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As a fun, frugal, family activity, we recently decided to start a weekly family game night with our kids, ages 7 and 8. There was just one problem… A lot of “family board games” are really boring for the adults! Some of the old classics also took too long to hold everyone’s attention or involved too much reading for the kids. After a lot of trial and error, we found some that the whole family can all really enjoy!
- Ticket to Ride. In this game, you’re trying to build railroads across the country and claim routes between particular cities. There are a variety of versions, but we’ve started with the original because it is a map of the United States and parts of Canada, so there is an added benefit of the kids learning U.S. Geography. We may check out the European version next. It has a large game board, lots of little plastic train pieces, and cards. We like that this game is fairly easy to learn, doesn’t require much reading, up to 5 people can play at once, and it takes us about an hour to finish a game.
- Carcassonne. This game is about building and claiming the largest castles, farms, and roads, during medieval times. The play pieces are sturdy cardboard tiles and little wooden people. This game is fun because it’s always different, since the tiles can be arranged in endless ways. The game instructions show you how to start with the simplest version of the game and make it more complex as the players become more experienced. This is great for families with younger kids, as you can continue with the simpler version until the children are ready. Like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne has many different versions but we started with the original version. If you’re shopping, be aware that Carcassonne also has many expansions like this one that also require the base game to be able to play. For a Christmas gift, this edition looks fun.
- Hedbanz. This game certainly falls into the official “family game” category, but it’s so much fun for all ages. To play, you have to put a plastic headband on (adjustable from peanut-sized kid heads to pumpkin-sized adult heads) and select a card to put in the headband slot. Then you ask your fellow players yes/no questions to guess what’s on your card. The kids love when the parents are too dense to figure out the cards! My husband loves to add extra humor by asking silly questions. For example, instead of asking, “Am I am animal?” he’ll ask, “Do I have a butt?” and everyone cracks up! Since it’s an easy game and up to 6 people can play, it’s fun with guests.
- Pay Day. Since I’m always looking for an excuse to teach my kids about money, we tried out the classic Game of Life, but it didn’t really hold everyone’s attention and took way too long. When we discovered Pay Day (found in like-new condition at a thrift store!), we felt like we found the better alternative. The Pay Day board is a monthly calendar and you can choose how many months you want to play the game. It takes about 20 minutes per month, so you can fit the game play into your available time (or attention spans). Each month, you earn money, spend money, and make financial deals that can pay off. As a teaching aid, I like that it also includes loans with interest. It is for 2-4 players and does require some reading, so younger players may need a little assistance.
- Settlers of Catan. Settlers of Catan is another modern classic like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne. The game play involves collecting resources to be able to build roads and settlements. Although the game is rated ages 12+, it can certainly be played by kids as young as 6-8 years old. We tried the pirate-themed junior version and didn’t feel that it had any advantages over the original version. We do have some problems with the tiled game board getting messed up with overly enthusiastic gameplay, and I have considered purchasing the plastic game board to keep things organized. Settlers of Catan is fun because, like Carcassone, the tiled game board means that the game is always different. The kids also enjoy the little wooden playing pieces and making trades of resources with other players. The maximum number of players for the original game is 4 players, but there is a 5-6 player expansion available, if you want more people to be able to play. If you have a child with a short attention span, be aware that Settlers of Catan is the longest game on this list, taking 1-2 hours for a 4-player game. My 7-year-old son enjoys this game, but struggles with staying engaged until the end.
- Zombie Dice. Zombie Dice is silly and quick. In this game, you are playing as a zombie and your goal is to eat as many brains as possible! The game is a self-contained cup with 13 dice that show brains (if you ate the brains), feet (if your victim ran away), or shotgun blasts (if they shot at you). We love that this game is fun, simple, small for travel, and can be played with an unlimited number of people. It can be made extra entertaining if everyone is encouraged to make sound effects on their turn. Can you say BRAAAAAAAINS?!
- Yahtzee. This classic is a lot of fun for everyone. It does require some math skills, but most kids can handle it with some help or a calculator. There are many different versions, but you can’t go wrong with the original version. We like Yahtzee because it’s easy to learn, exciting (when you get to yell YAHTZEE!!!), and can be played with an unlimited number of players.
- Left Center Right. This game takes about 1 minute to learn and can played by 3 or more players, with a game being completed in about 20 minutes. The game is dice that you roll and chips that get passed around until one person wins the whole “pot”. What makes it extra fun is that you can replace the chips with coins for more excitement. We’ve played with pennies before and it’s funny to see how excited my kids get about winning a pot worth 18 cents! It’s also fun for parties and easy for travel. I recommend going for this version instead of the tube because it’s easier for storage.
- Quirkle. Quirkle is a game of painted wooden tiles with colored shapes on them. The goal is to match up shapes and colors to make sets. The rules are easy to understand, but the game is difficult to master, making it fun for all ages. Since this is a scored game, it can be made more fair for younger players by giving a handicap bonus. My daughter and I particularly like this game because it’s good brain exercise! A game takes about an hour and can be played by 2-4 players.
- Uno Attack. Uno Attack is probably our favorite family game because it just makes us all laugh so much. You’ve probably played the original Uno card game, and it’s the same idea, but with a machine that spits out cards when you need to draw. When you press the button, you don’t know whether you’ll get no cards or a bunch of cards. It’s always a surprise and always gets a chuckle. We have the older version, but there’s also a newer one available.
Our family game time really brings us together and I’m glad that we’ve found games that we all enjoy. Do you have a regular family game night? What are your favorite games? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
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