We like playing board games as a family, and it’s always a fun challenge to find age-appropriate board games that all of us will enjoy. It’s easier to find age-appropriate games that only my daughter, Lark, will enjoy, and we play those, too — but the sweet spot is when everyone is genuinely engaged.
Looking over our collection, these 12 games that have become family favorites. It’s a pretty varied mix, including dexterity, party, memory, and abstract games, but the one thing that unites them is that actual decisions are involved, and those decisions are enjoyable for all of us. Some are games I mentally categorize as grown-up games, but my kiddo enjoys them too.
These games, with my ratings, are listed below in alphabetical order. (You can see all of my current ratings on BoardGameGeek, too.)
- Animal Upon Animal (8/10; paid link) is right on the edge of the “dexterity games I count among my non-kids’ games” line. It’s Haba, so the pieces are fantastic and the game is quick, fun, and accessible, and it plays well with 2-4.
- Click Clack Lumberjack (8/10; paid link
- ), also called Toc Toc Woodman, is one of my overall favorite dexterity games, not just among kids’ games. It requires a balance of finesse and confidence that neatly levels the playing field in mixed-age groups.
- Connect Four (6/10; paid link
- ) is the lowest-rated game on this list, and a hoary old chestnut that has been eclipsed by many, many other games…but it takes like two minutes to play, and my daughter loves it. It’s been a good one for observing (and teaching) her about tactics.
- Don’t Break the Ice (7/10; paid link
- ) is another lightning-quick two-player dexterity game that tends to get pretty same-y, but it’s so short that we usually play several times in a row anyway.
- Gobblet Gobblers (8/10; paid link
- ) is an abstract two-player game that makes Tic-tac-toe interesting by giving you the option of covering each others’ pieces. It’s a simple change, but it makes all the difference — and a game still only takes a couple of minutes. We find ourselves playing several times in a row.
- Hold On Scooby-Doo (7/10; paid link
- ) is a light dexterity game for two that takes about as long to set up as it does to play. It’s just tricky enough to have been fun for several years, and the theme is cute.
- Labyrinth (7/10; paid link
- ) is a solid game, and it scales extremely well with age. When my daughter was little, we gave her all sorts of advantages; as she’s aged, we’ve removed them to keep it competitive. This is her overall favorite game, at least for the past year or two.
- The Magic Labyrinth (9/10; paid link
- ) is the prettiest game on this list, and has the cleverest board. Its use of magnets and big, pleasing pieces is ingenious, and it’s probably the only memory game I genuinely enjoy. My kiddo is very good at this one.
- My First Carcassonne (8/10; paid link
- ) is one I wish my daughter picked more often, because the decisions are interesting and it nudges up against other games — like Carcassonne (paid link) — that drift into grown-up territory. It’s a beautiful game, too, another one that plays well with 2-4.
- Reverse Charades (9/10; paid link
- ) is one of our overall favorite party games with adults, but my daughter likes it, too. She doesn’t know all of the cards, but tends to pick them up quickly once her teammates start acting things out.
- Rhino Hero (8/10; paid link
- ) is a hoot, a great card-based dexterity game with a tiny footprint, and one I happily bring to parties. It’s solid with two players, and with more than two. (I bet it would be fun drunk, too.)
- Suspend (8/10; paid link
- ) is another example of dexterity being the “great leveler” in kids’ games played with the whole family. It starts out easy, but the whole assemblage turns into a hot mess pretty quickly, and it’s a blast.
This list will probably look different in a year, never mind in another few years, but for now it’s a good snapshot of this particular sweet spot in my family — the games we all enjoy, and in many cases have enjoyed for the past few years.
The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.