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Buyers' Guide:   Best Board and Card Games for Kids

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10 best board games for
Kids

Bored of board games? Very unlikely, even in this day and age of high-tech toys. Board games never go out of style!

Turn-taking children's games are not only fun to play, they're educational on many different levels, including social. Kids learn about waiting to take a turn (patience), winning and losing, along with cooperation and competition—all while they have fun. Basic numeracy and logic skills are also exercised in most games as well.

Interaction with siblings, friends, and parents is an important virtue developed through board and card games. Cooperation is another. It's a social skill— a learned one at that—and sportsmanship is a valuable skill.

There are plenty of games available that are specially designed to suit young children's needs and abilities. Nevertheless, parents will want to be on hand the first few times kids play the games—not only to help them learn the rules, but also to give them encouraging feedback during the inevitable small setbacks. We take a look at some of our favorite games for kids here.


 

1

coverApples to Apples Junior

Apples to Apples Junior! is based on the party game, Apples to Apples, but it is designed to be enjoyed by children as young as 7. This game is oh so funny and very educational. 

The box simply consists of cards & red apple cards and green apple cards & in a tray. Players are dealt 5 red apple cards each. These cards each feature a word (such as "ants", "grocery store", or "my hair") along with a definition. The player who has been chosen as "the Judge" draws a green apple card. The green cards feature a descriptive word (such as "spooky", "important", "large", or "funny") with synonyms of the word. The other players then look at their concealed red cards and attempt to find the card in their hand that BEST fits with the green card word. For example, if the green card word is "large" and a player has a hand with the words "ants", "the first day of school", "pajamas", "grocery store", and "my hair", then he/she might decide to play the card "grocery store" as one that best fits the word "large". Each player selects a card, lays it in front of them, and then the judge mixes up the played cards and makes a "judgment" on which card is the best fit. The beauty of the game is that the decision is at the discretion of the judge!  

Kids really laugh through the game and they learn vocabulary words and associations at the same time. This is a hilarious thinking game. Note that the nature of the game means that it can't be played by just two kids. It's a party game! In fact, Apples to Apples Junior is just wonderful for promoting social interactions. It's a almost as fun to watch as it is to play. (Parents will just love watching kids giggle, negotiate, and associate!)

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Apples to Apples Junior at Amazon.com]

 

2 coverPet Hunt

This excellent card-match game really gets kids thinking! With Pet Hunt, children draw a number of cards, each featuring pictures of four animals. Smaller cards depicting two animals are drawn, and players determine whether they have a match. The trick—which makes the game much more educational than simple matching games& is in the smaller cards. Players might draw a card with a cat and a turtle and then decide whether they have a larger card depicting both—if they do, it's a match. If the turtle, for example, has a large red X over it, then they need to determine whether they have a card that has a cat, but NOT a turtle. If both animals are crossed off, a match occurs only if they have a card that has neither a cat nor a turtle. 

We love this game! It's best suited for children at a Kindergarten through second-grade level, or any child who can handle the extra thinking required. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Pet Hunt at Amazon.com]

 

3

Cranium's Cariboo

This fabulous game for preschoolers takes kids on a treasure hunt—for colorful balls! They unlock compartments with a special purple key after matching colors, sets of objects, or letters. Is a ball hiding inside the compartment? Very cute game! 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy Cranium Cariboo at Amazon.com]

 

4 Zingo!

The classic game of Bingo has been made a little zippier and more child-friendly. Zingo! features a dispenser filled with tiles, called a Zinger. When kids slide the dispenser, out pops two tiles featuring familiar objects, such as houses or cats. The first child to shout out the object's name (as long as it matches with a picture on their card) gets the tile. You can also allow children to grab the tiles instead of calling out their names. Families can decide whether the goal is to fill the entire card or simply a row.

This game has some special features that make it superior to a regular game of Bingo. The Zingo cards are two-sided—the yellow side makes for a less competitive game than the red side! This is a great feature that allows families to decide whether they want to have a more relaxing or a competitive game. Also, the dispenser is innovative and fun to use.

Our testers return to this game often. It has all the potential to be a long-standing favorite. Two to eight children can play the game, and, as noted above, families can choose to tone down the competitive aspect of the game by selecting to play with the yellow side of the cards.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Zingo at Amazon.com]

 

 

5 Smart Mouth

Family time is fun with a good game! Smart Mouth is exciting and educational. Its rules are simple: players use the Letter Getter that randomly "draws" two letters. The first player to call out a word that begins and ends with these letters wins the tiles.  

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Smart Mouth at Amazon.com]

 

6 Cranium

Cranium is a "whole-brain" game designed for kids older than 12 and adults. Its variety of activities and questions is its most impressive feature. Players form teams and compete to get to the purple brain at the center of the board called Cranium Central. They might have to answer multiple-choice questions, act out something for others to guess, or sculpt a mystery object from clay. It's a fun and engaging game. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Cranium at Amazon.com]

 

 

7 The Very Hungry Caterpillar

For the younger set, there's The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game. Based on Eric Carle's classic children's book, this game challenges children to identify colors and shapes. A beautiful and colorful butterfly is featured on the game board. Kids can play either cooperatively (a "winnerless" game) or competitively. Best for ages 3 to 5. 

[Buy The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game Amazon.com for approximately $35 US]

 

 

8 Picture Link

Another game for board game-beginners is Picture Link. The rules are very simple. Players call out pictures and attempt to build a path from one side of the board to the other. This game is fast-moving when everyone is paying attention, and very easy to follow. Perfect for kids ages 3 to 5. 

[Buy Picture Link Amazon.com for approximately $35 US]
 

 

9 UpWords

This classic board game is loosely based on Scrabble, but it's a little easier to play and to score. If you’re not already familiar with the game, players spell words on the game board grid using their letter tiles in order to score points. The twist here is that there’s a third dimension to game-play –- letters are stackable, so that lone can not only become alone, but also long or along. An easy scoring system is understandable for people of all ages. UpWords is a great board game for families to share, and it's affordable too.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Upwords at Amazon.com]

 

10 The Letter Factory Game

Children often need some hand-holding when it comes to working through board games, simply because they need to learn about turn-taking and develop some patience. The Letter Factory Game by Leapfrog features electronic hand-holding in the form of Professor Quigley, a talking guide who lets them know whose turn it is, how many spaces to move, and which cards to find. This board game has an educational agenda, but it certainly doesn't detract from the fun. In fact, The Letter Factory Game features little ditties that can be downright silly about each letter of the alphabet, and it reinforces colors and counting concepts as well. Two levels of play accommodate children ages 3 to 5 or 6. Phonics letter sounds are introduced with this fun and educational game.  

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: The Letter Factory Game at Amazon.com]

 

 

 

 
 

Our Buyer's Guides help make buying choices easy for consumers. We test hundreds of children's products and strive to keep up to date on the latest releases. Of course, every family is unique. We can't please everyone. However, we are able to select some special titles that are at the top of our "edutainment" list--those that have that extra edge in the categories of design, entertainment, education, and play value. 

Besides the letter grades we give most products, reviews on this site often come with a rating bar chart--a visual breakdown of how the product rates in a number of categories. If you'd like to know more about how software products are rated, click here.

As we test new software and products, we update these buyer's guides to reflect current availability and up-to-date recommendations. These guides are intended to help parents make sense of the often overwhelming choices available to them.

 

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