Board games to keep my tween and child busy?
June 12, 2012 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Looking for (board/card) games my 12 year old (f) and 6 year old (m) children can play and keep themselves occupied for more than five minutes. Or even other activities Is it even possible?

I am having to work from home for the next six weeks and looking for ways my children can stay occupied for a couple of hours a day. I don't want to use the television as a baby sitter (or video games) and

I have them do the usual arts and crafts or imaginary play but what about board games they can play together? It may seem like a stretch since one is a tween and the other is only six, but I'm hoping for some suggestions.

Here's the ones I have tried/do have:
Candyland, Snakes, Cooties, Don't Break the Ice, Uno, and I'm sure Old Maid is there somewhere.

We are living in a very hot area right now, and in a drought so our yard is basically dirt and weeds under the 105+ sun, and watering restrictions means no sprinklers/backyard water fun. So I have to come up with ways to keep them busy so I can get some work done.

I have perused some of the Amazon games sections but looking for other input.

Thank you in advance!
posted by aorkis to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (39 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
We loved playing Life. We named our Spouses and children, we congratulated each other on our graduations, weddings, births etc. We threw "showers". You'll have to play with them to start, but once they get it, they'll play for an hour or so alone, easy. Also Monopoly is fun, I started playing when I was 7.

Rummy is a fun and easy card game, have them play to a certain point value. We started playing Spades and Hearts at around 6 or 7, again, you'll have to coach them at first, but if you have them play to a certain point value (we played all summer long in Arizona) it can seriously occupy a day.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:18 AM on June 12, 2012

I'd recommend checking out Haba games - they're a German company that make lots of cute games for kids. If you have a local game specialist store near to you - or at least a boardgame store website (I'm not sure where people tend to order from in the US) then it might be easier to browse there rather than Amazon.

They might enjoy Carcassonne - it's very easy to play, and involves some simple maths which might be good for your younger child.

Also, I'm not sure if this is popular in the US, but Top Trumps is a quick and fun game. You can get lots of themed packs (I used to like the dinosaur ones). If either of your kids are really into something, the trivia aspect might be fun.
posted by mippy at 8:27 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

A lot of the Cranium brand games work for kids that are either six or twelve. Of course, one of them is going to enjoy it more than the other. Ziggity is a card game that my 11 y.o. still enjoys playing. Zooreeka is a board game that takes a while. Hullaballo is a bit more active but my kid and her friends have enjoyed that from age six to present. Balloon Lagoo skews a bit younger but has four distinct activities.

Another angle to hold their interest is tying it up into a summer game "olympics" so score is kept in various ways over the entire summer. You can award points not just for games but for crafts, reading, chores, etc.

In terms of water, never underestimate filling the tub or sink with a few inches of water and adding a bunch of toys (as long as the 12 year-old is supervising).

Another keep busy item: "We are having [x] for dinner. Make up a restaurant and menu!" You could have a fun collection by summer's end.
posted by mikepop at 8:29 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

That reminds me - there's a Eurogame involving cooking and flipping things in a saucepan that's great fun, but for the life of me I can't remember what it's called. I think that would be a lot of fun for kids.
posted by mippy at 8:31 AM on June 12, 2012

would Miles Bournes be too hard for a 6 year old?

normally with two players it's not as much fun, but i think if you're 6 and 12 it might be fun to give each flat tires and stop signs and such.
posted by sio42 at 8:37 AM on June 12, 2012

i mean Milles Bournes, of course...
posted by sio42 at 8:37 AM on June 12, 2012

Depending on the six year old, some 'adult' board games might be do-able, particularly if your daughter is patient with him. Something like Ticket to Ride requires virtually no reading. You could also handicap more involved games so, using Ticket to Ride as an example, your daughter has to complete her routes or she loses points (as per the rules), but your son doesn't (that might make the game too lopsided, I'm not sure).

My brother and I used to really love playing Mille Bornes on the computer (we only had a computer version) when we were in that age range. (I'm reading the Wikipedia article and thinking 'How the heck will you explain that to a six year old?' but I'm pretty sure my brother wasn't much older when we started playing on the computer. We had never seen the game before, so we had to deduce the rules.)
posted by hoyland at 8:40 AM on June 12, 2012

You might find some useful reviews on the blog Board Game Family—they have quite a few reviews of games that are specifically enjoyed by an older kid playing with a younger sibling. For instance, here's Blokus reviewed by their daughter...I'm not so great at judging ages but she seems to be in the single digits.
posted by bcwinters at 8:42 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

The kids version of Dicecapades is perfect for this. It's basically a ton of different activities and challenges, tied together in the form of a fairly simple board game.
posted by jbickers at 8:44 AM on June 12, 2012

I came to recommend Blockus - I play it with my young nieces and nephews all the time. You might start with the smaller board, and then move to the bigger one as they figure it out. It's really simple.

Other thoughts: kerplunk; dominoes; jacks/marbles; clue; mousetrap; parchessi; trouble.

When I used to babysit in the summers, I would designate each kid a day - on M/W, the girl picked the games; on t/th the boy picked them, and on F I got to pick. That helps when one kid wants to play something that frustrates the other one.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:47 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

My five year old daughter loves Kids Carcassonne - the rules are simplified and she's ruthless when it comes to tile placement (unless she decides she wants to attempt a tied-game outcome). It's not quite so strategic when there's only two players, but it's an awesome gateway game for "real" board gaming that requires mental effort.
posted by clicking the 'Post Comment' button at 8:48 AM on June 12, 2012

Set is good, fast-paced fun. Not sure how a six year old will handle it, but the rules are simple.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:03 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

My eight-year-old gets a kick of of Fluxx and has since he was six or so. The rules change constantly depending on what cards you draw and how you play, so each game is a bit different which keeps him from getting bored. He reads well for his age, though, so it's easy for him to keep track of the rule changes without help; YMMV. If the older kid is generally honest and nice to the younger then she could probably help him keep track of the rules.

Also the kids' version of Apples to Apples can be fun for kids who are into word play, and as a bonus it will probably up your younger kid's vocab and reading skills.

My son also really likes to do Mad Libs (although he often winds up interrupting my work at home every several minutes or so to read them out loud to me).

Also, have you considered getting your kids some Snap Circuits electronics kits? We have the 100 projects one, plus a couple of auxiliary kits including the radio, and in terms of keeping my kid usefully occupied while I work this summer, it has been worth every penny. I don't feel guilty at all about ignoring my kid for an hour to write when at the end of that hour he's like, "Mommy, I just built a sound activated alarm!" Heh.
posted by BlueJae at 9:22 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can use the advanced search at BoardGameGeek to search for games according to criteria. Here are the results for 1) highly rated games 2) appropriate for a six-year old 3) that can be played by two people. You can add more criteria, such as theme or mechanics if you'd like.

In that list, I'd recommend Kids of Carcassonne and Blokus or Blokus Duo. Carrom, Sherlock Deluxe, and the kids' version of Lord of the Rings look interesting.

Story Cubes might work, too.
posted by Boxenmacher at 9:22 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recommend Spot it. It's the first game I've played with my five year old where I didn't have to dumb down at all, and we both have a reasonable chance of winning (without my rigging it). It's nice to have a game where there isn't an age advantage.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:29 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Apples to Apples Junior is fun.

Large, but not insanely detailed, jigsaw puzzles.
posted by Fairchild at 9:32 AM on June 12, 2012

My 7 and 9 year olds currently love Life and Lego. I think Lego is something that kids of all ages (well, 4 and up) can play together, since each builds at their own level.

Also, how about jigsaw puzzles? Not something they can really work on together, but you can get them their own at different levels of difficulty.
posted by yawper at 9:37 AM on June 12, 2012

I was going to recommend some Lego sets. I just spent the weekend with my cousins who have that age difference. The older one would give the younger one some part of the set to put together that was on the easy side, and then when he completed it, she (the older) would add it to the model they were building. It was a nice mix of skill levels. But they could even do separate sets.
posted by bluefly at 9:54 AM on June 12, 2012

We are fans of Gamewright card games. Sleeping Queens is our favorite, but there are a bunch we've never played. It's a simple game, a six year-old can definitely play, but my husband and I enjoy playing with our 11 yo daughter. Seconding jigsaw puzzles!
posted by upatree at 9:57 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yahtzee, maybe.
posted by to recite so charmingly at 10:01 AM on June 12, 2012

Sorry! I have many fond memories of playing it with my brother, and it's actually kinda fun for an adult too, so I bet the two could both have fun with it.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 10:21 AM on June 12, 2012

Seconding Ticket to Ride and Blokus. Qwirkle is fun for multiple ages. We also like Word on the Street, which is a newer category-based word game.

The card game Phase 10 has a bit of a learning curve, but my kid liked it at 6 so yours might too. She also loved Ruckus at that age. It's more fun the more players you add, but still playable with two.
posted by Flannery Culp at 10:23 AM on June 12, 2012

Seconding Spot It, Qwirkle, and any of the Gamewright card games (Sleeping Queens, Too Many Monkeys, and Slamwich were all huge hits at the board game store where I used to work.) I also second Set, with some reservations. I learned to play it around six, and have since taught six year-olds to play it, but it takes a little while to wrap your head around the patterns. How quickly your particular six year-old catches on will depend on his visual/spatial skills and how effectively his sister can teach.

Treasure, Ready, Go! is pretty much my favorite children's game ever, and it's good across a variety of ages. There's no reading involved, and it moves along really fast and involves, among other things, making silly animal noises and playing with blocks. What's not to love there? (We used to joke at my store that it would make a great adult drinking game as well.)

ThinkFun is another company to keep an eye on. They make some board games, but most of their products are solo puzzles that can be done at varying levels of difficulty. Rush Hour is probably their best-known puzzle, but Izzi was my childhood favorite.
posted by ActionPopulated at 10:26 AM on June 12, 2012

Seconding Lego blocks. Doesn't have to be sets (and probably shouldn't be sets for the little one). A big bin of assorted bricks is good for hours and hours of quiet time. The kids create some insanely detailed villages, vehicles and creatures from their imaginations. Kept them quiet across four states, one car trip.
posted by evilmomlady at 10:36 AM on June 12, 2012

Seconding Spot It. It's fun to play with all ages, easy to learn, and fast-paced. Boochie is also a lot of fun. It can be played indoors as long as you have a room that is big enough. You basically have to try to get all of your rings over a ball, but have to do silly things like throw the ring while one elbow is touching the floor or while jumping.
posted by Sal and Richard at 10:45 AM on June 12, 2012

Feed the Kitty.

1910/1912 add ons to ticket to ride (and have them keep score with pen and paper).
posted by tilde at 11:41 AM on June 12, 2012

Seconding or nthing Monopoly. My kids are 8 years apart and they played it together with minimum squabbling starting when the youngest was about 6. Bonus: it takes forever to play.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:47 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]




Chinese Checkers.

I know that tablets and computers are "screen time" but some have board games (chess and ticket to ride) tha twould let them play, take turns, not cheat! That's been the most important feature of the kids playing against each other on the tablet, they can't cheat. :P

The reason I suggested the booster packs for Ticket To Ride is that it adds a lot more and shorter routes, making it easier on the six year old.
posted by tilde at 11:49 AM on June 12, 2012

We had success with our 5 year old with Zombie Dice and Blink when playing with his 10 year old cousin.
posted by plinth at 11:52 AM on June 12, 2012

> would Miles Bournes be too hard for a 6 year old?

My six-year-old gave it a try just this last weekend. She sort of liked it but then wandered away. I think the combination of the Frenchness and the math was too much -- but if the 12-year-old can help, they could have fun.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:05 PM on June 12, 2012

My niece is intellectually disabled and functions at about an 8-year old's level. She competes well against me at Ticket to Ride (one of my favorite games).

Crazy 8s is great for any age. My niece and I also play Dino-opoly (she beats me).
posted by jb at 12:45 PM on June 12, 2012

Games With Hayden should give you some ideas. Depending on the six year old, Dominion or Small World might work.
posted by backwards guitar at 1:17 PM on June 12, 2012

Forbidden Island has been a hit with my 13- and 7-year-old nephews. So has Lost Cities. Both enjoy Slide Five, too.
posted by xedrik at 2:48 PM on June 12, 2012

How do you feel about math games? I can send you instructions for Poison (logical reasoning); Roll 2 Dice (probability); Alphabet Bank (spelling; decimals; money math) and more. My students beg to take the games home with them after we play. Easy to set up too.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:57 PM on June 12, 2012

Parchisi is easy to play and sort of like Sorry. When I was that age Yahtzee was one of my favorites because the matching was easy.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:54 PM on June 12, 2012

Definitely check out Labirynth. It is a maze and trasure collecting game that my wife abd I both love.
posted by theichibun at 8:31 PM on June 12, 2012

We got a lot of mileage out of Citadels and Klutz book of greatest games which is excellent value and your older child should be able to read and explain the rules on their own.
posted by viggorlijah at 12:04 AM on June 13, 2012

cooking and flipping things in a saucepan that's great fun

A La Carte. It's great.

I second Forbidden Island, too. It's co-op so the age difference will matter less.

If you make them play Monopoly I'm calling social services.
posted by liquidindian at 3:25 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

nthing set, Citadels and Carcassone as great games

I thought citadels would be too hard for my niece who's 8, but she got it immediately (and was ruthless) but it does have an assassin and thief so that might worry some. My son and I have been playing citadels for 2 years regularly, he is 12 now. Usually kids start out figuring out one good tactic, but gradually they get more complicated in play.

Set requires concentration, so is excellent to bring out when kids are getting into arguments because they are tired and scattered, it calms everyone down.

I have played Set with kids 6+ with success, and sometimes the young kids have a real knack for it and outwit their older siblings, so they love that.

I carry Citadels and Set in my purse on road trips. Set calms quiet kids down in restaurants, and Citadels gets bored kids mentally engaged and brings up the energy. Neither require a lot of time to set up.

Carcassone can be played co-operatively quite easily, usually the youngest kids don't care about the scoring as much as the best placement. sometimes my son would spend time just making "the best castle map" without doing the actual game, seeing if he could work in every tile.

You would likely need to play the first time with them to get them started, but they are more engaging than any candy-land type game, in my experience.

I also like Hey That's My fish for shorter games.

Zooloretto is good, especially if they like animals. It has good strategy too.
posted by chapps at 11:12 AM on June 24, 2012

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