers for the kids to decorate their racecar.
- Othello. Similar to checkers, Othello teaches the skill of thinking beyond your next move. The object is to surround the other player’s tiles to flip them to your color. This game is a bit challenging for a seven-year-old, but my son loves the thrill of successfully capturing our tiles.
Our kids are four and half years apart, so it can be a challenge to find games that they both will enjoy playing. However, we’ve found a few that are simple enough for our youngest while still interesting for our oldest. Our family favorites include:
- Busytown Eye Found It. This game has all four of us crawling around the six-foot-long board searching for objects in the drawing. It’s cooperative and is set up so that everyone can find at least one object. There are many different themed Eye Found It games available, but our love of Richard Scary books makes this one our favorite.
- Charades for Kids. It’s incredibly fun to see your kids acting out scoring a goal or walking like a chicken. Each card has prompts of varying difficulty, and there’s even a picture option for non-readers.
- Chutes and Ladders. This is an oldie but a goodie. Our kids love the thrill of moving their characters go up and down the game board. They also love praising or admonishing the characters for the scenarios depicted on the board.
If we’re going to a restaurant or outing where there may be a wait, I always throw a game in my purse. These games are simple to play, don’t require much room, and have saved us from more meltdowns than I can count.
- Pass the Pig. How can you not have fun with a game that uses little pigs as dice? Points are awarded based on how the pigs land, and my kids thoroughly enjoy yelling oinker and double snouter when they score.
- Skunk Dice Game. This game involves an element of risk as you decide how long to keep rolling to rack up your score. The challenge is to avoid rolling a skunk, which wipes out your points. Our kids love the suspense of seeing when someone will roll a skunk.
- Spot It. This speed matching game can get a little rowdy, so I’m mindful about where we play it. There are a number of ways to play, which keeps the kids engaged. It’s a bit challenging for our 2 1/2-year-old, so she usually teams up with someone to play.
- Left Center Right. The premise is simple: roll the dice to determine where to pass your chips. It’s a game of 100% chance, making it easy for even our youngest to play. Plus, it’s great way to teach kids their lefts and rights.
Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite games for your kids and the family to play? Be sure to comment below.