Best Kids' Board Games

Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best kids’ board games

Roll the dice. Pass Go and collect $200. Take a card. Sound familiar? Chances are, you spent a decent amount of your childhood playing board games — and some of your adulthood, too.

Kids’ board games are designed to engage and educate. As fun as they are, there’s usually a lesson to be learned — whether it’s basic arithmetic in Monopoly or strategic planning in Risk. In fact, you’ll even get a lesson on fair play, which is equally important to winners and losers of a game.

More recently, kids’ board games have been revived in an attempt to cut down on screen time and instead hone their social skills. Besides being fun to play with friends, board games are a great way to get the whole family to spend time together. Before you know it, game nights will become a regular event in your weekly schedule.

Ready to get competitive with a new kids’ board game for your family? Here’s our buying guide to help you choose the best game for hours of fun.

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When trying a new board game, be sure all players are aware of the rules before the game begins. Otherwise, you might end up with frustrated players when an omitted rule is pointed out.

Key considerations

Number of players

Most kids’ board games accommodate between two and six players, and some can handle as many as ten players. When choosing kids’ board games, consider how many players you expect to host at a time. Make sure the game can accommodate your whole group so no one is left out.

Intended age group

Kids’ board games usually advertise their intended age group, but this is more of a safety measure to prevent choking than an indicator of complexity. If you have very young children, take these warnings seriously.

If you are wondering whether your kids will be able to handle the complexity of a game, use the recommended age minimum as a guideline. Every kid is different, and you know your kids’ capabilities best.

If you feel your kids are more advanced, let them try their hand at the adult or full version of a game.

Engagement

Ongoing engagement is a major consideration when choosing a board game. In fact, it’s what board game designers keep in mind when creating them.

Consider short-term and long-term engagement. If games run too long or are too complicated, some kids may lose interest quickly. If you’re looking to get years of play out of a game, it’s worth considering how versatile it is and whether it can appeal to your kids as they grow older.

You should also consider how much downtime a game has. Is there a lot of waiting between turns, or are players always active while they play?

Some games have randomized setups to increase replayability from one game to the next, like Catan. A game that is always different is likely to feel fresh after dozens of plays or more.

Skill development

All board games are social experiences that can teach kids to interact and treat one another fairly. But board games vary in what additional skills they offer to kids.

Math

Kids can hone their math skills in games that require basic addition and subtraction, like Monopoly. Card-based games are also popular for developing math skills, as many of them require pattern-building, planning, and strategy to win.

Reading

In games that have cards with text on them, like Apples to Apples, kids get a little bit of practice reading, both silently and out loud. These games are also fun tools for ESL and ELL students to develop their English reading skills and to practice more advanced vocabulary words.

Teamwork and communication

Board games that divide groups into competitive teams, like Codenames, are ideal for encouraging kids to work on their communication skills. They’ll learn how to delegate and how to compromise when there’s a difference in opinion. Most importantly, kids have a chance to discover what their strengths are in a team setting and see how each team member has something valuable to contribute.

Decision-making

Many board games are fast-paced, which requires swift, confident decision-making. In games like Life or Clue, kids are encouraged to weigh alternatives and choose the path with a better outcome. Some decisions will be better than others over the course of a game, so kids will also have a chance to make mistakes and learn from them.

Games with an element of chance can give kids an opportunity to learn about probability and risk.

Fair play

Not everyone wins a game, so integrity and fair play are important take-aways from every board game. Kids will learn how to be gracious whether they win or lose and not to take a loss personally. At the end of the day, board games are supposed to be fun and lighten the mood, so everyone should be a good sport after it’s over.

Board game variations

Travel editions

Travel editions of board games are typically compact versions of their full games. Not only do they take up less space, but their gameplay is also often tweaked to accommodate shorter games. Travel editions may have magnetic boards and pieces so that everything can stay in place if you’re playing in a car or plane.

Kids’ editions

Classic board games often have kids’ editions, which present the game in a more approachable way. In some games, the boards have fewer squares, large-print cards, and bigger tokens. Kids are able to enjoy the game, learn the basics, and then later graduate to the full game once they’re ready.

Themed editions

Themed board games are popular, as they feature TV shows, movies, and even video games. These tend to be more expensive than classic versions. On the upside, they’re often made with better quality materials and may last longer than the regular game.

Electronic components

Some board games have electronic components, such as spinners, tokens, or counters. Board games with these modern parts often cost more, and there’s also the ongoing cost of batteries.

Games with an electronic component at the center can achieve gameplay that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, but they might not be what you’re looking for when trying to get your kids to completely unplug.

Expansion packs

Certain board games are compatible with expansion packs, like Apples to Apples. Expansion packs may simply add more cards, or they may introduce a new way to play. Some expansion packs are released annually, whereas others are special editions with themed cards.

"It’s a good idea to have two or three kids’ board games in your home. Everyone has a favorite game, so kids can alternate between games instead of getting bored with just one."
STAFF
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Kids’ board game prices

Kids’ board games cost between $5 and $60. The rather large range can be attributed to the popularity of a game as well as how involved its design is.

Inexpensive: For affordable games below $10, you’ll find some travel editions and classic games. These are mostly simple, card-based games, but some larger board games fall into this bracket.

Mid-range: The bulk of everyday board games cost between $10 and $25. These include classic games as well as new games from indie board game companies.

Expensive: Licensed or themed board games often cost a little more, so expect to spend between $25 and $60 for these. Games with electronic components are also found in this range.

Tips

  • Organize tokens and cards. Even if your board game’s box comes with cardboard dividers, it’s a good idea to use plastic bags or small organizer boxes to store pieces. In the event the box is dropped, you won’t need to go looking for pieces under furniture.
  • Give a board game as a housewarming gift. New homeowners with kids will undoubtedly have many family game nights, so give them some board games to enjoy together.
  • Practice a game first. If younger plays want to play but are still learning, having one-on-one practice games is a great way to boost their gameplay understanding. By the time they play a real game with a group, they’ll be able to hold their own.
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Themed kids’ board games make great birthday, holiday, and white elephant gifts for recipients with a favorite TV show or movie.

FAQ

Q. I need replacement game pieces for my game tonight. What do I do?
A.
Replacements from the manufacturer can take a week or two, so you’ll have to make your own pieces. If you need to replace cards or paper money, you might be able to print them online. For actual tokens, use other small items in their place like coins, bottle caps, figurines, or even nail polish bottles. Since you might not have extra dice lying around the house, you can download a free dice app so everyone can keep on rolling.

Q. My board started peeling and cracking. How do I fix it?
A.
If the breakage is located where the board folds or along its edges, you can cover it with a strip of clear mailing tape. Glue can deteriorate and dry out, and it may discolor the board after a time. Depending on the price of the board game and how often you play, it, consider picking up a replacement. Save the original game pieces from your first board as spares for your new one.

Q. The players are having a dispute about the rules of the game. How do we determine who’s right?
A.
You can take a quick look at the manufacturer’s website, or you can check Board Game Geek to see if there is a forum discussion about the rule in question. Some games are known for having gray areas with rules, so it’s not uncommon for there to be different opinions on how to handle it. If things get particularly heated during a game, it might be a sign that it’s time to pack the game away.

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