What to play… what to play… Let me share some of our favorites with you!
(this is going to include some Amazon affiliate links again–so in the interest of full disclosure, I make a relatively minuscule amount of money on each purchase. But you don’t have to buy these at Amazon!)
Without question, the games that have been the most loved in our house are cooperative games. Have ya heard? I’m by no means someone that gets behind the “everyone gets a trophy so everyone feels special” movement; but I am about working together. Cooperative games teach kids (and adults) how to work together. You are effectively working together to beat the game. These get intense, too. It’s not all hearts and flowers. Husbeau and I have been known to get into these games (as well as not-cooperative games) with other couples. They’re actually a lot of fun. (And don’t worry–I have a few competitive ones in there, too.)
My very favorite, though is “Wildcraft!“… and not for the reasons my friends are currently thinking up. I love it because it can be played with as little as ONE player who CANNOT READ!!! PEOPLE!!! You effectively have to go collect berries and get back down the mountain before sundown. Along the way, you encounter all kinds of problems and collect cards that represent different herbs that help with the problems. There’s potential to learn about herbal remedies, but that’s not really necessary and doesn’t help you in future games. It’s all very easy for a beginner–everything matches by picture. Surprisingly, that doesn’t make it a boring game for older kids.
Next on my list is limited to ages 10 and up. It’s called “Forbidden Island“. In this game, you work together to capture 4 sacred treasure before the island SINKS. For the same age range, although a little harder (and from the same makers) is “Forbidden Desert“.
There are actually a LOT of cooperative games for younger kids. Peaceable Kingdom makes almost all of them and I’ve never heard a bad thing about any one of them. They are generally loving, kind and at minimum–non-violent.
There are also lots more for older kids–with varying degrees of suspense and occasionally some fighting or horror involved. The most popular is “Pandemic“–which says ages 13+ but a bright 10yo could definitely play. It revolves around a set of diseases that breakout around the world and the team of scientists (players) that need to find ways to eradicate the diseases before all of mankind is eradicated. My kids go light on horror which is why we stick to Forbidden Island/Forbidden Desert–where nobody dies. 🙂
As for competitive games, again–we go light on gore and heavy on ones that the parents enjoy playing when the kids go to bed. That TOTALLY includes Blink Card Game. Girly has been able to play this one since she was 5 but Husbeau and I will pull this out after the kids are in bed and get pretty competitive about it. You effectively match colors, shapes and number of items (arranged the same for a number so kids that can’t count just need to recognize the arrangement of the shapes and match the arrangement). The person who matches all of their cards out of their hands first wins. It’s a FAST game, too.
We also really love Ticket To Ride, which is a strategy game. It’s too hard for Girly (rated for ages 8+) but we really enjoy it. You are building train routes through the United States. There are games for Europe, Nordic Countries and other geographic regions and it’s wonderful exposure to the geography and place names of a particular area. But the skill is in the strategy of building the routes from one place to another so that you can create the longest routes and the most complete routes. When the adults play, we actually get to where we are actively trying to block potential routes when we see other players building them. It’s all in good fun, though.
Last but not least on the competitive front is Rack-O. This is also rated age 8+ but that’s more because of the strategy thinking involved than about the actual complexity of the game. You are dealt a set of cards in random order and you have to start with them in the order dealt. The goal is to swap them out turn by turn to build an ascending (or descending?) set of cards in order. It sounds easy but it gets tense!
I could seriously go on and on and on here but I think you get the picture. Hopefully this opens up some new ideas for you and you can spend some time really ENGAGING with your family instead of being in the same room together. Playing together can be a fun time–especially when you’re not playing competitive games. Give some of the cooperative games a chance. You’ll be surprised at how behaviors and attitudes of kids change when they’re not the “loser” and they feel like you are working with them instead of against them.
In families that have deeply strained relationships that need to get back on track, sometimes a cooperative game can get your foot into the door and let your kids see that you are capable of accomplishing SOMEthing together. And maybe after a few games, the walls come down and the reconnecting happens.
Much, much love to you all. ❤