Turn off the screens and tune in to some quality family time.
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Although your kids may find it shocking, a long, long, loooooong time ago families used to sit around a table and play real-life, interactive games together. Family game nights are great for bonding, and studies show that families that game together actually have children who score higher in math, reasoning, and peer-to-peer relations. Between TVs, tablets, video games and cell phones, parents have a lot to compete with if we want to get our kids’ attention and actually connect with them.
Here are some of our favorite games to convince kids of all ages that family game night can actually be fun, and that connecting with mom and dad might not be so bad.
Every little kid seems to be obsessed with lava, and this game was made with lava-lovers in mind. The point of the game is to be the last survivor standing, but the fun really gets going when players are turned into lava monsters. Honestly, no one in my house wants to be a survivor—they want to be turned into a crazy lava monster—so this is a great primer for the game night lesson of, “there are no losers in game night.” Lava Monster is recommended for “ages 6 and up” and we assume that’s because there are cards to read that assign crazy challenges (like “cluck like a chicken”) but we’ve been playing this game with 4-year-olds and they love it.
This game is so simple and such a blast. My kid pulls it out at every party and I’ve never heard a grumble—even from the 12 and 13-year-olds we sometimes rope in. It’s the best multi-age ice-breaker game, and a great stand-by to pull out when it’s just one parent and kid in need of some fun and connection.
Every character chooses a cute wooden token to take down the colorful and quirky road on this beautifully-designed puzzle board. Simply pull cards that challenge you to be your silliest and, believe me, from the first card you pick humbling hilarity will ensue. Whomever wins is bestowed the great honor of leading a silly dance party—which is way better than just getting bragging rights!
Collaborative games are great for a kid who doesn’t like to lose, and this one is our family’s favorite. The goal of the game is to get all six owls into their nest before sunrise. Players pull color cards and the owls make their way around the swirling maze to their nest—but be careful of pulling too many sunrise cards before all the owls are safely in their bed. Players quickly learn not to focus on any one owl and instead help each other to get to the finish line together. A perfect before-bed game to wind down with—once all the baby owls are in their nest, you can tuck in your kid too.
You can toss those boring flash cards and worksheets, because—trust me when I tell you—this game will make your kids addition and subtraction whizzes by the time they enter kindergarten. We love that this game can help you forgo number drills in favor of family time and that it teaches that numbers can be fun and, sometimes, unpredictable. Kids can master this one pretty quickly, but you can mix things up by experimenting with negative numbers to make it more challenging. Here's hoping they come out with a multiplication and subtraction version next.
Use your wits to make the caption fit. This is sort of like a visual primer to Apples to Apples (or Cards Against Humanity—if you ever want to play that with your kids). Kids love to be the judge as they decide which silly or adorable pictures best-match a captioned challenge. Answers can be real, silly, or tongue-in-cheek. This is a fun exercise in perspective, since the winner all depends on the judge’s point of view.
Normally, you want to keep bugs out of the pantry, but that’s the whole goal of this game. The bug is creepy, crawly, buzzing, and jerky. This is a fun, frenetic, and mindless game that kids love and somehow it’s always exciting. The instructions are simple, the hex bug is hilarious, and we have yet to meet someone who doesn’t like playing this giggle-inducing game. This is a constant favorite in my family and kids can’t help but smile when playing this one.
This game was developed by a six-year-old and is able to harness a level of joy out of my son that most other card games can’t. Maybe it’s the whimsically named queens—like Pancake Queen and Ladybug Queen. Maybe it’s the dastardly dragons and dashing knights. Maybe it’s the sinister sleeping potions. The concept of this game is so on-point for kids ages six and up, and such a nice balance of silly and strategy that it’s sure to be a hit.
Kids love any chance to outwit their parents, and that’s what this game is all about. Beat the Parents is filled with questions most kids can answer and adults can answer—if they’ve been paying attention. Pretending to lose a game when you’re playing against your kids is so exhausting. This is a fun game of trivia that evens the playing field so kids and adults are on somewhat equal footing.
Roll dice, match colors, make words. This is certainly the prettiest word game around. What we love about Candygrams is that it’s a low-frustration word game that gets kids loving competitive cross-wording. Each player builds their own crossword by connecting one new word in each round, limited only by the two-color combo rolled by the dice. The first player to use all their letters in their crossword wins.
Since kids only have to work to build their own words without having to figure out point systems and without parents or older siblings hijacking their plan to pair their Q tile with the one U on the board, smaller kids don’t get as frustrated as they play—making for a more peaceful game night between siblings. Simple, challenging, and fun for a wide range of ages.
A fun, rapid-fire guessing game and—the best part—everyone looks pretty darn silly and confused while playing (which kids love). Everyone but you will see the card, displayed by the headband on your forehead. The goal is to deduce who or what you are by asking the players questions before the clock runs out. The categories are few and simple, but this allows everyone, even young kids, to get in on the family fun. And because each player is racing against the one-minute sand-clock timer, each round moves quickly, ramping up the energy with each round.
Exploding Kittens is made for kids ages seven and up, but it has huge appeal for just about anyone with a slightly twisted sense of humor. This game really has it all: kittens, explosions, laser beams… goats! A highly-strategic, kitty-powered version of Russian roulette, with hilarious artwork and downright demented strategy angles. Kids really do love this game and adults will be breathless with laughter.
A constant game night favorite for families everywhere, there is a reason why there are so many versions of this classic game. From Uno Dare to Uno Flip to Uno Attack—the popularity of the original is such that it leaves players wanting more. We love that this game can really accommodate as many players as you want. While the deck is designed to be played with four, if more family comes into town just add another deck to instantly make it an eight-player game. If your family doesn’t have a deck yet, this belongs in your favorite gamer’s stocking.
Taco vs Burrito is all about getting weird and creating the wildest meals to win. We love that this is competitive but also silly and slightly twisted. Hot Sauce Boss will help you gain points, but Belly Ache will take them away. Beware of the health inspector and the "no bueno" cards that can foil you and bring your burrito down. This one gets them giggling and reveling in game strategies they can only dream of, like pitching a food fight or a trash panda to win.
Not Parent Approved is a card game inspired by Cards Against Humanity—but, rather than truly offensive, it's hilariously gross—for kids! Kids one up each other—and their parents—to see who can come up with the most inappropriate fill-in-the-blank answers. Since it's the kind of game that says it's OK to put boogers, juice, farts and grandma all in the same sentence, it's probably best for intimate family gatherings or for friends with a really good sense of humor.
A player reads a card with a blank, such as "My parents get really mad when they see me _______." The other players then choose the funniest answer card, with such answers as "Eating boogers" or "Spilling something that makes it look like you peed your pants" as options. Your kids are sure to laugh at these wildly inappropriate answers.
This is a great intro to strategy game and it’s also creative and challenging enough to keep the older kids and parents interested. We love that this combines the concepts of chess with the rules of rock-paper-scissors. Try to be the last player on the board with the simple strategy of paper capturing rock but not scissors as you move across the board, but be ready to improvise: switch tiles can change up the game in a single turn.
The concept is simple: Players drop shapes into the vertical game board and earn points for the highest level that their shape reaches when it lands and extra points for touching bonus circles. But there is a catch: The shape you dropped is not allowed to touch matching shapes or colors after it lands. The winner is the player or team with the most points at the end. Drop It also comes with “wildcards” that can be given to younger or less experienced players to account for various skill levels. While this can certainly be played one-on-one, it’s far more fun and gets pretty silly if you break off into teams of two.
Dominoes meets scrabble in this matching-tile game that’s great for kids and adults. It’s similar to scrabble, but without the word strategy, so kids who are still building their vocabulary and can’t possibly compete against Grandma’s $10 words have a fighting chance. A great gateway game, this builds strategy and teaches kids to use tactical maneuvers and quick-thinking to win the game.
A highly thematic pure strategy experience featuring beautiful miniatures, game-altering player powers and a 3D board. Players try to build and then conquer the highest towers using Godly powers derived from the playing cards. This is one of those games where suddenly your child beats you without you seeing it coming, so it builds confidence and skill—making it a great starter game for Game Night indoctrination.
Since players determine the level of difficulty, each game can be tailored to fit whomever is playing: Kids can face off against their friends, adults can challenge each other, or it can be a perfect multi-age game night challenge.
This game is such a fun challenge for kids and gets them thinking about new words and associative words. They love to look at words you may have built and how they can change them around with a simple stack of a letter. We love that it's both strategic and interactive. It's so simple, but kids really gravitate to the interlocking tiles and how they can build up and up and up.
If you’ve never played this domino game, this is one train you need to get on. Mexican Train Dominos is a classic, and has multi-generational appeal. Grandparents love it and this set with numbers instead of dots on the dominos make it so easy to play with kids too. Do yourself a favor and get it for your family before Christmas morning. This is an excellent game to play after your Christmas Eve dinner to get the whole family involved.
The mission? To see the most North American cities in seven days. Players claim and connect the most train routes across North America by building color-coded railroad networks. There are so many variations of this game, with ferries and tunnel routes in the European version, versions that are country-specific, and a simplified junior version for kids ages six and older—but we are a fan of the classic version that started it all. This is a fun game of strategy combined with a subversive lesson in geography.
Collaboration games for the under-six set are a no-brainer. This one is great because it forces teamwork, and because it does so with a concept and characters older kids will love; it’s a great game to get tweens and teens to play nice and feign personal interaction with their family, at least for a little bit.
Frenetic, chaotic, and fast-paced, players must battle together or perish. In this game players assume the identity of Marvel heroes who must battle past Marvel bosses, racing against a 5-minute timer. Frantically rapid gameplay of quick moves and hectic choices engages even the player who is generally skilled at pretending the whole world is a bore.
Another fun collaborative game that gets families working together. All players work as a team to escape from a poltergeist-laden house with all eight treasure jewels before six of the rooms become haunted. Players need to move with some serious strategy, picking up and dropping off treasure jewels. If there’s a ghost in the room, you have to fight it and collaborate with your teammates. Another “collaborate or lose” game that’s great for making siblings work together for a night.
Apples to Applies is a silly game of perspective and comparison that really has multi-generational appeal and is a constant, post-holiday-meal game in our house. It says ages 12 and up, but we’ve played this with kids as young as nine and they love being a part of the banter that inevitably comes out of this game. There’s a little confusion around some concepts when kids are under the recommended age, but that’s almost half the fun. It’s a silly game where the whole strategy is to key into the judge’s sense of humor to win.
Teams of two to eight players are up against a clock to escape the mad scientist werewolf, Doc Gnaw. This is an immersive board game that gets really heated, crazy, and frenetic as you try to beat the 90 minute clock, finding clues, solving puzzles and cracking codes.
We’ve listed plenty of collaborative games. Now it’s time to get sneaky. Teens are good at this game because it’s all about either sussing out the trickster or, if they are the trickster, getting away with a lie. Players need to work together to track down the guilty player and win the game. The question is: Are you working with your friend or foe? Players need to use social deduction and a fair amount of witch-hunting skills to win. If you’re the Chameleon, however, the rules are much more simple. Don’t. Get. Caught.
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