mindful living, effortless style

Gift Guide 2015: Top Picks for Family Game Night

Gift guide: family game night - great picks for kids of all ages and there are recommended ages for each of the picks, which is super helpful.

 

Having a regular family game night is a great tradition to strengthen the family unit. Not only does it ensure time for connecting with each other, it also gets your kids in the habit of communicating with you – something that will pay-off big time when they’re older.

Plus, with the right game, it can be really fun! Below you’ll find a selection of games the whole family will love, including some to help you start your a game night ritual even with your youngest kiddos.

Don’t forget – you can check out all 10 of our 2015 Gift Guides here!

Once again this year, I’m heading up each list with my favorites from all the picks – here, ordered by age, are my top 7 Picks for Family Game Night (scroll down for full details on each):

  1. Eeboo Color Go Fish Playing Cards $8.00 (2+ years)
  2. Zingo $17.99 (4 – 8 years) (and for emerging readers, Zingo Word Builder , What’s Gnu?, and Zingo Sight Words plus Zingo 1-2-3 for math practice)
  3. Qwirkle $19.21 (5+ years)
  4. Bounce-Off $13.98 (7+ years)
  5. Spot It! Educational Set (4 – 8 years) $44.85 (We also really like the newer Disney Frozen – Alphabet $12.13 and Disney Planes – Alphabet $12.09 versions)
  6. HedBanz $7.99 (6+ years)
  7. Rory’s Story Cubes Complete Set: Original, Actions & Voyages $20.02 (5+ years)
  8. Richard Scary Busy Town $19.99 (3 – 8 years)

Read on for 37 of my favorite picks for family game night, broken down into:

  • Highly Acclaimed Games
  • Games Especially for Toddlers & Pre-Readers
  • Classic Games Recommended by Age

Special Note: In an effort to help you out as much as possible this year, I’ve included both prices and age recommendations for each item. Please take the age ranges as just that – recommendations – you know you’re child best after all!  

Also, this time of year prices can fluctuate quite dramatically.  So if you see something a little outside of your price range, it might not be a bad idea to click over and check  it out anyway – you may get lucky and catch a sale.

Along those lines, I’m doing my best this year to keep our readers up-to-date on any sales I see on our gift guide items.  To be in the loop, be sure to follow us on facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

Ready for the big list? Here we go…

Gift guide: best games for family game night - the third one on the list is our favorite!

Highly Acclaimed

  • Qwirkle $19.21 (5+ years) – My son got this strategic domino and scrabble-like game for his 5th birthday and asks to play it during our one-on-one time or as a family several times a week.  Although we’ve altered the rules and points system a bit to adjust for his age, this Parents’ Choice Gold Award and Mensa National Competition winner is still fantastic for working on shape and color recognition as well as pattern perception and spatial and critical thinking skills. This is one that our family is sure to be playing for years to come.
  • Bounce-Off $13.98 (7+ years) – This active game is one that will truly appeal to players spanning a range of ages. Somewhat of a version of beer pong for kids (stay with me here, we’re not straying from family-friendly – I promise), it’s simple for everyone to understand and play and doesn’t take long to turn into an exciting game of fierce collaboration or hearty competition. One reviewer wrote, “We took advantage of picking this one up for our boys ages 8, 9 and 11… The first day they opened this and started playing, there was nothing but laughter and enjoyment for more than two hours for all three who sat down to play this. They all got along (often a problem in competitive board games) and despite the fact that they didn’t bother to keep score, they really liked it… without parental supervision or interaction, they played peacefully and contently for a long time. And they had no problems going back to the game either… Not sure how educational it is, but it works on hand-eye coordination and I’d say it’s one of the better team-building games that we own.”
  • No Stress Chess $14.99 (6+ years) When my kindergartner came home from school one day asking me to teach him to play chess, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand I was excited because, despite spending most of our time together on less cerebral activities, I have great memories of playing chess with my dad growing up. On the other hand, I was afraid he was a little young for it and might get frustrated and give up on the game all together. Enter “No Stress Chess”. This genius game uses cards to teach young kids how to play in stages. The cards tell you which piece to move, so even children (and adults) who have never played the game can jump right in. The moves for each piece are on the cards as well as on the game board and the first stage makes the game about chance, not skill – you simply draw a card and do what it says, perfect for learning how the pieces work. Once that is mastered, you can draw 3 cards at a time and decide which one you want to go with to introduce some strategy to the game. Finally, when you’re ready to play chess for real, just get rid of the cards and flip the board over to a traditional chess board… This one is going under our Christmas Tree this year for sure! Side Note: If your little one is really into the game, there’s also Thinkfun’s Solitary Chess,. Featured in our Best Learning Toys for Quiet Time & Independent Play Gift Guide this single player game takes it to the next level by using chess moves to solve logic puzzles. It’s the perfect thing for practicing when there’s no one available to play with.
  • Spot it! $11.29 (4 years – adult) also there’s a new travel version, Spot it! On the Road – An award-winning game that centers around visual perception and speed.  The goal is to be the first to identify a match on a pair of cards and to call out out the name of the figure in common.  This is the type of game that quickly becomes addictive and will cause lots of laughs and (hopefully) friendly competition. Also check out the newer Disney Frozen – Alphabet and Disney Planes – Alphabet versions.
  • Make ‘N’ Break – Family Game $19.99 (4+ years) – A Parent’s Choice Award winner described as easy to play and fun for the entire family, the Ravensburger Make ‘N’ Break game takes simple building tasks and sets them against the clock for an exciting and engaging showdown. The uncomplicated concept and variable levels of difficulty allow it to be enjoyed by builders of all ages, whether it’s a rainy day inside with the kids or an after-dinner match for the adults. Combining spatial and logical skills, speed, and a little luck, it’s a stimulating game with excellent replay value.
  • Blokus (and Blokus Jr.) $15.00 (5+ years) – Similar to Qwirkle, this is another strategy board game that challenges spatial thinking. Kind of like 3D Tetris, but not exactly, this game moves quickly and doesn’t require any score keeping. It’s also a multi-award winner and gets rave reviews.
  • Apples to Apples Family Edition $14.77 (12+ years) and Apples to Apples Junior $15.99 (reading age to adult) – This uber popular game is famous for the hilarity it often causes. But along with being fun, it’s also a great game for strategy and has won numerous awards including “Party Game of the Year” by Games magazine and “Mensa Select” by Mensa International.  The simple concept of selecting the card from your hand that you think is best described by a card played by the judge is easy for older children to pick up.
  • HedBanz $7.99 (6+ years) and an adult version (13 – 99 years) – This is basically the classic “Who am I” game with fun headbands that kids will get a kick out of. Kids will flex their deductive reasoning skills with the game’s simple question-and-answer premise. By making connections and coming up with questions that will lead to answers, kids will also practice creative critical thinking skills.
  • MindWare Dizios $19.00 (6+ years) – A beautiful version of dominos in which tiles are placed down one by one to connect colors and create a flowing pattern. The game is easy to play but hard to win and only takes about 30 minutes to complete.
  • Rory’s Story Cubes $7.65 (5 + years) – Along with the original version, there are two additional versions.  Check out the Complete Set: Original, Actions & Voyages $20.02 – A creative story generator providing hours of imaginative play for all ages, Story Cubes can be played alone or in a group. No reading skills required, simply roll the cubes and let the pictures spark your imagination – a wonderful exercise in creative writing each time you play. Plus this pocket-sized game is perfect on the go in airplanes, car rides, and hotel rooms.
  • Ticket to Ride $36.49 (8+ years) – One of the most popular strategy games of all time. This is the original that spawned multiple subsequent variations. The reviews of this one say more about the game than I ever could, “A really fun board game for the whole family – especially if they love trains. The goal is to build railroad lines across the USA and ratchet up more points than your opponent(s).”…”I  don’t think I have ever seen a board game that pleases more consistently than this one. In my experience, board games are typically tedious to explain, and boring. Not this game. The beauty of it is its simplicity. It can be picked up very quickly, and the gameplay is quick, with no lulls. But, for all that simplicity in the gameplay, you do not sacrifice any complexity in the strategy.”
  • Sleepy Queens $9.68 (7+ years) – Invented by 6-year-old Miranda Evarts, this fantasy card game helps develop memory, strategy, and elementary arithmetic skills. Plus, many parents report it often leads to a lot of dramatic play fun once the game is over. We also appreciate the general neutrality of this game, with queens, kings, knights and more, reviewers rave that both their sons and daughters ask to play again and again. Plus, the game doesn’t drag on too long (always a plus) with average playtime being around 15 minutes.
  • Thinkfun Knot So Fast – $19.99 (8+ years) – My favorite part about this game is that it’s not your typical board game (in fact there is no board). This knot-tying racing game will have the whole family excited to play. From the manufacturer, “Be the first player or team to finish tying the knot shown on one of 40 challenge cards, call out “Knot So Fast.”, then move the Tug-O-War Rope one notch forward. When the Tug-O-War Rope slides all the way to one side, that player or team wins. While knot tying is a great skill to master at any age, it especially helps spatial development and manual dexterity in younger players. Play solo and practice for the next head-to-head match up.” Looking at this game has me itching to try it and I have a feeling the husband and I might even have a few battle rounds after the kids go to bed.

gift guide: best games to start a family game night with toddlers and pre-readers

Especially for Toddlers & Pre-Readers

  • Richard Scary Busy Town $19.99 (3 – 8 years) – I have heard great things about this cooperative, non-competitive game from multiple sources but was really convinced when a mom on one of my son’s good friends was raving about it. Everything about this game is impressive, from the 6 foot long game board, to the amount of imagination and teamwork required. In fact, the company behind this game , Wonder Forge, has won over 120 prestigious awards by creating good-for-you games that encourage teamwork, healthy competition, and get-up-and-go active play. This is the perfect game for children of multiple ages to play together and for when you hit that stage when kids pout a lot about losing or start to become ultra competitive.
  • Hot Potato Electronic Musical Passing Game $13.98 (4+ years) – This fun take on the classic hot potato game keeps the element of surprise that kids love while adding in a cute mascot and some fun music. This is a favorite of our because it encourages kids to get active while stuck inside, is simple for everyone to get in on the fun, and can be played for as long (or as short) as you want. The potato can also be used as a timer for all sorts of made up games and this is a great activity for large play dates or kid parties.

  • Thinkfun Roll and Play Board Game $19.17 (18 months – 3 years) – This is the first board game made specifically with young toddlers in mind. Toss the big plush cube and identify which colored side faces up. Choose a matching color card and perform the simple activity shown, such as “Make a happy face”, “Moo like a cow” or “Find something blue”. Designed for parent and child to play together, Roll & Play strengthens bonds and builds confidence while encouraging creativity, active play and gross motor skills. This seems like a great option if you have a preschooler who wants to play a family game with his or her younger sibling too. For another great young-toddler-friendly game, checkout Thinkfun’s Hello Sunshine Game $15.20 (18 months – 3 years) too!

  • Eboo Preschool Lotto Game $12.34 (2 – 6 years) – I’m a big fan of the eBoo brand as a whole.  This award-winning lottery game is easy for little ones to pick up on and has the gorgeous illustrations that the company is known for. A great first game.
  • Eeboo Color Go Fish Playing Cards $8.00 (2+ years) – This beautiful card set uses colors instead of the traditional numbers for Go Fish. This was one of the very first games I started playing with my son. It was easy for him to understand since no numbers or reading were involved and helped him learn his colors.  He still enjoys playing it 3 years later at age 5.
  • Spot It! Junior AnimalsSpot It! AlphabetSpot it! Numbers and GamesSpot it! Basic English (to help with beginning reading comprehension) and the all-inclusive Spot It! Educational Set (3+ years) that contains all 4 of these for $44.85. – An award-winning game that centers around visual perception and speed.  The goal is to be the first to identify a match on a pair of cards and to call out out the name of the figure in common. Teachers saw the learning potential in the huge popularity of this game and started to request educational versions.  These are the result – I think we’ll be getting the whole Educational Set for the kids this year.
  • Zingo $17.99 (4 – 8 years) – This is another super popular game with families with young children and it was another of our family’s first games. A lot like BINGO, players get picture cards and try to fill them up.  There is a speed component too that we use about half the time with our 5 year old and skip with our 3 year old.  We have both the standard version and the numbers version and both are regularly requested by the kids. Side Note: When your pre-readers become emerging readers, Zingo Word Builder, What’s Gnu? and Zingo Sight Words are also excellent!!
  • Tenzi Dice Game $13.95 (4+ years) and 77 Ways to Play game extender cards – In it’s simpliest form, Tenzi is basically Yahtzee on steroids… a fast-pace game to see who can get all 10 of their dice to show the same number first. Since there’s no counting or math required, this is a game kids of all ages can get it on. But the true genius of Tenzi is revealed when you check out the 77 ways to play cards. With so many fun variations on this simple dice game, the whole family will come back to this one again and again. Side Note: If you plan to play with more than 4 players, check out the party pack version (77 ways to play included).
  • Dr Seuss Super Stretchy ABCs $16.98 (3 – 6 years) – The Dr. Seuss games have a knack for helping restless kids work their wiggles out.  We have Cat in the Hat, I Can Do That! and love it for this purpose.   This twister-like game is on our list because it encourages both physical activity and letter recognition – perfect for preschoolers!
  • Super Why ABC Letter Preschool Game $19.44 (3+ years) – And speaking of letter recognition, Super Why is one of the few shows we let our kids watch. Just like the show, this game looks like a fun way to teach and reinforce beginning reading skills.
  • Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game $16.62 (3 – 7 years) – Friends of ours have this game and my kids have enjoyed playing with it during play dates. Along with the lovely look of the game, I like that it teaches matching, sorting, and strategic thinking while developing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. It gets tons of great reviews on Amazon too.
  • Hoot Owl Hoot Cooperative Board Game $15.99 (3+ years) – I haven’t played this but it sounds like a great introduction to board games for your little one.  I especially like that the focus is to work together to accomplish a goal instead of competing.
  • Rory’s Story Cubes $7.65 (5 + years) – Along with the original version, there are two additional versions.  Check out the Complete Set: Original, Actions & Voyages $20.02 – A creative story generator providing hours of imaginative play for all ages, Story Cubes can be played alone or in a group. No reading skills required, simply roll the cubes and let the pictures spark your imagination – a wonderful exercise in creative writing each time you play. Plus this pocket-sized game is perfect on the go in airplanes, car rides, and hotel rooms.

Last but not least on the list, these are the games we all grew up with. There’s something so nostalgically sweet about introducing our own kids to them.  Instead of describing that which we all know and love, I figured the most useful thing would be to list the games by age appropriateness to help you figure out exactly when to make the introductions.

Classic First Games

Classics for the Whole Family

*Post contains affiliate links.

If you like these recommendations, I encourage you to pin or bookmark them for later when you’re ready to start shopping.  I would also love it if you forwarded the list on to your parenting friends or shared it on facebook – trust me, your friends will thank you for the help and you get to be the cool mom (or dad) with all the best resources. It’s a win-win.

Also, don’t forget to follow us on facebook and subscribe to our newsletter for even more recommendations and alerts when we spot our gift guide items on sale!

P.S. See all 10 of our 2015 Gift Guides here.

 

 

P.P.S. Looking to simplify and connect more? We can help! Check out our organizational eBook and printables pack – buy both and save 71% on the eBook!

Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life eBook & 2014 Printables Pack - This is the year I WILL be more organized!!