Instead of sitting around staring at your phones in unison, set up some family games to play together during those long nights of winter. Build memories and learn new skills while having a blast and spending time with your kids.
Family Board Games Are Making a Comeback
Although video games have been ascendant since the fourth generation home console boom in the late 1980s and early 1990s, board games are back in a big way now. Featuring true interactive play and less frenetic gameplay, board games allow a larger number of players with a wider range of skills. This makes them an excellent choice for parents of young children to play together.
Tabletop games in general are seeing a resurgence in sales. From role-playing games to card games, the concept of sitting around a table together, face to face, has a great deal of appeal after a decade of online gaming that left players feeling more isolated.
Tabletop gaming is a good excuse for families members of all ages to gather together to enjoy food and conversation. Best of all there’s, a wide range of games suitable for all ages.
Role Playing games are generally good for older players, like teens and adults, and feature campaigns played as fictional characters who work together on an adventure with a defined goal.
Board games run from the simplicity of Candyland to the cut-throat complexity of Risk , so investing in a few of the standard board games is a good idea for rainy day distraction. Chess and Scrabble also teach important mental skills.
The Best Family Games
The best family games for you and your kids really depends on their age, your patience, and your reason for playing. If you’re just trying to kill an hour or two, then you’ll want a simple game that concludes quickly. However, if you’re hosting an all-day game-a-thon, you’ll want complex games for hours of fun.
Parents Magazine recommends some excellent choices, but sometimes the classics are the best place to start. For one thing, if you lose the rules that came with your chess set, you can probably find them online.
Best Board Games for Small Children
Board games for small children should be easy enough to follow without reading the game rules. They should also be easy to win, or at least conclude with a scenario where “everyone wins,” like Mousetrap. Even if you don’t win the game, everyone gets to enjoy the Rube Goldberg finale that results in a trapped mouse.
- Candyland: This simple game requires no reading and just a few counting skills, and is suitable for kids as young as 3.
- Sorry!: It’s a race around the board for ages 6 and up.
- Monopoly Junior: This children’s version of the classic game features properties that appeal to kids as young as 5. Like the city zoo, video game arcade, and pizza parlor.
- Hot Potato: You can play the classic version with a real potato, or the electronic version for ages 4 and up that plays music and has a timer.
- Soggy Doggy: For ages 4 and up, this silly game has players taking turns washing the dog. If the doggy shakes and soaks you down, you have to go back to the beginning of the board.
- Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Eye Found It: This game is aimed more at children ages 3 and up, rather than the whole family, but parents can play along as children play a 6-foot-long board trying to find all the things!
Best Card Games for Small Children
Card games for small children should have simple rules that focus on matching colors or shapes. Those that focus on easy math skills may be appropriate for children from 5 to 7, depending on their skills.
- UNO: This card game is suitable for kids over the age of 5.
- War: War is played with a standard deck of cards. All the cards are dealt, and then players take turns placing one in the center. The person with the highest value card wins the hand and keeps all the cards in the center. When players run out of cards, they’re out. Eventually, one player will have most, if not all of the cards and wins. Remove all the face cards to make this game easier for small children.
- Too Many Monkeys: This card game for ages 6 and up won the Oppenheim Best Toy Award.
- Doctor Seuss: I Can Do That: Based on the children’s books by Dr. Seuss, this card game for kids 4 and up has won the Parents’ Choice Gold Award and Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award.
- Go Fish: This card game is fun for families of all ages, but even little ones can get in on it.
Best Board Games for Older Children
For children 8 and up, you can play more complicated family games that require thinking ahead, math skills, and dexterity.
- Clue: In this classic game, play detective and deduce who killed who.
- Monopoly: Wheel and Deal on Wall Street in the classic celebration of capitalism.
- Trivial Pursuit Family Edition: The family edition of this game has cards for kids and cards for adults so that everyone in the family 8 and up can play.
- Jenga: This hands-on game of balance is list for age 6 and up. However, young children may become frustrated when the tower tumbles.
- Kerplunk: Kerplunk comes in large and small version, and even a Minions version. Again, this balance game is marked for children 5 and up. Like Jenga, small kids may become frustrated, so we’ve listed this for older children.
- Telestrations: Rated for those 8 and older. Telestrations is a drawing version of the old “Telephone” game you played as a child.
- Quirkle: This award-winning family game is rated for 6 and up, but color and shape identification skills are needed. Watch the tutorial video below for instructions.
The Best Family Games for Tweens, Teens, and Adults
- Ticket to Ride: Ticket to Ride is a big favorite for family games, and there are editions for Asia, the U.K., Europe and other locations as well as eras. Travel through time and space via railway, and pick up extra maps to expand your horizons.
- Scrabble: This classic game for word nerds is great for showing off your language skills. Rated at age 8 and up, this world-wide favorite is available in 29 languages.
- Risk: This strategy games comes in a number of franchise versions, include Star Wars and Game of Thrones, making it a hit with tweens and teens. Players 10 and up use strategies to conquer the world, the galaxy or win the Iron Throne.
- Settlers of Catan: This game of civilization also has a few versions and a number of expansion packs that allows more players and additional characters and skills. It’s a favorite of role-playing gamers, and it’s a great place to start for tabletop gaming
Preteens and Teens may also like all-in-one tabletop role-playing family games or themed games from their favorite entertainment franchises. Risk, Clue (Cluedo in the U.K.), and Monopoly come in version based on popular franchises, from Sherlock to Harry Potter to Star Wars.
Tabletop Cooperative Games
Nothing builds family teamwork like ganging up against a common enemy to send them to ignominious defeat. These are all-in-one games similar to role-playing games (RPGs). The difference is the mission doesn’t vary as much even if the gameplay does. These are called “cooperative” games, and they’re a great first step toward RPGs. They can also act as a simplified substitute RPG, for those who would like to play, just without all the tedious math and memorizing of spells and hit points. Here are some great cooperative family games to play.
- Defenders of the Realm: Embark on a journey to save the kingdom and keep the four creature factions before they enter the city.
- Legends of Andor: Another fantasy based game, this one has only five different scenarios, so although it’s limited, it’s also a good choice for family gameplay.
- Freedom: The Underground Railroad: Work as an abolitionist to free slaves from the Antebellum South along the Underground Railroad.
- Space Alert: Work together as a member of the crew of the survey vessel, The Sitting Duck. Work together to explore space by jump from one unknown sector of space to another. You have 10 minutes to gather as much data as you can before bugging out. If one member of the crew forgets to perform a vital task, you might be done for.
- Forbidden Island: A bit like a role-playing game, players cooperative to find treasure and escape from the island before it sinks.
- Pandemic: Save the world together as a family from a horrible disease that spells the end of the human race.
Large Party and Family Reunion Games
Not all family reunions involve outdoor tents and potato salad. For families gathering from far away, there may be time to fill because of bad weather, winter scheduling, or just because visitors will be in town for several days. These family games are great for your next family reunion or family get-together.
- Trivial Pursuit Party Game: The party version of this classic trivia game accommodates up to six players, but is redesigned for faster play.
- The Awkward Storyteller: This party game can be played by up to 11 players, age 16 and over.
- Exploding Kittens: This family game is for those 7 and up and with additional card decks can accommodate up to 9 players. (There is also an NSFW “adult” version.)
The holidays mean lots of parties and gatherings. But, it also means trying to find ways to stay amused during bad weather. One way to manage a game for large groups of people is to choose games that can be played by teams.
- The Resistance: This multi-player social deduction game comes in several themes, with Dystopian and Avalon being the favorites, and works with up to 10 players.
- Wits & Wagers Party Edition: This edition has been created for large groups for team play.
- Say Anything!: This game for players 13 and up can be played by up to 8 players.
- Scattergories (play in teams): For ages 12 and up, Scattergories is suitable for up to 6 individual players or teams.
Best Family Games Apps
If that old Monopoly set is starting to pale, you don’t have to run out and pick up a new board game. Pick up your phone or tablet and download a party game app to play with your fam.
- Heads Up!: This charades-style game app is fun for families. The first player holds the phone to their head, while the other players mime the word in the display. The first player has to guess the word. There are also themed decks (celebrities, animals, movies, etc.) you can add with in-app purchase.
- Bloop: This game app tests dexterity and speed for up to four players.
- Spaceteam: This is a mobile version of hot potato and accommodates up to eight players and is available for both Android and iOS.
Don’t spend your evenings staring at a screen; create real interaction with your family with fun family games. Whether your children are little ones or even adults, family game nights are the perfect time to gather for fun, food, and play. You can choose complicated strategy games with multiple expansion like Settlers of Catan or simple card games like UNO. Family game nights build skills and memories you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Featured image: CC0 Public Domain by Geralt via Pixabay