Whether you’ve got antsy kids at home or in the classroom, a good board game can keep the little ones entertained for hours — not to mention help strengthen their critical-thinking skills. So while we’ve written before about all sorts of games and activities in the past — including the best four-player board games, two-player board games, and board games for adults — here, we’ve rounded up the 21 best board games for kids.
Best strategy board game for kids
Ticket to Ride is an adventure-style game in which players attempt to cross the country and connect cities by building train routes. Suitable for ages 8 and up, it is easy to pick up “but also offers a level of strategy and tactics just deep enough for competitive gamers to return to time and again,” says Ian Ross, who runs the popular Instagram page Board Games As Art.
Best pick-and-pass-style card game for kids
For a lightning-quick, pick-and-pass-style card game, Lauren Bilanko, a co-owner of Twenty Sided Store, suggests Sushi Go!, which she says is very easy to learn but still fun enough to play over and over again. The gameplay is simple: collect cards to create collections of dishes for different point values, and whoever scores the most points wins.
Best farming-style board game for kids
Illustrator Stephen Walsh told us about this “really sweet” game about competitive panda husbandry that’s a favorite of his kids. It asks players to cultivate land plots and grow three species of bamboo for pandas. Walsh describes it as the “perfect Christmas Day game” to break out when you want something family-friendly and cheerful. The game takes about 45 minutes to play and is suitable for ages 8 and up.
Best building-focused board game for kids
Best word-association family-friendly board game
In our roundup of the best board games to break out during parties, five of our experts praised Just One. “Hands down, Just One is our favorite new party game,” says Kelsey Demers, who runs the board-game blog the Tabletop Family. “It’s simple to play, a breeze to teach, and utterly addictive.” The game won the prestigious 2019 Spiel des Jahres, or German Game of the Year, which evaluates board games based on their game concept, rule structure, layout, and design. The main objective, as the title suggests, is for players to help their teammates guess a word by suggesting “just one” word as a hint. Which sounds easy enough, but, as Matthews warns, “Watch out, duplicate words cancel each other out,” so you need to be creative. A right answer scores your team one point, while a wrong answer docks two points, with the ultimate goal being to get as many points out of 13 as possible. This game takes about 20 minutes to play and is suitable for up to seven players.
Best storytelling board game for kids
Walsh describes Dixit as “a great icebreaker of a game, fantastic for getting everyone interacting.” Great for kids with strong imaginations, it begins with one player being designated the storyteller; that player makes up a sentence based on the image on one of the cards in their hand. Then each player selects the card in their hand that best matches the sentence and gives it to the storyteller. The storyteller shuffles the cards and presents them to the other players, who place bets on which is the original card with the winners gaining points for correct guesses. As an added bonus, “the card artwork is beautiful, imaginative, and sometimes a little surreal,” Walsh says.
Best bingo-style board game for kids
Recommended by longtime Manhattan nanny Kasia Dabrowska, this bingo-esque game is easy to teach kids because the name of the game is speed-spotting familiar items like a dog, bird, or baseball bat. Strategist contributor and father of two Steven John also keeps it in rotation with his family.
Best whodunit-style board game for kids
“Outfoxed has more replay value than I have ever experienced in a child’s board game,” says John. For months after first getting the game, his then-5-and-a-half-year-old requested a round nearly every single day, he adds. A classic whodunit, the game’s kids discover a series of clues and a group of suspects, zeroing in on the guilty fox through a process of elimination.
Best nostalgic board game for kids
Similar to Mousetrap, Operation was beloved by ’90s kids. Walsh told us that while he loved this game when he was young, he also enjoyed playing it when he was older with his friends after a night out. The whole family can sit down and operate on Cavity Sam to remove his various ailments — including his wishbone, charley horse, and Adam’s apple — without setting off the buzzer.
Best balancing board game for kids
For kids who love to build things, this game asks players to build a shifting tower by adding pieces. The game can accommodate up to four players, which encourages socialization and “very important” peer interaction, explains child therapist Glenda Stoller, co-founder of Village Parenting NYC.
Best board game kids can play with friends
Best card-slash-board game for kids
Best active board game for kids
Anya Kamenetz, mother of two and author of The Art of Screen Time, recommends the fast-paced Exploding Kittens game Throw Throw Burrito, “which is a fun combination of goofiness and actual strategy.” Gameplay is only 15 minutes and can accommodate two to six players. Toy blogger and reviewer Lori Jepsen of Toysenberry is also a fan. “ “I mean, what’s not to love about throwing burritos at your siblings or parents or spouse?”
Best party game for kids
According to Strategist contributor and dad David Pogue, “this is the greatest game” that all ages can play. The rules of this spy-themed favorite are very similar to the basic elements of charades, with players dividing into two teams with one designated spymaster, who provides clues. By guessing the words correctly, players unveil the other teams’ agents. The first to unmask all of its opponents’ spies wins. Pogue calls it “truly hilarious and satisfying,” and though the designer has it labeled for kids 10 and up, Pogue notes that “Codenames is super-fun with younger kids because they make fantastically imaginative connections between the words.”
Best group board game for kids
Dr. Angelina Morales, a child and adolescent psychologist, recommends Apples to Apples Junior and says it offers “a fun way to help children see things from another person’s perspective and promote prosocial interactions.” This junior version of Apples to Apples is scaled for an elementary-schooler’s more limited vocabulary. “Apples to Apples Junior encourages kids to think about relationships between words and fosters their vocabulary and creativity,” says Laura Phillips, senior director of the Learning and Development Center at the Child Mind Institute.
Best board game for kids who like breaking rules
This edition of Monopoly is designed for cheaters: The goal is to see how many rules you can bend or break in order to win. “Isn’t that the way every kid plays all the time anyway?” says Zibby Owens, mother of four and host of Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books. The game “encourages secret bank thefts, secret property swipes, and serious consequences if caught,” Owens adds.
Best fast-paced game for kids
Ideal for kids ages 10 and up, this fast-paced board game’s main objective is to be the first to help all of your aliens escape into outer space via drone. Suitable for two to four players, “it’s the first game I’ve ever seen with a real flying drone,” says Adrienne Appell of the Toy Association, who recommends it because it “combines different kinds of play for a lot of fun.”
Best planning board game for kids
This farm-animal-themed board game “challenges kids to really think about each move,” says NAPPA Awards director Elena Epstein. The game’s main objective had kids create a layout for a series of cows, pigs, and other farm animals that must be kept separated using a limited number of fences, which tests a child’s logic, spatial reasoning, and planning skills. “Kids feel a lot of pride as they figure out each level,” Epstein says.
Best tic-tac-toe inspired board game
This tic-tac-toe inspired board game is “visually appealing” and “complex,” according to Sophia W., a nanny for the New York–based SmartSitting agency. Even better, Sophia says, “It’s well suited for gifted and special-needs children, as the colors stimulate kids who think visually.”
Best 3-D board game for kids
This 3-D Tetris game, recommended by Ali Mierzejewski, the editor-in-chief of the Toy Insider, works much like the original version of the game except you’re competing against other players using one pot of physical pieces. “You have to be strategic about what pieces you need and try to predict what the other players will need while playing. It’s a really fun way to update the classic video game,” she says.
Best conversation starter card game for kids
Included in our best gift guide for 9-year-olds, this card game includes plenty of thought-provoking prompts to encourage conversations among kids. Each card asks deeper questions like “What small thing brings you happiness?” or gives funny prompts such as “Pretend you are a vibrating cell phone on a countertop ledge.”
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