Family board games for adults and little kids
December 16, 2013 1:56 PM   Subscribe

This holiday season, I'm thinking about giving the gift of board games. Most of my friends (adults in their 30s - 50s) have little kids (2-6 years old). Do you have any board game recommendations for a family with kids around that age, that everyone can play together? Card games, or heck any other games are good, too. Thanks!
posted by lillygog to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Catan Junior. We have a 7 year old and a 3 year old, and the 7 year old ADORES it (it's Settlers of Catan with the strategy simplified), but the setup isn't so finicky that the 3 year old can upend the whole game casually.
posted by KathrynT at 2:00 PM on December 16, 2013

Rat-a-tat-Cat is great, though more toward the 6 end of your spectrum. We also like Eleminis.

Pictureka would be good as well.
posted by altopower at 2:04 PM on December 16, 2013

SpotIt is a surprisingly fun card game with the added advantage that kids seem to be just as good if not better at it than adults (or at least this adult).
posted by H. Roark at 2:12 PM on December 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

My family (all adults) played Dixit and absolutely loved it -- I think it could work really well with little kids, too, especially on teams; there's no reading and there are lovely and interesting pictures.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 2:13 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Jenga and, in a similar vein, Animal Upon Animal.
posted by jeather at 2:14 PM on December 16, 2013

Blokus is for ages 5 and up. We had a good time with a 3 year old who was helped by his mom.
posted by jillithd at 2:14 PM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

My kids are 6 and 4 and they love:

Snail's Pace Race (perfect for a pre-reader)
Monopoly Junior
Sleeping Queens (a card game)

Don't be afraid to buy something that might at first strike you as "too babyish" for a 6 or 7-year-old. Sometimes it is fun for them to "play down" with younger kids.
posted by hush at 2:16 PM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Carcassonne (I should add--because it can be played cooperatively!)
posted by phunniemee at 2:33 PM on December 16, 2013

We love the classic "car racing" card game Mille Borne. But it's even more fun for the kids now that there is a board game version with little cars etc. It says 5+ but we've been playing this with my son since he was about 3 with simplified house rules.

Pengoloo is a simple color memory game that's great for the youngest kids, but the penguins and eggs make it really charming and fun for anyone.

Sequence for Kids has also been a big hit in our house.
posted by Kabanos at 2:33 PM on December 16, 2013

Wackee Six is fast-paced, fun, and very easy to grasp if you can distinguish colors and count to 13.
posted by aparrish at 2:36 PM on December 16, 2013

Connect 4 is more fun than you might think.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:45 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Fairchild at 2:55 PM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Blokus is good.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:35 PM on December 16, 2013

Best answer: Busytown, based on the Richard Scarry books, was my son's favorite game when he was four and five. Unlike most games, everyone plays together as a team, so you don't have the hurt feelings and tears you get sometimes with other games
posted by javelina at 3:36 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Dixit.

Ticket to Ride is fun and not too complex. Good for a mixed-age group.

Skip-Bo is a great card game by the makers of Uno.

Bananagrams is a fun, faced-paced Scrabble-esque game.
posted by duffell at 3:37 PM on December 16, 2013

posted by headnsouth at 3:37 PM on December 16, 2013

Enchanted forest is a favorite with kids in my circles. Also, another Ravensburger game, Labyrinth. My friends and I play Labyrinth all the time, but it is easy enough for kids to play as well.
posted by amelliferae at 3:38 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Set is a good one for kids and adults to play together, because it's fun for adults, but an adult won't necessarily be better at it. But most kids would probably need to be at least 6, maybe a bit older, to play it, so it sounds like it might work better for your friends in a couple of years than now.

Labyrinth is another one that's reasonably entertaining for adults as well as kids. Kids as young as 3 or 4 can play it, though they probably won't be able to use much strategy.
posted by Redstart at 3:42 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

With fair warning for the complexity your kids can handle, my 4 year old loves the following games. He gets all of them, but does sometimes need a little prompting. My 6 year old also likes these but sometimes needs a little prompting. A 2 year old is a lost cause outside of candyland on the game front. Anyway, on to the list:
-The Amazing Labyrinth --a neat maze making game where you slide the board around to change it, a good one to "help" kids with too.
-Busytown -- the board is HUGE and it's basically a big cooperative where's waldo game. A great one.
-The Little Prince: Make me a Planet -- You'll have to explain what they are looking for, but they'll pick up on it. The game is adorable.
-Forbidden Island -- I know what you're thinking, 10+? But it's a cooperative game so you help them along and the rules aren't so hard to grasp. My kids really like flipping the tiles.
-Catan Jr -- Pirates and matching stuff!
-Enchanted Forest -- An elaborate memory game.
posted by malphigian at 3:44 PM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Gobblet Gobblers has a lot going for it; it's easy to learn but there's a lot of strategizing possible. And it's cute.

Avoid Scrabble Junior -- it's cheaply made and badly designed and very boring for the kid and the adult.
posted by kmennie at 3:44 PM on December 16, 2013

I favourited Blockus above, and that's my number one pick. In addition I would recommend some of the classics: Connect 4, Trouble/Sorry, Jenga, Dominos and Uno. Snakes and Ladders is still popular with the kids at our place though not so much the adults. Another good one for little kids is Chicky-boom. If you are ok with people playing alone or cooperatively I'd also recommend Rush Hour and Castle Logix.
posted by Cuke at 4:21 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: - Gamewright's Rat-A-Tat Cat - Oh my goodness. Simple, easy to learn, yet fun fun fun! My daughter has been addicted to this game for YEARS... and she's 11 now.
- Amazing Labyrinth - Yes, a 6yo can learn this. Advice, though - instead of typical play with cards face down, searched for one-at-a-time, let the youngster rules be face up, go to treasures in any order. (Note, this can *really* help level the playing field if it's a kid vs. adult game... at least til the kid gets the hang of it, and then you'll have to revert to regular rules to have a fair chance!)
- Catch The Match - Sheesh, this type of game may be intended for the little ones, but I tell you, we've had me plus kids between 10-17 playing... and it doesn't get old. Play just gets faster.
- Spot-It - Similar to Catch The Match
- Cranium Cariboo - I have no idea why the price on Amazon is insane. It's a great game, but not THAT great!
- My daughter insists Don't Break The Ice! should be on this list. I'm not a fan, but her and her 13 yo brother still play it - and it's for the very young.
- Another Gamewright game, Hisss - Depending on whether the 2 is barely 2, or almost 3, they might not be ready for this one... but it's another goodie that has a long (forever?) lifespan.

And rather than list them all, here's a link to a by-age listing of Gamewright games.

Old standbys like Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Memory (in whatever flavor appeals) are classics for a reason... they should be in every family's repertoire.

And one last little piece of advice that no one ever takes, but I'm going to include it anyway, on the off chance someone listens... Cribbage. Six is plenty old enough to learn it, and rather than it be "they don't know enough math to play", it can be "Cribbage will teach them math." Along with that - the Pyramid solitaire game. The mental math that those two games encourage, soaked in early enough, can do huge amounts for later math ability.
posted by stormyteal at 4:27 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Sequence for Kids. That's my favorite.
posted by Dansaman at 4:37 PM on December 16, 2013

It may not be as hip and adult-appealing as some of these other games, but you're talking 2 to 6 year olds and some of the games listed above are a stretch even for 6.

The Cupcake Game is one that I've just heard about a 3/4 year old enjoying. Apparently if you don't get how the game works you can still enjoy playing with the pieces.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:40 PM on December 16, 2013

Uno is the best!
posted by ravioli at 4:41 PM on December 16, 2013

The kids version of Apples to Apples is fun (not a board game exactly though). It's the same rules but with kid-friendly words like "pajamas" and "peanut butter."
posted by radioamy at 4:48 PM on December 16, 2013

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel
and Busytown (linked above)!
posted by a22lamia at 6:35 PM on December 16, 2013

Go Away Monster! is great for preschoolers. We got it for my then-three-year-old, and he got it immediately; our 18-month-old watched us play about four games and then demanded to play too, shouting "GO AY MONNER!" (Go away, monster!) It's not really a super-entertaining game for adults, but rounds last about five minutes so it's quick, and a 6-year-old would be totally capable of "running" the game for younger siblings/cousins/friends, instead of an adult. It has also really helped my kids understand the idea of taking turns. (You should be able to find it a LOT cheaper than that amazon link, it's like a $12 game.)

Once Upon A Time is a card game where you get cards of story elements and must play your cards by working them into the collaboratively-told story. Little kids are GOOD at this game and can play on an equal level with adults. As long as you aren't too strict about how people "steal" the story (you jump in on top of someone else's narrative with your card that fits), 5-year-olds are totally competitive with adults, and smaller children can sit on an adult's lap and help them come up with their story (and do a good job at that part, because THEY KNOW how to work a magic feather into a story!). It's also a LOT of fun for a group of adults. There are even blank cards where you can put personal story elements -- like a pet cat, or a funny family story, or whatever -- to get used in the story.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:17 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aquarius is good for kids. Kinda like dominoes, but it's a card game. Its creators have produced a great many other table-top games.
posted by Rash at 7:36 PM on December 16, 2013

We play Busytown and Hoot Owl Hoot with our 4- & 6-year olds. Hoot Owl is like a less-annoying version of Candyland and is played cooperatively, so everyone wins or loses together.
posted by belladonna at 5:10 AM on December 17, 2013

Yahtzee can work since really it is just rolling dice and making decisions. There are younger versions of that work on a picture basis - we had a Mickey Mouse version. Still fun. Simple games like Parcheesi where you just roll the dice and move are good and the taking pieces can be fun for the adults.

This is an incredible age difference though. It is really hard to find a game suitable for 2 and 3 year olds who don't have attention span naturally that adults like. Once you get to a 4 year old with a longer attention span you have many more options. I suggest a partner approach so the youngest can wander off as they wish. 2 year olds might still eat the game pieces so be careful!
posted by RoadScholar at 6:01 AM on December 17, 2013

Telestrations was a huge hit at a recent game night, with a 7 year old, a couple teenagers, and three twenty-somethings playing. It's a cross between pictionary and telephone, and is actually better/funnier the worse you are at drawing.
posted by PearlRose at 6:14 AM on December 17, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, these are all awesome! I marked best answers for the games I thought would work well for my crowd, but this is just all wonderfully helpful. MeFi is the best!
posted by lillygog at 7:39 PM on December 23, 2013

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