Thursday, May 29, 2008

Boardgames for Kids

In my last post, I talked about family activities that we like to do. Well, one of our favorite activities is playing boardgames. When I was a kid, I liked boardgames. I used play games like Battleship, Life, Bonkers, Sorry, Stratego...things like that. But as much as I liked those games, I always felt like there was something lacking. When I'd go to the game closet to pick out a game, it was never 'Hey! That's what I want to play!' but more of 'Hmmm...well, I guess we'll play this...'

Well, things have changed. There are a ton of great boardgames for kids out there. These are games that have that extra something that I would've loved to have when I was little. Cool pieces to look at, fun themes to keep things interesting, tactical decisions to make you use your brain a bit. Here are some of our favorites:

1) Monza - If you have a little boy that's into car racing, this is a great game. The race track in an oval that has a bunch of colored spaces on it. On your turn, you roll 6 dice that have different colors (that match the colors on the track) on each side. You have to put the dice in the best order to move your car the farthest around the track. It's kind of like a little puzzle for the kids. For example, they might roll something like blue, blue, red, white, yellow, purple. In front of them is a yellow square, so they put their yellow first. In front of that is a purple square, so they put that next. But for their next move, they could either go to a blue square or a red square. They have to then continue down each path to figure out which choice will advance them the farthest.
The race only lasts one lap, making Monza a nice short game, just about right for the attention span of a 3-5 year old. And it's a HABA game, which means very nice components (if you aren't familiar with HABA, they're a German (I think) company that produces some very nice stuff for kids. Most of their products are made from wood so they cost a bit more, but are top quality.)

2) Tier auf Tier - Another HABA game. This one has you stacking up little wooden animals on top of each other. The great thing about this game is that the animals can really stack on top of each other in interesting ways. My 4 year old plays this game and is ok with it. I took it to my older son's kindergarten class and they did fine. I would say this game would be good at least up through 8 years old, maybe more.

3) Blokus - Blokus is a kind of Tetris like puzzle game. Each player is given a set of colored pieces that they need to fit onto the board. When a player places a piece, a corner of the new piece must touch one of the corners of one of the player's pieces that is already on the board. Furthermore, the sides of the new piece may NOT touch the sides of any of the player's pieces that are already on the board. I've played this with the kids in my son's kindergarten class and it has been a hit. My 4 year old was also able to figure out how to play (and he even did this when he was 3). It's a great game because the rules are quite simple, but there are a lot of tactical decisions to be made. It also forces the kids to really use their brains when figuring out the best way to fit their pieces into place. This game is also a great game for adults, but only for 4 players (although there is a 2 player variant that works quite well). So I'd say this is a great game for ages 4 (maybe 3 depending on your kid) and up.

4) Gulo Gulo - Here is a game where the kids can beat their parents, even if the parents are trying their best. In this game, you pluck these little colored eggs from a small wooden bowl. But the bowl has a stick (the 'alarm') coming out of it. The player has to get the appropriate egg out of the bowl without making the alarm stick fall. The thing is that kids have these little ninja fingers that can easily pluck the eggs out without disturbing anything. But grownups have big fat clumsy fingers that just knock everything around. Both of our boys like this game. I would say that this would be good for 4 (and again maybe 3) up to 7 or so.
The game is a little on the expensive side, but it's got very nice components. It also has a box that is way too big. I'm guessing that if people are going to spend $25 on a kids game, they don't want a teeny-tiny box, even if a teeny-tiny box would fit everything just fine.

5) Zingo - Zingo is a very simple Bingo-like game that has a really cool dispenser that shoots out the tiles. If the picture on the tile matches a picture on a player's card, that player calls out the the name of the item on the picture. First person to say the name gets to put the tile on their card. First one to fill in their card (or get 3 in a row depending on how you want to play) wins. One of the nice things about this game is that you don't need to know how to read to play. You just say the name of the picture. Our boys like it a lot, and so do the kids in LilKat1's kindergarten. I've also played this with my 1st and 2nd graders in Sunday School and it has been a hit. So for this game, I'd say it would be good for ages 3 or 4 up through 8 or so.
There are a couple of downsides with this game though. Kids will fight over who gets to use the dispenser. If you're playing with them, it shouldn't be a problem because you can do the dispensing yourself. The other downside is that it can get competitive when kids are trying to get the tiles. I've had issues with this in Sunday School, but not so much with my boys. When we play at home, we generally keep playing until everyone gets 3 in a row. Then we all win! Works for us.

Now, you're asking 'Where do I get these wonderful games?', right? Well, some of the games, like Blokus and Zingo, can be picked up at Target and stores like that. Unfortunately, there are really few good games that can be purchased in the big retail stores. For the most part, if you want good kids games (or really good boardgames in general), you're going to have to go to either a specialized toy store or shop online.

If you're shopping online, a good resource is Just type in the game you're looking for and you'll get a list of places that sell them along with how much they're selling for. Some of the places that I typically shop for kids games are,, and

I have more games that I'd like to mention, but I'll save those for later. Like I said, there are a bunch of really great games for kids out there. Get a few nice games in your collection and you and your kids will have lots of fun stuff to do on those rainy days when you can't go letterboxing or orienteering.

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