Game Night Round Up
Whether you are stuck inside due to the weather, looking for entertainment on a sick day, or spending one-on-one time with your partner, games are the perfect way to work on skills, connect with loved ones, or bring together a group of new friends.
I surveyed moms in the area about their favorite games. From traditional board games to card games to tile games and more, this list has something for everyone!
In my opinion, the best first board game is First Orchard. This is a short and simple collaborative board game where everyone works together to pick fruit from the trees before a crow reaches the orchard. Each dice roll features either a color or a picture of the crow. If the dice lands on a color, select a fruit of that color and place it in the basket. If it lands on the crow, it advances one square closer to the orchard. This game works on color identification and matching, turn taking, and lengthening the attention span of even your youngest gamer!
One of my favorite brands for toddler board games is Peaceable Kingdom. They focus on the skills needed to play games: turn taking and attention span. Much like First Orchard, these games are collaborative, so the focus is switched from which player wins to how we can work together against the game. Hoot Owl Hoot is similar to the classic board game Candyland; draw a card and move your owl to the corresponding color. The goal is to try and get the baby owls to their nest before the sun rises.
Monkey Around is a large motor game that asks kids, adults, and anyone playing to become a monkey, acting out prompts on the card individually or in pairs. Friends and Neighbors add a helping element to board games. Each player gets a card with pictures of people who need help. Players take turns drawing tokens that have the solutions to these problems. These are just a few of the games that the Peaceable Kingdom offers for first-time board game players.
Matching games are a fun introduction to tile games that can be adapted to different levels. Start with 3 pairs of cards face up for your youngest players and allow them to match those. Add more pairs in as they get comfortable with the idea of matching. Once they’ve grasped the game, start back at 3 pairs and flip them picture-side down. To add in a large motor component, have one-half of the pairs organized on a table and the other half hidden around the room. Then the hunt for the pairs begins! My 5 and 3-year-olds love this alternative to the traditional matching game setup! With variations that feature your child’s favorite animals, characters, or cards to introduce new vocabulary, Matching games are another good addition to your game closet!
Other recommended games: Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, Pete the Cat’s Groovy Buttons, Candyland
Once again, Peaceable Kingdoms has made a list. These collaborative games are a good stepping stone between toddler games and games where winning is the goal. They ask players to work together, but tend to be longer and have more opportunities for the game character you’re working against to make advances. This stage also introduces a spinner, perfect for fine motor work and connecting a number to its quantity. Mermaid Island is one of our most played games.
Three mermaids are trying to return to their castle before the sea witch does. It involves pathways, alternate pathways, losing spaces, returning to start, and planning when to use the powerups most effectively.
Count Your Chickens is another collaborative game where you’re trying to gather the baby chicks before a fox gets to them. This pathway game is longer, requires more attention span, and is great for 1:1 counting and correctly representing numerals. Race to the Treasure is a tile game that requires planning, problem-solving, and flexible thinking. Laying pathways from the start to the treasure chest, your goal is to create one continuous path to each of the three keys and the treasure before the troll sneaks in. These games, and other Peaceable Kingdom’s brand games, are good for introducing more complex game strategies and thought processes.
Pretty, Pretty Princess is one of those classic games that are fun, no matter your age. It is another spinner game with a shorter game board and the ability to gain and lose progress as you play the game. My kids play this game independently, but it is much more fun with adults involved!
Card games are also fun to introduce at this stage. We frequently play Go Fish, War, Slap Jack, and Old Maid. Others that are introduced at this stage are Slapburger, Skip-Bo Junior, and various forms of Uno, including Uno Attacks and Uno Flip. Card games are a fun way to switch up the family game night and, with the purchase of card holders, can be played with any child who is patient enough to sit down and learn.
Other favorites that were mentioned: Hi Ho Cherry-O, Perfection, Clue Jr., Connect Four, Monopoly Jr., Find It!, Spot It!, Sorry, Trouble, Mouse Trap, Zingo, Bingo, Out Foxed, Yahtzee, Operation, Twister, and the Tea Party Game.
Middle School and Beyond
The last category of games I have are ones that all ages can enjoy, specifically if they have a good grasp of turn-taking, have the attention span for a longer game, and have been introduced to the concept of winning and losing. These games also can be enjoyed by adults at parties, in pairs with friends or your partner, or to bring in some friendly competition to any family gathering.
Ticket to Ride was easily the most loved game. With expansions, games for every level (including First Journey for kids), and several different variations to purchase, it is no wonder why this game is so popular. In the original, you are trying to build your train track across the United States, completing the prompt cards drawn at the beginning of the game. This game requires strategic thinking and is relatively simple to learn, making it accessible across many skill levels. Ticket to Ride is one game I would suggest everyone keeps on hand, especially if you like entertaining.
Sequence is my personal favorite game. It blends card games, board games, and tile games seamlessly. Each player holds their cards and uses them to create a sequence on the board, five in a row. Block other players or remove their tiles completely in a game that requires strategy, forward-thinking, and on-the-go adjustments.
One Night Werewolf is another favorite game of mine. This is a card game that is interactive in a new way. Each player draws a card that assigns them their role for the game. Roles vary from villager to tanner to troublemaker to the werewolf himself. Each role has different skills that they can use during gameplay. It is the goal of the group to figure out who the werewolf is while the werewolf is trying to stay hidden. This is another simple to learn game that is certainly a crowd-pleaser for us!
Other favorites that were mentioned: Sequence Stacked, Sushi Go, Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, Qwixx, Farkle, Skip-Bo, Settlers of Catan, Code Names, Blank Slate, Suspend, Scattegories, Catchphrase, Cranium, Wits and Wagers, Happy Salon, Taco vs. Burrito, Exploding Kittens, What Do You Meme?, Ghosted, Doomlings, Tetris, Play Nine, Love Letter, Gloom, Ransom Notes, Donner Dinner Party, Villains, Poetry for Neanderthals, Munchkin, Azule, and Life.
Game nights are the perfect chance to work on skills, build connections, and have fun. Are there any games on our list you plan to add to your game closet? Did we miss any that your family loves to play? Let us know!
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