Our Favorite Family Board Games that are also Educational
Winter is definitely the time of year when we play more family board games and add new ones to our arsenal.
We’ve added a few new ones to our collection already this winter and the kids are getting a few more for Christmas in a few weeks so I wanted to write a new game post. I’ve written a couple in the past but we keep adding new games!
My favorite things about games are that they are fun but also usually sneakily educational, which great for the normal family and extra awesome for homeschool families (game schooling is definitely a legit thing).
Specific skills vary from game to game but some of the skills kids learn when playing games include:
- developing fine motor skills
- social skills
- learning how to win or lose graciously
- following directions
- math skills
- deductive reasoning
- and lots more!
Personally, I gravitate towards cooperative games because I’m not competitive but we have a number of good non-co-op games as well. What I don’t like is the old school games I grew up playing: Sorry, Trouble, MONOPOLY!
(Okay, so we actually own Monopoly and it’s great for math skills but I always just want to bang my head against the wall because I definitely over-played it as a child.)
UPDATE: November 2022 – I’ve added in a bunch of new games we’ve been loving!
We play a lot of advanced games (for age 10+) with our kids (who are currently 5 & 8), often we can play the game the way it was meant to be played and then every now and then we modify the rules a bit to be able to allow them to play. This means we usually get to play games that are a lot more interesting than games meant for their ages, which means we play games more often because as parents we aren’t dreading playing boring kids games.
This list will be the new master games list here on the blog and I will keep it updated with our new games throughout the year (watch for more added after Christmas).
2020 UPDATE: My kids are now 7 & 10 and I’ve added some more games to the list!
2022 UPDATE: My kids are now 9 & 12 and I’ve added even MORE games to the list! (The newest additions are at the top of the list this time)
If you have game suggestions for us I would love for you to leave them in the comments at the bottom of the post!
OUR FAVORITE FAMILY BOARD GAMES TO PLAY WITH ELEMENTARY & MIDDLE SCHOOL CHILDREN
Cover Your Assests
GREAT FOR AGES 7+
We rented this one from a local game store and it was one we quickly knew we needed to add to our collection, it’s fast and fun!
Compete by building a stack of matching asset cards. Be careful! Your top set can be stolen by other players, making it more valuable! Fun for experienced players, as well as those stealing their first asset!
This was another one we rented, and I really enjoyed, I hope to buy a copy soon!
Make careful choices on how and where to place new bear enclosures and other buildings. Would they like another polar bear enclosure or a koala house? The park visitors will sure get hungry, so you must build them a food street as well. Whatever your choices are, you must obtain your next building permit and use your land wisely!
GREAT FOR AGES 7+
Okay, I’ll admit: I’m a little biased on this one, I’ve played this game quite a few times and I’ve won every.single.time. I do think this would make the list even if I didn’t dominate. Eventually I’ll have to lose . . .
Kingdomino uses tiles with two sections, similar to Dominoes. Each turn, each player will select a new domino to connect to their existing kingdom, making sure at least one of its sides connects to a matching terrain type already in play. The order of who picks first depends on which tile was previously chosen, with better tiles forcing players to pick later in the next round. The game ends when each player has completed a 5×5 grid (or failed to do so), and points are counted based on the number of connecting tiles and valuable crown symbols.
Burgle Bros 2: Casino Capers
GREAT FOR AGES 9+
We’ve played the app version of this game for a long time so last year we bought Burgle Bros 2. As of writing this I cannot find a place it can be purchased online, I will update it if I find somewhere!
The Burgle Bros are back at it. Never one to turn down a challenging heist, they have decided to take down a string of casinos. But this is no office job—tougher safes, tightened security, and, perhaps worst of all, you’ll be working during the day!
Flash Point Fire Rescue
GREAT FOR AGES 7+
We got this one recently and the kids have loved playing it. There is an easy version along with a harder one. We can save the people in the easier version but currently we aren’t good enough firemen to save them in the hard version.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a fully cooperative game, everyone plays on the same firefighting team – win or lose together. Every turn is filled with the tension of having to fight the fire back rescuing victims or investigating points of interest. Players can ride the ambulance to safety or fire the engine’s deck gun in a desperate attempt to control the blaze.
GREAT FOR AGES 7+
This game is all about deductive reasoning! A cat has committed a crime and they give clues so you can figure out which cat done it!
Cat Crimes is one of ThinkFun’s most popular stem toys for boys and girls. It’s a cat themed logic game that comes with 60 challenges of increasing difficulty, from beginner to expert, and makes a great birthday or holiday present for kids who like puzzles, smart games and challenging activities. Cat Crimes is made with high quality components, and comes with a very clear and easy to understand instruction manual – you’ll be able to play within minutes of opening the box. Like all of ThinkFun’s games, Cat Crimes has an educational aspect – it’s built to develop critical thinking skills and ties into STEM subjects like math and formal logic. Playing through the increasingly difficult brain teaser style challenges will sharpen your mind by improving logical reasoning, spatial reasoning and planning skills, all through fun gameplay.
GREAT FOR AGES 4-8
Raeca got this one for Christmas when she was 5 or 6 and I’m pretty sure we played it 30 times in the first two weeks!
Mrs. Plumpert’s prized pot pie has gone missing, and now it’s a chicken chase to crack the case! In Outfoxed, you move around the board to gather clues, then use the special evidence scanner to rule out suspects. You have to work together quickly because the guilty fox is high-tailing it towards the exit! Will you halt the hungry hooligan before it flies the coop or will you be outfoxed?
GREAT FOR AGES 6+
This is one of our newest games and we are all really enjoying it. It’s fairly quick to set up (after the first time where you have to assemble the trains), quick to play (I think it’s 15-20 minutes) and yet hilarious and fun. If you are against robbing trains and punching and shooting people this isn’t the game for you, but if it sounds like a smashing good time I’d highly recommend it. I think this is a game that everyone in our family enjoys a lot.
It is 1899 and the Union Pacific Express is headed to the Nice Valley Coal Company to deliver their payroll and 47 passengers. Suddenly the train is attacked by thievin’ bandits! Will the outlaws keep their cool or will Marshal Samuel Ford save the day and prevent the robbery? Players will plan ahead and play cards to steal the most loot, shoot their opponents, move around the train and elude Marshal Ford. Will you be the richest bandit in the outlaw gang?
GREAT FOR AGES 7+
This was probably the first co-op game my kids played. It’s a little more intense than Forbidden Island, Raeca (8) can play it no problem but it’s a little harder for Ephraim (5), so for that reason we recently got them Forbidden Island.
Gear up for a thrilling adventure to recover a legendary flying machine buried deep in the ruins of an ancient desert city. You’ll need to coordinate with your teammates and use every available resource if you hope to survive the scorching heat and relentless sandstorm. Find the flying machine and escape before you all become permanent artifacts of the forbidden desert!
GREAT FOR AGES 8+
We bought the kids this one for Christmas last year and it’s quickly becoming my favorite game. The suggested age is 10+ but both my kids play (they were 4 & 7 at the time of getting it), it’s a co-op game and all your cards are laid out for all to see so while Ephraim doesn’t get all the strategy behind the game we can help him by showing him which cards to play. And he always enjoys fighting the monsters. 🙂
Castle Panic is a cooperative tower defense board game for 1 to 6 players, ages 10 and up. The co-op element makes Castle Panic a great family game and the perfect kick-off for your weekly game night. You must work together to defend your Castle, in the center of the board, from Monsters that attack out of the forest, at the edges of the board. Trade cards, hit and slay Monsters, and plan strategies together to keep your Castle towers intact.
GREAT FOR AGES 8+
This is a new game for us and we’ve been having a lot of fun playing as a family. It’s both simple and complex at the same time!
Gridopolis is a revolutionary new 3D strategy game and system. With only 7 basic parts, you can play many games or design your own.
Use the modular pieces to build a gridset. Place your nodes and markers and you’re ready to play. Win by being the last player standing, or play a timed game with points. Eliminate opponents by jumping over them – in any direction or dimension. When it’s your turn, you can move, jump – OR build. Gridopolis uses a blend of rules from checkers, chess and even tic-tac-toe.
Playing Mice & Mystics
Mice & Mystics
GREAT FOR AGES 8+
This is probably the most complex game we play with the kids right now, it’s a co-op game we all play together as a family. I like that it has a story with it and every round we play we learn more about the story. It definitely takes fairly long to set up and play though. It’s a good one during the winter when you’ve got a few days off.
In Mice and Mystics players take on the roles of those still loyal to the king – but to escape the clutches of Vanestra, they have been turned into mice! Play as cunning field mice who must race through a castle now twenty times larger than before. The castle would be a dangerous place with Vanestra’s minions in control, but now countless other terrors also await heroes who are but the size of figs. Play as nimble Prince Collin and fence your way past your foes, or try Nez Bellows, the burly smith. Confound your foes as the wizened old mouse Maginos, or protect your companions as Tilda, the castle’s former healer. Every player will have a vital role in the quest to warn the king, and it will take careful planning to find Vanestra’s weakness and defeat her.
Pandemic: The Cure
GREAT FOR AGES 6+
Another fun co-op game we like to play as a family. We also just recently added the Experimental Meds expansion and that has added another fun aspect to the game.
Pandemic: The Cure, a dice-based version of the popular Pandemic board game, sets up in less than a minute and plays in 30 minutes. As in the board game, four diseases threaten the world and it’s up to your team to save humanity. You and your team must keep the world’s hotspots in check before they break out of control, while researching cures to the four plagues. Players roll dice each turn to determine the actions available to them. They can fly and sail between the six major population centers of the world, treat disease in their current region, collect samples for further study, and exchange knowledge to help them in their goal of discovering cures. Each player takes on a different role that has its own unique set of dice and abilities – and players must take advantage of their specializations if they are to have any hope of winning the game.
GREAT FOR AGES 5+
Circuit Maze is perfect for those science minded kids! Ephraim loves figuring out the circuit and making it light up!
Your logic skills and sequential reasoning will light up with Circuit Maze! Your goal is to arrange tokens and create a real circuit to light up the Beacons. Circuit building while solving challenges provides a boost of brainpower and a fun education in electronics. With 60 challenges, ranging in difficulty, this logic game will provide budding electrical engineers with hours of electrifying fun and intense learning.
Playing Robot Turtles
GREAT FOR AGES 4+
This game teaches kids 4+ the ins and outs of programming in a fun, tactile game. Perfect for 2-5 players, this game has levels of increasing difficulty, introducing obstacles and more complex Code Cards. Beginner to Advanced levels will make it a family favorite for many years!
Playing On the Brink
On the Brink
Raeca had the unique experience of being a game tester as they were developing this game! After your kids have mastered Robot Turtles this one is a great next step.
Can you keep your robot on the brink? In this hands-on game you get to play programmer building “procedures” that guide your robot along a path from start to finish. There are 40 challenges picturing colored paths. The colors signify moves for your robot to follow. Your job? Finding the correct sequence of moves for each color. To do so you’ll need to flex your forward thinking and problem solving muscles. On the Brink takes the coding concept of sequencing to the next level through its multi-challenge format. The beginner challenges introduce sequencing in its simplest form so that you’ll become a real master. By the time you get to the advanced level you’ll be ready to build complex procedures using sequences within sequences—now that’s thinking like a true programmer!
I love the size of this game (small – it’s just cards), it makes it great for throwing in the bag for trips and is excellent for teaching math skills – adding and multiplying when you have to figure out your score each round.
Pass the sushi! In this fast-playing card game, the goal is to grab the best combination of sushi dishes as they whiz by. Score points for making the most maki rolls or for collecting a full set of sashimi. Dip your favorite nigiri in wasabi to triple its value. But be sure to leave room for dessert or else you’ll eat into your score!
Tsuro of the Seas
Tsuro is a super simple game in concept but I love how it makes the kids think about the affects their actions will have, if they play the wrong card they may just steer their ship right off the board!
In Tsuro of the Seas, players sail the treacherous waves of the Mystic Seas in an engaging game of adventure and suspense! As the captain of one of the Emperor’s mighty Red Seal ships, you will chart your course with wake tiles, taking great care to avoid your opponents’ ships… and the monstrous Daikaiju lurking among the waves. Guide your ship with a steady hand and be the last captain sailing the Mystic Seas to win!
GREAT FOR AGES 10+
Fuse is one of the games we have modified the rules for a little bit for Raeca to join in. It is a speed game and involves a number of math concepts (greater than, random addition facts) but incorporates it all in a fun way – trying to diffuse a bomb, so it never feels like an educational game.
Fuse is a real time cooperative dice game where friends work together to save their ship from destruction! Bombs have been detected on-board, and the ship’s computer has begun to countdown. You have been called into action to neutralize the threat.
GREAT FOR AGES 8+
This is a fairly new-to-us game but it’s been enjoyable! It’s a logic/deductive reasoning game and I love these kinds of things. When we first opened the box and I was teaching Rae how to play it took a lot of restraint on my part not to push her aside and play it myself. Ha, what a great parent I am! Plus the game pieces are very nicely built, wooden and the challenge cards slide right into the base for easy storage which is nice.
Chroma Cube is one of those deduction puzzles that challenges solvers to use their deductive reasoning skills by showing the position of some color cubes, and giving clues that can be used to deduce where the other colors go.
Ticket to Ride
We have the Canada/US – Days of Wonder version of Ticket to Ride but I wish we had the Europe version – because to me, European geography is more interesting.
October 2, 1900 – it’s 28 years to the day that noted London eccentric, Phileas Fogg accepted and then won a bet that he could travel “Around the World in 80 Days.” Now, at the dawn of the century, some old friends have gathered to celebrate Fogg’s impetuous and lucrative gamble – and to propose a new wager of their own. The stakes: $1 million in a winner-takes-all competition. The objective: to see the most cities in North America – in just 7 days. Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure game. Players collect train cards that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway.
This is the perfect step for kids who are not writing yet or not writing very well as the words are on the board and you just have to collect the letters. Plus, when they are ready to spell you can flip the board over and have an actual game of Scrabble.
What a great way for kids to play America’s favorite word game! Kid-sized words and colorful pictures make it fun to match letter tiles to words on the grid. Players collect scoring chips for completing words. When all of the tiles have been placed on the board, the player with the most chips wins! It’s letter-matching fun for your little one! Flip over the game board for an advanced game where players create their own words; the game grows with the kids!
Sometimes we just play with the Nab-It letter tiles . . .
I like any game where we can practice spelling in a sneaky way, Nab-It is like Scrabble with a twist.
Getting the most words gives you the “last word” in this fun family game! Link your colored tiles to create words crossword-style and then steal words from your opponents by stacking your tiles on top of theirs. When all the tiles have been used, count up the words showing – if you’ve got the most, you win!
Rory’s Story Cubes
This is a fun game to help develop creativity and imagination. I also like the size (just nine dice!), it will be great for travelling.
Each jumbo 1″ cube has 6 images or icons, with a total of 54 all-different hand-inlaid images that can be mixed in over 10 million ways. You roll all 9 cubes to generate 9 random images and then use these to invent a story that starts with “Once upon a time…” and uses all 9 elements as part of your narrative.
Play it as a game for one or more players, or as a party game for three or more. Or play it as an improve game where each player contributes part of the story, picking up where the last one left off. Win award points for speedy delivery, inventiveness, imagination, drama and humor.
Very similar to regular Quiddler, the junior version just has a few adaptions, ones that make it great for playing with the under ten crowd! (Like: Proper nouns are allowed and the cards you have left in your hand after forming words don’t give you minus points.) And using the chips to keep score builds in math to what is normally considered a language arts game! #homeschoolwin
Quiddler Junior is easy to learn, great for kids and enjoyed by everyone – even adults! Be the first to arrange all of your cards into one or more words and go out! Then watch as everyone else gets one last turn to make their best word(s). The number of cards dealt increases each round upping the challenge. Aim for the top score by earning the 5-point bonus for the longest word! Scoring is easier and more fun when using point chips. Kids love to count, add and exchange their point chips creating a whole other dimension of play.
Keep your eyes peeled and you might win! Set out the detailed Pictureka! game tiles and get ready to get looking. When cards come up, you’ve got to spot the objects fast to win the card – and with so many fun drawings, it’s a challenge for everyone in the family.
Rush Hour Shift
Rush Hour Shift is a two player, logic game opposed to the original Rush Hour which was only one player. In this version you can try to mess up the other player but you need to make sure you can still get across yourself! Personally, I prefer the original, one player game and hope to add that to our collection soon.
Every move counts in this race to cross traffic. Players take turns moving cars according to the cards in their hand. Should you use your turn to advance your own Hero Car or block your opponent? A little luck will help, but a clever strategy is needed to win. Just when you think you’ve cleared a path to the finish, a shift of the grid may change the game.
Slowly increasing that Dutch Blitz speed
Dutch Blitz was a fairly popular game in my community growing up. The concept is not hard for kids to understand but the speed factor makes things a little more difficult. Raeca really only started being able to play the game on her own shortly before she turned 8. The nice thing is that the game can be played with partners (so you can have up to 8 people playing) and that works better for kids who are just learning as there are less cards for them to watch at the same time, Ephraim started playing with a partner at 5.
Developed in Pennsylvania Dutch country, Dutch Blitz is a card game that’s exciting to play and easy to learn. Perfect for family game nights, or to play with a group of good friends, you’ll enjoy spirited competition as you try to get rid of your 10-card Blitz pile before anybody else. Not as easy as it sounds, though, because players don’t take turns. You have to be the fastest to place your cards in sequence and in the same respective colors on the center Dutch piles while using as many cards from your Blitz Pile as possible. When your Blitz Pile has been exhausted, you’ve won. The game includes four decks of 4 colorful playing cards and easy-to-follow instructions. Two to four players can play this fast-moving game.
Oh, Monopoly. There’s a reason this is the last game on the list. I have a love-hate relationship here. I played way too much Monopoly as a kid with too many made up rules to love the game any more but I do think it is a game with some great benefits! So, I only play with a thirty minute time limit. Compromise. Oh, and we have the gamer edition because we happened to find it brand new at the thrift store for just a few dollars. Sweet!
It’s the Monopoly game with a Nintendo twist as it joins forces with beloved Nintendo video game characters. Instead of standard Monopoly tokens, the game features Super Mario characters, each with their own special powers within gameplay. Play as Mario, Princess Peach, Yoshi, or Donkey Kong. Finish the game by defeating Bowser at the end! It’s not just about money in this game; players earn points by buying Properties, collecting Coins, and beating Bosses. The player with the highest score wins the game.
Okay, that’s all for now, but come back often because this is a growing list!
If you have a game to recommend leave a comment below!
Thanks for sharing this list! We had a few of them and had heard of others but now we are going to go ahead and grab a couple more for the holiday period. Bring on some new and exciting family games!
Yes! We love adding new games, especially in the winter when we are shut inside for a few months. Do you have any you would recommend?
All our kids are loving Sleeping Queens, Rat-a-tat Cat and Too Many Monkeys right now and for the last few months. Another favourite at the moment is The Enchanted Forest. We got Outfoxed and Castle Panic this week from your recommendations and they are already right up there in how loved they are!
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