24 Best Board Games for Kids and Families
Introduce your kids to the unplugged thrill of board games. No apps. No CGI. But the variety of games today is surprisingly modern (even Candy Land and Monopoly have had makeovers). The kids may learn strategy, but mostly, playing games is pointless in the best possible way—something you do as a family to laugh, curse (G-ratedly), and pump your fist in triumph. Here are our top picks to snag for the new year.
Snail's Pace Race
With its six charmingly colorful wooden snails and uncomplicated directions, this game of predicting which snail is likely to make it across the board first is an intro to very friendly competition. The rules reassure young players that "the snail is not discouraged about losing." 2 to 6 players, ages 3+, $22.
If you've ever played spit or solitaire, then you already know the mechanics of this snooze-or-lose consecutive-stacking game. Aim to get rid of all your cards by matching colors, finding numbers, and alternating genders. 2 to 4 players, ages 8+, $12.
It's a smacky slapjack-style game, but the funny sandwich theme helps ease the sting if you lose. Noncompetitive little ones might skip the slapping and create imaginary sammies instead, like bacon, jelly, and pickles, before calling it a cute (if less spirited) day. 2 to 6 players, ages 6+, $13.
Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
Repeat the words in that order, quickly, as you each lay down one card at a time. When the word matches the card, race to smack the pile. It sounds simple, and it is, but you'll feel like a moron, all while cry-laughing. 3 to 8 players, ages 8+, $10.
Which fox stole the pie? Review the suspects and solve the mystery as a team. This is a great cooperative deduction game—a little bit like Clue and a little bit like Guess Who? but with fantastic animal-themed graphics and cleverly interactive components. 2 to 4 players, ages 5+, $20.
Hoot Owl Hoot!
This is a lovely first board game with sweet illustrations, a gentle strategy, and the cozy goal of returning owls to their nest. Varying setups let you determine the challenge level, and the cooperative element takes the pressure off individual players. 2 to 4 players, ages 4+, $16.
Just in case you were worried about cheap knockoffs, FYI, this is "the original leaky pipe card game." And it's fun—not only because of the industrial-plumbing vibe and tiny metal wrenches, but because there's some legit strategy and even a little sabotage. 2 to 4 players, ages 8+, $11.
This is hearts without the heartbreak. Waiting just long enough to play your high cards is all about delayed gratification and thinking ahead; for kids, there's the added delight of squishy pretend marshmallows. 2 to 5 players, ages 10+, $15.
Race to complete ten "phases" (specific hands) in the correct order before your opponents beat you to it. This portable little rummy-type game is engaging but not stressful, making it a perfect first foray into card games beyond "Go fish." 2 to 6 players, ages 7+, $6.
Teach your kids poker—or at least a poker face—while pretending to play a sweet, pet-themed "game of suspense, strategy, and anticipation." Try to lose rats and get cats while keeping your eye on the deck and your intentions to yourself. 2 to 6 players, ages 6+, $10.
Animal Upon Animal
Roll the die and then balance the animals on top of the alligator. Wobbling is fine; just don't let them tumble! The $10 version is adorably tiny, but this original is much easier for small fingers. 2 to 4 players, ages 4+, $25.
This easy dice game introduces kids to the compelling combo of prediction and luck that might be familiar to you from, um, casinos. It's simultaneously brainy and untaxing. Buy extra scorepads because everybody young and old loves this game. 2 to 5 players, ages 8+, $12.
If an engineer had designed a game in consultation with your grandma, it would be Patchwork. But don't let the sewing-bee thematic distract you. You'll need hard-core logic and puzzling skills to piece together the highest-scoring quilt. 2 players, ages 8+, $30.
If tic-tac-toe were actually fun, it would be this game. Get three in a row! How hard could it be? But bigger pieces can gobble smaller ones, and there's no luck involved—just memory and strategy—making it strangely, wonderfully intense. 2 players, ages 5+, $18.
The sushi-themed cards have such adorable graphics that you might imagine this was designed for preschoolers. It wasn't. It's actually swift and sneakily strategic, even though you're just trying to collect the highest-scoring meal combo. 2 to 5 players, ages 8+, $9.
With vibrant boards and tiles, this is a gorgeous game. It's also deceptively clever. You collect sets and create patterns, but the strategies will make you feel, every time, that there's more to Azul than you realized. 2 to 4 players, ages 8+, $40.
Partner Plus Tip: Your youngest players will be in a more sporting mood if they stay hydrated and are well-fed. Having easy drinks and finger foods at the ready can help keep the focus on the fun. Brought to you by Creative Roots.
This is a simple tile-laying game of colors and shapes: a little bit like dominoes and a little bit like Set, but it requires a subtle sudoku-type logic that creeps up on you and makes for tons of replay value. 2 to 4 players, ages 6+, $25.
The game of sweet revenge offers teachable moments about grace and resilience (i.e., your kids will have to deal with being screwed over). A pleasantly absorbing diversion for anyone who can handle a little bad luck and karma. 2 to 4 players, ages 6+, $10.
Expect new art—Princess Frostine has become weirdly hot, and the old Peanut Brittle House is now Dulce de Leche Falls—but no change to the tedium for adults or the fact that it continues to enrapture kids by being all about sweets. 2 to 4 players, ages 3+, $13.
Kids Against Maturity
Racier than Apples to Apples but more innocent than Cards Against Humanity, this is a middle-ground, fill-in-the-blank game. Expect fart jokes as you compete for the funniest phrases. 4+ players, ages 10+, $30.
A mash-up of Uno, Russian roulette, and potty humor, this is a highly interactive card game with comically morose and peculiar animal-themed artwork. To sum up: Try not to get exploded! And also butts. 2 to 5 players, ages 7+, $20.
Like a cross between telephone and Pictionary, this pass-and-play game asks you to draw what you see, guess what you saw, and then reveal the chain of misunderstandings whereby a soccer ball turns into a slice of meatball pizza. 4 to 8 players, ages 12+, $30.
Go ahead and lean right into the deception with this easy sleight-of-hand card game that requires no bluffing and no real strategy—but rewards you with tons of laughter. Colorfully bizarre bug illustrations add to the high jinks. 3 to 5 players, ages 7+, $13.
Maybe you crave the many dull and fighty hours occupied by the original, with your beard growing to the floor while your kids become actual monsters. Then don't try this cards-only version that distills the game into a bracing 15 minutes of realty-themed fun. 2 to 5 players, ages 8+, $8.