A family game night is one of the best ways to reconnect with your kids. But it can get tricky finding a board games that’s just right for the skills and attention span of different ages. Every game we carry does indicate its recommended age on the package, but here’s a quick way to start your search with some recommendations for our best new and classic board games, grouped by age.
Three and up
Games for this age tend to emphasize practical skills of pattern matching and memory. Rules will be extremely simple and gameplay will generally last only a few minutes.
- Robot Face Race is a nifty find-and-match game for kids with keen eyes. Shake the “robot randomizer” and it will give you colours for a robot’s face, eyes, nose, and mouth. Now you have to search the board for the robot head with those features. The first to correctly identify the matching robot collects a token, and the first with five tokens wins!
- Robot Turtles teaches basic computer coding skills to children between three- and eight-years-old. It’s also a great game for adults and kids to play together. The big person places a turtle at one point on the game board and a jewel at another. The little person holds a stack of arrow cards, which she lays down to make a path to the goal. It’s the big person’s job to move the turtle along the path to the goal. As the game progresses, obstacles and abilities come into play, challenging kids to use some creative problem solving.
Four and up
Around this age, children start to have an easier time sticking to arbitrary rules and restrictions. Generally speaking, a four-year-old has fairly advanced language skills and are beginning to recognize letters and numbers. Attention spans are still pretty short, so games have to be quick and engaging, with very little downtime between turns.
- Spooky Stairs, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, is a fantastic roll-and-move game that challenges memory and concentration.
- My First Bohnanza is a remarkable introduction to the card game of the same name for adults. Plant crops of mean beans, broad beans, sour beans, and stink beans; trade with the other players for the types of beans you need; and collect gold coins for your harvests. This one encourages counting, planning, negotiation, and simple statistics.
- Ukloo is a unique treasure-hunt game developed by a mom who was looking for a way to encourage early reading development in her young boys. Kids collect a series of clue cards hidden throughout the house, each one giving the location of the next, with a prize of your choice at the end. A great way to work on sight words in a fun, active way.
Six and up
Six year olds generally can grasp greater levels of abstraction and complexity, and are able to read with help from an adult. Attention spans are still on the low side, so games need to be quick and involving.
- In The Magic Labyrinth, you race through a maze to collect as many magic items as you can. It sounds simple, but the walls of the labyrinth are invisible, so a good memory is key.
- Qwirkle is a tile-laying game, much like dominoes, in which players work to create lines that are either the same colour or the same shape, at the same time that they try to out-manoeuvre their opponent.
- In Bugs in the Kitchen, you must work quickly to lure a scurrying Hex Bug into your own trap at the same time you try to stop it from entering your opponents’. This fast-paced and unpredictable game, which we have highlighted before, is one of our best-selling titles for kids.
Eight and up
By eight years old, most kids will enjoy longer games with more involved sets of rules. They will also appreciate some degree of strategy involving forethought. Gameplay still needs to be fairly quick and involve players throughout. Games that rely heavily on luck over player choice can be frustrating, especially if a couple of bad dice rolls means a major setback. Player elimination can be particularly discouraging, so try to stick to games that keep everyone playing to the end.
- King of Tokyo and its sequel, King of New York, are strategic dice-rolling games in which you choose one of a half-dozen giant, city-stomping monsters and battle for supremacy over the metropolis.
- Ticket to Ride is remarkably easy to learn and play. Simply trade coloured train-car cards to claim routes and connect cities on a map of North America, Europe, Nordic Countries, or Germany. Connecting cities on special Destination Tickets gains you extra points at the end of the game. The turn-of-the-century railroading theme is well realized, with gorgeous artwork, and there are several map expansions to bring more variety to your table.
- Blokus is a very cool abstract strategy game in which you try to lay out as many Tetris-like tiles as they can on a gridded board. The twist is that you may only lay them corner-to-corner. The game plays out a little like the ancient game Go, as you work to claim space on the board and block your opponent at the same time.
10 and up
Most games should be accessible to a 10 year old, though they will likely be turned off by overly involved rules or slow gameplay that requires a lot of downtime as other players consider their strategies. Look for a good deal of interactivity, as well as exciting themes.
- Camel Up is a raucous race game in which you take turns rolling the dice to move camels around a desert racetrack and place bets on the race’s outcome. The great thing about this one is that you don’t have to be the lead camel to win the game — it’s the betting that determines who gets bragging rights. A brilliant pyramid dice tower in the middle of the board also makes this one uniquely attractive.
- In Small World, you control armies of fantasy creatures battling over the territories of a cramped continent. What sets this game apart is variety: there are dozens of races and special powers that come into play, so each time you play it’s a little different. One game might see Diplomatic Skeletons combatting Berzerker Elves, while another could feature Commando Ratmen against Flying Humans. Small World Underground is a great stand-alone version of the game with a subterranean theme and unique new races, and there are several interesting expansions to keep the experience fresh.
- Settlers of Catan is one of the most popular European-style strategy games, especially for those new to the hobby. The adventure of discovering and trading resources with the other players, then using those resources to build up your settlement has made Catan and its expansions best-sellers for very good reason. (Note: We do not sell Settlers of Catan on our website, but we have many different versions and expansion packs available in store.)
Thirteen and up
By the time kids hit their teans, the sky is pretty much the limit, so a more involved, mature game like Pandemic, Lords of Waterdeep, or Betrayal at House on the Hill, could make for a great night. Here are all of our games for 13 and up.
Of course, this is just a handful of the literally hundreds of different games we carry. Drop by one of our stores and we’ll be thrilled to help you find the perfect one for your next family game night!