Board games are not only lots of fun to play, they also provide lots of learning opportunities for kids. Even better, play them with your kids and they will benefit from quality time too.
There are hundreds of board games to choose from. Here are some of our favourites.
Monopoly is probably the most famous board game and is sold around the world with too many variations to mention – you name any TV show/film/country and there’s a Monopoly game for it. Originally called ‘The Landlords Game’, it was invented in 1906 by Lizzie Magie as a way of demonstrating the pitfalls of monopolies, ie, the domination of a market by a single entity – or in most cases in our house, the domination of one darn child who always seems to end up with Park Lane and Mayfair! The game was originally based on the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey, but the London version has become the most popular for many players. The British SIS had a special edition made for World War Two prisoners of war to help them escape!
How to play: Each player throws a dice and moves around the board, buying properties and trying to achieve the most wealth. When another player lands on your property they pay you rent.
Learning benefits for kids: Experience with handling money is one of the main learning benefits, including giving change and saving for purchases. Focus is required in order to bill those landing on your properties. With different versions available, including one with New Zealand places, the game can also have some geographical learning opportunities. Younger kids can enjoy the game with some assistance and will learn counting, colours, and money skills.
Things to know: This game can be long! It can also get a bit frustrating when you’re constantly paying that monopolistic magnate in the corner and can’t seem to claw your way out of debt – great for real-world learning, not so great if your kid has a competitive streak. Setting a time limit is often a good idea and then whoever has the most money at the predetermined time wins. For older kids you can also get into negotating property transfers to complete sets.
Suggested ages: 8 and above.
Cluedo (or Clue in America) is a murder mystery game and is ingrained in pop-culture thanks to its well-known process of naming a suspect, room and weapon. It was Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the knife!
How to play: Using dice throws, each player moves around the different rooms in the house, making allegations about who they think may have committed a murder, which room the crime occurred and which weapon was used. Through the process of elimination of suspect, room and weapon cards held by other players the truth is revealed – and whoever discovers it first is the winner.
Learning benefits for kids: This game is all about observation and logical thinking. You need to pay attention to what other players ask, as well as the answers that you are provided with.
Things to know: When your kids get older and more familiar with the gameplay, be prepared for bluffs and double-bluffs!
Suggested ages: 8 and above.
Similar to games like Ludo, Sorry!, and Pachisi, Trouble is a fast-paced race game that even young kids can enjoy. It’s quick to learn and reasonably quick to play.
How to play: Each player has four counters that they move around a board from their own start space to home by using the pop-o-matic – a dice held within a popping dome. By landing on another player’s counter you send them back to the start. First player to get all four counters home is the winner.
Learning benefits for kids: Counting is the biggest learning opportunity with Trouble. Kids can also use decision making to decide which piece to move to either get themselves away from an opponent or perhaps take out another player.
Things to know: The six. The infuriating, is-there-even-one-on-this-dice six!! In order to bring a piece out of start and onto the game circuit you have to roll a six. This can sometimes take a while and can lead to some frustration and declarations of the game being “not fair”. You have been warned.
Suggested ages: 4 and above.
This guessing game was all the rage back when it was released in the 80s. It only requires two players.
How to play: Each player has a board with flip-down cards representing all of the characters in the game. At the beginning, each player draws a character and the other player has to guess who it is by asking questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, ie “Is your person wearing a hat?”. Through the process of elimination each player determines who their opponent’s mystery character is. First to guess the name correctly wins.
Learning benefits for kids: Obviously observation is key in Guess Who? but the game also develops listening and decision-making skills.
Things to know: This is a quick game making it ideal when you only have a short amount of time to play. As it is only two player this also means that kids can take turns without having to wait a long time.
Suggested ages: 6 and above.
Originally a pencil and paper game dating back to World War I, the interactive board game version was released in the late 60s.
How to play: The two players secretly set out their fleet of ships on a grid that is kept out of sight of their opponent. Players take turns at guessing a co-ordinate on the board in attempts to hit their opponents fleet. Players reply with a ‘hit’ or ‘miss’ (followed by a maniacal laugh!). First fleet to be destroyed loses.
Learning benefits for kids: Battleship is a great game for learning maths and patterns. Selecting and checking grid co-ordinates requires focus and deciding where to fire the next torpedo develops logical thinking.
Things to know: The game is available as an electronic version to add sounds and lights to the battle!
Suggested ages: 8 and above.
More of our favourite board games for kids
Pictionary: Like charades but with drawings. Great for kids who are visual learners.
Connect 4: Take turns at inserting counters into a frame to make four in a row. Builds decision-making and observation skills.
Snakes & Ladders: A simple board game where counters are moved from 1 to 100 at the roll of a dice. Can be heaps of fun for younger kids and builds numeracy.
Chess / checkers: Chess requires a fair bit of know-how but is great for kids who like to plan their opponent’s demise! It builds on pattern recognition and decision-making. Checkers on the other hand is a fair bit easier to learn but still requires some forward planning to be successful.
Jenga: Take turns at carefully removing a block from the tower and placing at the top. Balance and a steady hand are important!
Written by Julie Scanlon
Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire.
Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”