We’ve always enjoyed playing family games, even before T was born. On holiday Sharon and I would take a few games with us to enjoy of an evening, and when friends come round we often get the games out after dinner. When T then came along it was, therefore, natural for us to start shopping for age appropriate family games for us to play with him – starting with matching games and pairs.
When he then became old enough to understand more intricate rules he would join in on family games nights. This would often be limited to weekends, but now that T’s in school we try and avoid going straight for the television of an evening, and instead will often get a short game out to play together.
We’re hopefully not a minority when we say we enjoy playing games as a family, but there’s just something really enjoyable – once you know how to play (!) – about sitting round a table and playing a game together. And not just at Christmas! I remember doing it when I was young and I hope T remembers it when he’s older.
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From the age of 4, T already had an array of family games that he understood and liked to play. I think this is down to us introducing them to him at an early age. He would either be present when Sharon and I were playing or we’d invite him to be on one of our teams, so eventually he’d learn a few things about the game. At the age of 4 he was obviously no where near beating Sharon at Scrabble! but he played a mean game of Snap! Fast forward a few years and he’s now joining us when we play Carcassonne.
We now have a lovely variety of games in our cupboard, from traditional board games like Snakes and Ladders to more hands-on games like Buckaroo, Snap! and Operation, here’s a few more of our favourites:
No, this isn’t dodgy back-alley game. Tantrix is a tile matching game, similar to dominoes. The aim of the game is to create the longest line or biggest loop. Each player picks a colour and it’s their job to keep extending their line, but watch out – if someone creates a ‘forced space’ or “gobble” then you have to fill that first.
This is a brilliant game for enhancing pattern work and teaching players about strategy.
Think of this as a “trickier” dominoes and you’ll be okay. Simply match one of the sides with another tiles. The first person to clear their tiles, wins!
This is a fantastic matching game and enhances any maths and strategic skills.
Mexican Train / Dominoes
This was a game that some friends brought into our lives many years ago, and since then we’ve never not taken it on holiday with us.
If you’re familiar and enjoy a game of dominos then this is the game for you. Using the same rules, get rid of your tiles by creating “train” lines out dominoes – either by forming your own line or the Mexican Train line – before the other player(s), but watch out for those doubles!
Very similar to the theory of dominos where you match tiles, but this comes with a twist.
This game asks players to match colour or shape to form a row of five. If you get a “full house” (all colours in a row or all shapes in a row) you get maximum points and get to shout “Quirkle!” but watch out for other players wanting to form their rows whilst stopping you from forming yours.
Probably one of the more violent games we own, Cobra Paw is a grabbing game where once the dice have been rolled you have a few seconds to grab the matching tiles to what the dice read.
If we play with T the game is significantly slower, however once he’s in bed Sharon and I have been known to clash knuckles a few times “accidentally”, and I’m pretty sure my finger is still bruised from the last time we played. It’s a lot of fun, although make sure your relationship is solid before you play as tiles in your “pile” are fair game as well!
This was an absolute gem of a find when we found it as part of our goody bag from Blog On X last year. A simple game by Big Potato Games where all you have to do is form rows using your coloured tiles without the other player blocking you.
What makes this interesting, is that when you run out of tiles (and there’s still no winner) simply reposition one of your previous tiles until someone wins.
This is probably one of our favourite games at the moment and is similar to games like Triominoes and Tantrix where you have to match tiles in a specific sequence or pattern. T calls this game the ‘Dobble Tile Game’ and I can see where he gets it from.
I love this game, and although it looks childlike it can get really tricky in places. There’s nothing more infuriating than when someone messes up your chances of getting three points.
Although it looks similar to Uno, it’s actually similar to a game of Gin Rummy.
The game is made of ten “phases” or rounds, and the aim of the game is to get your set of cards – whether that’s ‘AAA BBBB’ or ‘ABCDEFG’ – down before the other player so you can move onto the next phase. If you both get your cards down, then you both move onto the next round, but the aim is to get to Phase 10 before the other player(s).
Probably one of our favourite games and one we play almost every week. We play the original version, however for younger players there’s now the junior version with more basic imagery.
This game is a simple matching game, with a variety of different “modes”. On each card is a number of different pictures but only one will match the card on the discard pile. If someone matches something before you, the discard pile changes! Clear your cards as fast as possible.
I love Uno, so much so that we have a fair few versions – from Uno Extreme to Junior Uno. It’s such an easy game that you really don’t need much instruction. Our latest addition is Uno Flip!
Simply match the colour or the number (and in the junior version the animal or the colour) to clear your cards, but watch out for the wild cards along the way that may cause a few tears when you have to pick up cards.
Sleeping Queens is a relatively short game; making it perfect for after-school time or before bed.
The aim of the game is to collect Queens; all of which are valued from 5 to 20. The first one to 50 points wins. Along the way though, you’re at risk to having your Queens stolen or placed back into the deck via the use of different wild cards placed by other players.
I don’t even know how to explain Exploding Kittens.
Basically, this Russian Roulette-style card game is simple to learn and easy to play. Pick and play cards until one of you gets the “Exploding Kitten”. In between draws you have a variety of different cards to play against other players to make their chances of drawing an exploding kitten great. Watch this neat video to find out more…
Games of Skill & Strategy
Connect 4 has been around for decades, I even remember playing (and losing) with my sister when I was young.
Although T is still learning the skill of blocking (meaning I’ve won a fair few rounds), this is a great game for shorter evenings or if you want to teach the art of tactical play.
Carcassonne was T’s first introduction to Fantasy Board Games and is still a firm favourite. This strategic-based game encourages you to take over land, building medieval fortresses, one game tile at a time.
Players score points by having other players on tiles as turns are completed. The player who makes the most strategic placements of tiles will score the most points and win the game.
Similar to Monopoly, there’s lots of different versions of this game to collect.
Think Tetris, but against others!
Blokus encourages players to place uniquely shaped tiles on a board, with the aim to get from one end of the board to the other. Players also need to try and block the other player from getting to their side at the same time!
The rules are simple; players tiles must touch via a corner (and not a side) to travel. The game ends when no more tiles can be placed.
This was actually a random purchase when we had some vouchers to spend at a local toy shop, however it’s probably one of our Top 3 games that we like to play.
There’s no tactics involved, just a lot of skill and patience, as well as a steady hand! With this game, all you have to do is balance a number of coloured rods, which is dictated to you via the roll of the dice, and the aim of getting rid of all your rods. If you end up collapsing the rods already placed, those rods are yours and you have to start again.
I’m pretty sure Sharon and I still have a game of Monopoly running from ten years ago where I got into a strop when Sharon wouldn’t sell Mayfair to me, which is why I was reluctant at first to get this game, but I’m so glad we did as T really enjoys it.
There are several versions of Monopoly, each with varying theme, difficulty and detail. Start with Junior Monopoly and go from there.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride (Europe) is a multi country adventure game whereby players collect and play matching train cards to claim and build railway routes. These then connect cities through Europe; earning players points. The longer your route, the greater the score.
With this game, there are different styles to choose from (we chose Europe) as well as expansion packs!
Word Search Junior
This one is great for enforcing the phonics T is learning at school, although he is still yet in a position where he can play by himself.
For younger children, they’re invited to try and find patterns and pictures within the letters, while older kids can look for words in the jumbled up letters.
Boggle is a classic word game and doesn’t restrict you as much as say Scrabble does. This was a great introduction to word games and allowed T to practise spelling and phonics.
The aim of the game is to shake the letter cubes and find words once the cubes are housed.
Start off without a timer, if you’re playing with younger players, and then gradually introduce it the more confident they get.
Scrabble needs to no explanation, but if you do here it is;
Players select 7 tiles and on each turn players must place a word using some or all of their 7 tiles. Points are gained based on the word and tiles used, with extra points being awarded by placing tiles a special squares. Finish the game once all the tiles are gone!
These are just a few of our favourites from our collection of family games, and as you can see we have a fair few already! Do you like playing family games? What are your favourites?
If you’d like to check out some of the other family games we play, check out our Amazon storefront!
Image Credit: Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels