We are big game fans in our house. One of our favourite things to do is have games nights – this can be with friends and extended family, or just within our own household. It’s rare that a day goes by that we don’t play some kind of game together.
I’m not afraid to admit that when my son Owen was a tiny baby, I found it a bit boring to spend time with him – after all, he couldn’t DO anything. He was cute and smiley – he really was such a happy baby and still is a really happy kid at 8 years old! – but as nice as those smiles were, I just really longed for more interaction with him – you know, the kind that was fun for me too. The day that he was old enough to start playing games together with us, everything changed. I found myself looking more forward to spending time with him – finding games that we could play together really changed my outlook on parenting!
We’ve played a lot of games together over the years – when I compiled a list to write this blog, it was over 50 different games! In this blog post, I’m going to give you my game highlights for kids of various ages, and hopefully introduce you to a few games that you’ve never heard of before that you could try with your family and friends. I’m not going to talk about games like Operation or Hungry Hippo because yeah – those aren’t really fun for adults. I’m going to hopefully introduce you to games that you will also enjoy!
I recognize that games are not cheap, and buying a new game that may not be a hit can be a significant investment. I heartily suggest looking on places like Facebook Marketplace for used games, and I’ve even scored a few really great ones at Value Village! I bought a more expensive game from facebook marketplace just 2 weeks ago, and saved about $35 in the process.
Read on to find out what games we have played and loved!
Family games for kiddos aged 2-4 years old
Hoot Owl, Hoot
This game, while not OVERLY exciting for parents, is a great one for little kiddos and really isn’t all that bad for the adults. It’s a game by Peacable Kingdom, which is known for making really nice, cooperative games for little kids.
The goal of the game is for The Owl to make it back to their nest before the sun rises. Children do not need to know how to read for this game, and everyone wins because it’s a cooperative game. The game is played with the cards face-up – if a player has a sun card they move the sun token, essentially changing the clock and making the “day” go by, and then the colour cards allow the player to move forward closer to the nest. If an owl “flies” over another owl, all players make a hooting sound (which kiddos LOVE). There’s nothing at all competitive about it, it’s just a really sweet, cooperative game. I think we started playing this one when Owen was about 2 or 3 and it was in regular rotation for quite some time.
Chutes and Ladders
We played SO MANY games of chutes and ladders when Owen was small – I think we started playing this one when he was about 2.5 or so. The point of the game is to be the first one to get to the end, but there are lots of obstacles in your way there.
At first, Owen had a hard time picking up on where to go (because sometimes you go right and then up and left, and others you left and then up and right) so at the beginning, we didn’t worry too much about where he was going – he just wanted to spin the wheel and move across the board. That was fun enough. As he got a bit older he started understanding the game a bit more so we played with “regular” rules, but until then we kind of just played it however he wanted to. This one takes about 20 minutes to play, depending on how many times you get sent back down to the bottom of the board on a slide.
This game was in HEAVY rotation in our household for a while, starting when Owen was about 2.5 or so. It’s actually super fun – the point of the game is to move your bunnies around a carrot patch playing surface to get to the juicy carrot at the top without falling into the rabbit holes.
On each turn the players draw a card that will either have them move their bunnies up the hill, or rotate the carrot at the top of the board to reveal a rabbit hole – every kid LOVES turning that giant carrot. Kiddos do not need to read to play this game. I was frankly sad when this one was “aged out” over here but very happy to pass this along to another family when the time came. If you can only get the French version of the game, that’s just fine – grab it! It won’t make any difference to your enjoyment of the game and you can find the instructions online. It’s a quick play, and you can get through a round in about 10-15 minutes. We probably played this every day for 2-3 years.
Snail’s Pace Race
This one is fun for the really little ones as it’s not really “competitive”, but is a cooperative game where the goal is to move your colourful snail game piece along the game board.
This one is fabulous for really little kids, because it introduces them to some of the more basic board game rules that may require practice, such as turn-taking, dice-rolling and moving their pieces across a board. It’s also great for practicing counting, and memory. It takes about 10 mins to play this one. I didn’t truly love this one as I found it a bit boring but Owen really loved this one, starting at around age 2.5 or so.
Family games for kiddos aged 4-7+ years old
There is not enough money in the world to make me play regular monopoly. It goes on forever, is relatively monotonous and honestly, it’s just not my jam. Blah.
Monopoly DEAL, however, is super fun. It’s a card game that uses the same properties as in regular monopoly, but it’s actually fun. The description on the game says that it’s for kids 8+ but we started this one at age 4 and while we had to modify things a bit to make it workable, it did work, and it was fun! There’s some reading on each card, but as long as you read the cards to your kiddo in the beginning they will memorize all of the cards quickly. The point of the game is to collect 3 full property sets – there are some challenges thrown at you with stealing cards and full sets, saying no to moves that your opponents may want to do with you, etc. It’s fast-paced, doesn’t take too long, and is actually really fun. This one isn’t on rotation as much in the house these days but it always comes on vacation with us! A full game lasts about 20-25 mins. I heartily recommend this one.
This is another one that was in HEAVY rotation around here for a few years! It’s easy enough for littles to get the concept and no reading is required. Draw cards to find out how far to move your pawns, slide across certain sections, bump your opponents off their spots, and more. The goal is to get all 3 of your pawns into your home section first.
When he was younger, Owen used to get upset if he got bumped off his spot and had to move his pawn back home, so when he was smaller we played “kind sorry” where we didn’t do that one particular rule – no one was allowed to bump anyone else off their spot. As he got a bit older, he didn’t mind that so much and became quite competitive with this one! He aged out of this one at around age 7 but does still occasionally ask to play it. You can get through a round of sorry in about 20-30 mins. Amazingly, Owen has almost ALWAYS won this game, even when he was 3 and 4 years old. It’s wild. I’ll never quite understand it.
Uno is such a family classic, and truly can be played by even the little ones with a bit of creativity! This is such a great game to begin teaching basic math skills, is super cooperative, and each round doesn’t take too long. You can easily modify the rules to make them a bit easier for a little kid as you go. This game has real longevity and can be played right into adulthood. The point is to be the first one to get rid of all of your cards. A game can last from 5-20 minutes, depending on how many wild cards get thrown at you. We started playing this when Owen was about 4 or so, as it doesn’t require any reading and was just always good fun.
Just like regular Uno, this one is a great family card game with longevity that can be played well into adulthood. With the same rules as regular uno, this adds an extra dimension by occasionally making you flip all of your cards over to reveal slightly harder cards. This is a must-try for those that would like to add a bit of edge to their Uno game. It’s also a nice quick play – this is another one that always comes on vacation with us.
Family games for kiddos aged 7+ years old
This is where board and card games get really fun with your kiddos, as you can start really moving into the same board games that you would play with your adult friends and family.
Ticket to Ride (Full game or First Ride)
Ticket to Ride is one of our favourite family board games. My husband Kevin and I have played it together with friends for years, and Owen was really excited to learn. We started with the junior game, which was a great introduction, but honestly, he got the concept so quickly that once we did a few rounds with the junior game, we just moved onto the regular version. We really like the European version of the full game.
The goal with ticket to ride is to build routes across a continent, using your train pieces. You have to choose a few destinations, and you want to try to build routes to all of those destinations. You get extra points for getting the longest route and you do not maximize your points if you do not complete your routes. To make the full adult version easier for our son, we simply allowed him to choose fewer routes than would normally be required. Owen loves this game – he likes the challenge of building a long route, and he feels so proud when he completes his routes. This is a bit of a longer game – to get through it with 3 people can take 40 mins plus, so it isn’t played as often as others around here (not really something we can pull out for a quick game right before dinner) but we do regularly pull this one out on weekends. It’s great for problem solving skills and really great for learning the geography of the world! There are several versions of the game available to make for a nice variety if you need it.
Tacocat Spelled Backwards
This is a game from the Exploding Kittens family (which is another great game in and of itself!), and it’s super fun and quick. We love that the entire game including the board is found in a tiny box (the box is the board!), so it makes it really portable, and while it’s competitive, it’s really a lot based on luck.
The point of the game is to win card duels by playing a numbered card and your opponent either beats that card with a higher card, or sacrifices their lowest card. When you get to your final card, the player with the lowest value card wins the round, and moves tacocat closer to their side. Like all Exploding Kittens games, this one is super lighthearted and the language on the actual cards is hilarious and, in this particular game, full of palindromes, which makes the nerdy linguist in me happy. This is a 2-person game and the entire game can be played in under 10 minutes. This one always comes on vacation with us. Don’t be swayed by the fact that this game says it’s for ages 11+. We’ve been playing this one since my son was 6 or 7 – we played a few quick rounds of this last night while dinner cooked.
This is a really creative and fun card game, in which the players try to farm beans and harvest crops in order to win points. It involves a fair bit of strategy to make sure you can grow sufficient crops without losing them when your next turn comes up (you may be forced to ditch them to plant new crops). It’s cooperative because you can trade cards with others in the game, and with the unknown of what cards will be turned next, there’s a fair bit of luck involved too. Plus, there are “stink beans”, which gives us lots of fodder for jokes. This one is rated for 13+ but we’ve been playing this one since my son was 6. It takes about 30-40 minutes to finish a round with 3 people. We play this one around once a week these days.
This fun, quick game has a bit of similarity to Carcassonne, if you’ve ever played that one. We haven’t tried Carcassonne with Owen yet because it’s just such a long game to play and I honestly don’t think he would have the attention span to complete the game.
The game is played with tiles that have two sections on them (similar to dominos, hence the name Kingdomino – Kingdom and Dominos), representing things like fields, water, mountains, etc. On their turn, the player selects a tile to connect to their existing kingdom, with the goal of getting points based on crown values on those tiles. There’s some strategy and luck involved in this one, depending on how you’ve built your kingdom (you will eventually end up with a 5×5 grid of tiles) and how many crowns you have on each section. It’s rated for 8+ but we’ve been playing this since our son was 6. It’s a quick play, and a single round can be done in as little as 10 minutes. It’s a great before or after dinner game for us.
This one is such a fun and fast little card game. The goal of the game is to score the most points by amassing combinations of veggies and point cards.
There’s a bit of strategy involved here by choosing the right cards that are available, but there’s also a lot of luck based on what cards are turned. The cards are fun and whimsical and we love joking about collecting large collections of peppers and lettuces etc. This one is rated 8+ but we started it around age 6, and it’s a nice quick one – it takes about 20 minutes.
This one has been played a lot lately in our house. The goal of the game is to be the first one to get 3 pylons to the top of the board. It’s played by rolling 4 dice and creating pairs of numbers. There’s no reading required in this game, but it does require some basic math skills, which is why it’s rated for 8+ – we’ve been playing this one since Owen was about 6.
The play is actually very basic and will challenge your risk tolerance. On each turn, when you roll the 4 dice, you have to create pairs of numbers. For example, if you rolled a 5+4+6+3 you could make 9 and 9 (this is a good move because you would advance twice on the 9 slot) or you could make 10 and 8, or 11 and 7. You choose your pairs and advance. Then you roll one more time, move your pylon for the number from one of the pairs, and then the second pair gets discarded. Or perhaps you will be lucky the second roll to roll dice that add up to one of your former numbers and a new number. You have to move all 3 pylons, so a minimum of 2 turns rolling the dice on every turn. You can park your pylons at this point, or, if you’re feeling like taking a risk you can roll a third time and hope for the best. If, for example, on rolls one and two you put pylons on 3, 6 and 11, and on roll 3 you don’t get any combinations that add up to any of those numbers, you lose your pylons and your turn.
We like this game because there’s a bit of strategy and it’s fun to see who is willing to roll the dice a third (or fourth or fifth!) time and risk losing all of their progress on that turn. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. My only real complaint about this game is that the playing board is quite big. It doesn’t travel with us, for that reason, but it does usually get played a few times a week in our house these days. Depending on the rolls, this game can take between 25-40 mins to play.
I could go on and on and on about the many, many other games that we love to play in our house, but I hope that’s given you a good start and I hope I introduced you to a few games that you may not have known about before. Playing games as a family can be so much fun – if you haven’t tried it, give it a go and let us know how it went!