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The Best Board Games to Play with Kids (While Keeping Your Sanity)

Children playing HABA's Animal Upon Animal game

Board games are a great way to entertain your kids, but you want to have some fun too, right? We’ve looked at the best tabletop games to play with your children that are still thrilling for you too.

After all, as anyone who’s played Chutes & Ladders for the 300th time can attest to, some board games can be pretty dull even if your children love them. All of the games listed here are a ton of fun whether you’re young or old. They also work brilliantly as an introduction to more grown-up tabletop gaming so you’re on the path to creating a board game addict in the future.

Here’s our pick of the best board games to play with kids, while maintaining your sanity.

Best For Cooperative Puzzle Solving: Whowasit? ($35)

Whowasit? Board Game

Cooperation is a valuable life skill and who doesn’t want to encourage their kids to cooperate with each other a little more? The game Whowasit? is a fun way to encourage such healthy habits while also reinforcing memory and tactical skills. Better yet, it’s interesting enough that you’ll enjoy playing along.

The game is set in a mystical castle. The king’s magical ring has been stolen and it’s down to your team of private eyes to figure out who did it. Players accomplish that by talking to the animals around the castle. Designed for kids aged 7 and up, it works well for between two and four players. There’s a lot of replay value too thanks to the electronic clue chest that guides the game along ensuring each playthrough is different. It also supports different difficulty levels so no one is left behind.

Best Tile Based Game: My First Carcassonne ($35)

My First Carcassonne Board Game
Z-Man Games

The popular tile-laying game Carcassonne is a worldwide hit thanks to the simple but elegant game design that’s easy to teach and enjoyable to play. This My First Carcassonne version is ideal for kids from age 4 and up to jump in on the tile-laying fun. Play sessions only take about 20 minutes with no setup to speak of so it’s perfect if your kids are a little impatient (as most are).

The idea is that the streets of Carcassonne are filled with kids trying to catch animals. Rather than needing to count points or deal with the complexities of the original Carcassone game (where you get points for capturing different parts of the tile-world you’re building), players simply place tiles to build the city with every time you close a street with one or more children of your color, you get the chance to place pawns on the board. Be the first to place all your pawns and you win. It’s simple enough that kids of all ages can understand, but also tactical enough that you’ll enjoy it too.

Best For Tactile Gaming: Animal Upon Animal ($21)

Animal Upon Animal
HABA Games

Sometimes it’s good to get more hands-on with a board game, and Animal Upon Animal scratches that itch perfectly. It’s a stacking game for 2 to 4 players, ages 4 and up. Players have to compete to be the first to place all their wooden animals upon the animal pile before anyone else.

The gameplay is quite simple—roll the dice to see how many animals you can place or whether you can add to the alligator base to make the pyramid shape longer. Other variants include having the other players choose which of your animals you can stack. There’s even a solo variant if your child is dying to play but nobody can play at the moment. It’s a really tactile experience and kids are sure to enjoy playing with the animal pieces. It’ll even improve their dexterity skills as they work to be more careful with their placements.

Best For Introducing A Classic: Catan Junior ($20)

Catan Junior Board Game
Catan Studios

Who doesn’t love Catan? Catan Junior is the perfect introduction to Settlers of Catan, streamlining things just right so that your children will be enthralled.

Aimed at kids aged 6 and over, it’s easy enough to learn within about 10-15 minutes. Sessions only take 30 minutes too so they’re quick and fun. Set on a ring of tropical islands with charming names, players must build ships to expand their empire and hold on the world, while receiving more resources as they go along. There’s some shrewd strategy afoot here, but it’s done in a simple enough fashion that your kids can easily pick it up. In the meantime, you won’t be bored either as you still get to partake in a bit of strategic play.

Most Quirky: Rhino Hero ($15)

Rhino Hero Board Game
HABA Games

Rhino Hero is really rather quirky. That’s because it’s a 3D card-stacking game that can grow to over 3 feet tall. Rhino Hero himself is trying to build a skyscraper as tall and solid as possible, and it’s up to kids from aged 5 and above to help him succeed.

The winner is the player who is first to have placed all their roof cards so it’s easy to keep track of how everyone is doing. Some roof cards have different symbols which determine the building process such as what direction can be taken, so there’s a nice tactical edge to the progress of the game. Ultimately though, it’s plenty of fun to see how the tower grows and develops.

Best Traditional Board Game: Ticket to Ride: First Journey ($23)

Ticket to Ride: First Journey
Days of Wonder

If you’re keen to get your children into more traditional board gaming, then you can’t go wrong with Ticket To Ride: First Journey. It’s a simplified version of the classic tabletop game which promises to take less than 30 minutes to play through. Players compete to finish forming six tickets before anyone else.

As in the main game, it’s all about plotting and claiming routes, but it’s a little more colorful and a little more simply done than the original game. That’s because routes are shorter and train cards are drawn straight from the deck, but if you’ve played the original it’ll feel quite familiar. It’s a little more luck based than the full game, but it’s a great bridge between a kid’s game and a more mature experience.

Best For Teaching Logic Skills: Outfoxed ($20)

Outfoxed Board Game

Many games teach your children valuable logic skills but we think Outfoxed does it best. It’s a cooperative whodunnit game where kids have to find out who stole Mrs. Plumpert’s prized pot pie. It’s as cute as it sounds and sort of plays out like Clue for kids. There are suspect cards with the picture and name of a fox, along with clues that can be found and pieced together.

The clues are simple things like how the thief might wear glasses or a scarf, or they might possess an umbrella. It’s all stuff that young children can put together and deduce who did what. It’s a little luck based because it also uses dice for figuring out what happens next, but it’s a rewarding experience and deceptively educational.

Best Fantasy Game: Dragonwood ($15)

Dragonwood Board Game

If your kids love the idea of delving into a fantasy world then you can’t go wrong with Dragonwood. Equally good for young and old, players must explore the mysterious forest of Dragonwood in a bid to fight off monsters and find enchantments.

Each card is beautifully illustrated and it’s a delightful world to inhabit. There’s a certain amount of luck involved but strategy is important too. It’s a great way of encouraging your kids to use their imagination and they can even spend some time creating their own stories as they go along. Each session only takes about 20 minutes to complete too.

Jennifer Allen Jennifer Allen
Jennifer is a freelance writer for ReviewGeek. In the past decade, she's also written for Wareable, TechRadar, Mashable, Eurogamer, Gamasutra, Playboy, and PCWorld. Read Full Bio »