True story: I despise Monopoly. Like really, really despise it. (So much so that when I terribly mistyped “despise” just now and it autocorrected to “septic”, I thought, yeah that’s about right.) I don’t like the Star Wars edition, I don’t like Monopoly Junior, I don’t like the Disney Princess version, and I don’t even like the Unicorns vs. Llamas version. (And yes, that is a real thing.) The game goes on for-evah. Here's a little Monopoly parenting hack for you: forget to collect your own $200 when you pass Go and you will eventually go broke and lose. It’s amazing. Your kid doesn’t lose to you despite your real estate acumen (because, duh, you’re an adult and he’s a child so of course you may have a slight edge when it comes to real estate developing), and you win because you’ll not be chained to that board for the next five hours of your life.
Monopoly aside, I do love a good family board game. And with chilly winter months staring us in the face, what better time than now to grab a new board game the family can enjoy for some quality time together? Take a peek at the suggested ages for each game, but keep in mind that you know your kids best when it comes to their interests and abilities. I’ve arranged the games beginning with those for younger kiddos and then moved along to more advanced games for the older ones.
- Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco - A shape matching game in which your kiddo uses a big cat-shaped pincher to pick up food that matches the shape on the spinner - a slice of pizza goes with the triangle, a cookie matches a circle, etc. First to fill his plate without being slowed down by pesky flies or a greedy guest wins. You can also buy a version that comes with an accompanying board book.
- Thinkfun Zingo Bingo - Great for pre- and early readers, this fast-paced game builds language and matching skills. You can have up to seven players and while it is geared towards preschoolers, my second grader still had fun playing with his younger cousin.
- Who Pooped? - Ah, the classic memory game with a preschool boy-aged poop glam up. If loving this game is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
- Guess Who - No little pieces to lose, easy clean-up, and they’ve updated the classic version with new characters. What’s not to love?
- Silly Street - We’ve had good fun with this one as well. It has a bright game board that goes together like a puzzle and incorporates different kinds of play to help build character traits like grit, confidence, adaptability, communication, and creativity - think tasks like singing Row Row, Row Your Boat in a deep hippo voice and making another player an imaginary sandwich. It’s a low-stress, lighthearted game.
- Blokus - When I first bought this game, all it said in the description and even the video link was that it was “a celebrated game of strategy”. Right, right, right…and that is??? But, I bought the thing anyway and my family has loved it. It does involve strategy - you try to place all of your tile pieces on the board touching your color at only the corners. It’s quick and easy to learn and also fairly fast to play a game. And even when the kids aren’t playing a true game of Blokus, they make designs with the tiled pieces for big chunks of time which has a Montessori feel to it. Win-win!
- Labyrinth - A race for treasures in a moving maze! Now here’s a little tidbit about me: I have a pretty strong distaste for nearly anything magical or involving dragons which I have traced back to a particularly long semester in elementary school seated next to a chatty child obsessed with dragons and magic and warlocks and castles and the like. It was excruciating. Do you have any idea how many YA book series are devoted to such topics? Neither did I. Neither. Did. I. But, even given that, this game is the best! You move your player piece to your assigned treasures and with each player’s turn, the path changes. Lots of strategy involved and yes, I am consistently beaten by my seven-year-old.
- Sleeping Queens - It’s a card game where you try to rouse the snoozing queens and collect them. Involving some luck and strategy - you can play a knight to steal a queen, or play a potion or dragon to block a steal - it comes in a cute tin that’s easy to transport and the cards are nice and large for smaller hands.
- Ticket to Ride - So this game is recommended for kiddos eight and older, but when my son was deep in his four-year-old train obsession, we bought it and he picked it up pretty well. It’s got a few more rules to keep straight than a typical kids game, but our family loves it - like all of us, kids and parents. The goal is to build railways across the US based on destination cards you draw. There are a number of other versions out there - including Ticket to Ride, First Journey for younger players - but we’ve only played the original. We’ve had it for years and it’s still one of our first reaches in the game cabinet.
- Rush Hour Traffic Jam Logic Game - So this game comes with 40 challenge cards ranging from beginner to expert to set up traffic jams of different cars and trucks. You then strategize how to move the vehicles in order to free a path for the red car to escape. A great STEM toy that’s also easy to travel with, our family has gotten hours of play out of this one.
So there you have it! Here’s hoping you find something for the whole family to play together. (Or at least something that’s not as painful as Monopoly.) Take advantage of the brief time we have when there’s nothing more our kids want than to spend an evening with their parents playing a board game. And lucky for us parents, there are lots of options these days that will entertain us all.