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Best Board Games for Kids: Our Top 7 Picks

January 3, 2019
Get away from those blocks and play a real board game!

A list of the best board games for kids doesn’t have to be a dang snooze fest. Why, some of these games are downright fun for adults! That’s why we have included a “Grownup Fun Factor” rating. Think of 1/10 on this scale as equaling a squealing infant with diarrhea up its back, and you only have one wet wipe left in the car, and you’re on the freeway, and the baby has no spare clothes.

At the other end, a Grownup Fun Factor of 10/10 would be a game you don’t mind playing again for the fifth time in a frickin’ row. In the world of board games for kids, this is quite the commendation. But the real reason you pick up one of these games is to make your little ones happy. Or at least get them off that computer-animated show on Netflix where no one talks and it’s just a bunch of screaming, and the main character kid is bald for some reason (not Caillou, but good guess).

The best board games for kids are honestly pretty diverse and creative, which is why we put together this here list of our top 7 picks. Spend some quality time with the kids in your life before they become surly and start drinking milkshakes at the local soda jerk. What’s next? Sneaking a kiss behind the mulberry bush?

Quick! Distract them from growing up with these cool board games for kids!

Apples to Apples

Players: 4-8 | Complexity: 3/10 | Competitive | Ages: 12+ | Grownup Fun Factor: 4/10

A game that is sure to get everyone laughing and just letting people be silly!

Apples to Apples is the granddaddy of party cards. It’s the innovation that kicked off an entire genre of anonymous submit-funny-thing-to-the-judge games.

Amusingly, this means that popular NOT-for-children board game Cards Against Humanity owes its basic concept to Apples to Apples, the so-called “game of crazy combinations.”

Certifiably, this game is as crazy as the kids playing it. And kids can get pretty zany.

How zany, you ask? Oh, you didn’t ask that. For those who have escaped this growing trend in gaming, Apples to Apples is a social game in which players take turns acting as the judge. The judge places a green descriptor card down for everyone to see. Then the other players anonymously play down red noun/verb cards to represent whatever the green card describes. The judge awards a point to whoever’s red card he or she likes, for any reason at all.

For example, the judge plays a green card reading, “Crunchy.” You search through your hand of red cards, and it’s between “Broccoli Salad” and “A Newborn Baby.” You select the former, because you are not sure whether these kids are really all about crunchy babies. Your broccoli card comes close to winning, but the judge ultimately chooses “Meeting Neil Armstrong,” which everyone seems to agree is a fairly crunchy experience.

Apples to Apples is brilliant not merely for its quick, engaging formula, but its success in encouraging the kind of non-sequitur humor that young kids tend to love. “Oprah Winfrey” is “Terrifying”; “Ninja Turtles” are “Fluffy.”

Like anything with the potential to spiral into wild entertainment, Apples to Apples is best enjoyed with occasional silliness to start, followed by increasing levels of hysterical chaos.

Check Apples to Apples availability on Amazon here!

Pengoloo

Players: 2-4 | Complexity: 2/10 | Competitive | Ages: 4+ | Grownup Fun Factor: 6/10

Fun quick game you and your kids will keep coming back to!

Take a gander at the cute picture, but don’t write Pengoloo off as one of those stifling deals where you pretend to have fun for the kid’s sake. And like, when it’s over you have to sneak outside for a cigarette or two — and a single, small moment of ever-loving peace on god’s green earth. You used to be a hip and sexy!

Now you make peanut butter & jelly sandwiches in the middle of the night with no milk. Wait, yes milk. No, milk and water. In the same cup.

But seriously, don’t be deceived by simple, yet cerebral Pengoloo: An engaging memory puzzle among board games for kids — and adults! The identical wooden penguins harbor colorful eggs in their cavernous bodies, and they’re the strong silent types — you’ll have to remember for yourself which egg was under which penguin.

Roll the wooden block dice to determine which egg colors you need to discover. Then lift two penguins of your choosing, uncovering their ovular treasures and stealing any that match your dice colors.

When you steal an egg, these penguins let off a genuine mourning recording obtained from bereaved mother birds in the Arctic. Just kidding, that’s not actually a part of Pengoloo.

Yes, Fine. But How do I Defeat My Child in Pengoloo?

When you score an egg, you take the penguin with it, placing both on your score board. The scoreboard is modeled after an iceberg because those cold, cold numbers don’t lie — this game rewards memory over luck. Rack up six penguin/egg pairs and you win!

Easter comes early with Pengoloo, but unless your opponent is a yolk-happy rabbit who usurps religious holidays, you’ll have to work for them eggies. In our opinion, this is one of the best board games for kids due to the way it subtly teaches basic strategic thinking in a way little ones will enjoy. Hones their memory skills too.

We know what you’re thinking:

What if Little Timmy shoves those beautiful eggs up his shapely nostrils?

Well these eggs can’t fit in a child’s nose. This game is, frankly, intended for children who are well past what Freud creepily termed “the oral stage.” 4-year-olds are a good fit for Pengoloo, as it does contain parts unsuitable for babies and very young toddlers who might find small round toys appetizing.

Wait, you weren’t thinking about eggs in Little Timmy’s shapely nostrils? Huh. Just us then.

Check Pengoloo availability on Amazon here!

Timeline: Inventions

Players: 2-8 | Complexity: 4/10 | Competitive | Ages: 8+ | Grownup Fun Factor: 8/10

Really great game that has an educational component but doesn’t feel like you’re learning!

Timeline: Inventions is educational, but somehow it doesn’t suck! If you have slogged through the bog of instructive games out there, you know this is an achievement.

History as a subject is often portrayed as being dustier than the old relics it explores. Timeline: Inventions brings color, competition, and crafty card play to the study of dates.

Even among the best board games for kids, this one deserves special attention. Timeline: Inventions makes memorizing numbers fun.

Players begin with a small collection of double-sided cards featuring random inventions and charming little illustrations. The drawings often hint at the general era in which the depicted inventions premiered, but you may only look at the side of the card that does not list the invention date.

In the center of the play area, the game begins with a single random invention card, flipped to the side with the date on it — this is the starting point of the timeline. Players take turns placing down their invention cards into the timeline, guessing at where the invention historically falls.

If your invention is correctly placed in the timeline, your turn is over. Naturally, the timeline will grow and become more complex as the game progresses. If you can play all your cards correctly into the timeline before the other players, you win!

Messing Up the Timeline

Some mistakes are practically unavoidable — the timeline can get so detailed that you’re trying to guess the single year of invention, rather than the century.

Other errors, however, are less forgivable. For example, if you play the “Edison’s light bulb” card later than “First iPhone” in the timeline, you must draw a new card to replace your old one and end your turn.

Then you must repeat an entire grade of public school. In real life. With Mr. Tim, the blustering, mustachioed history instructor with large, shapely nostrils. And he always wants to play Pengoloo.

Study up, boys and girls.

Check Timeline: Inventions availability on Amazon here!

Castle Panic

Players: 1-6 | Complexity: 8/10 | Cooperative/Competitive | Ages: 10+  | Grownup Fun Factor: 9/10

Those pointy bits had better not be your middle fingers there mister!

In Castle Panic, players take the roles of slightly opportunistic medieval militants charged with defending a flimsy castle. We don’t just mean the cardboard castle component, which is a nifty little 3D addition to the game board.

No, this castle is gonna crack like a tiny penguin egg that has softened in the shapely nostrils of an aging history instructor. If it sounds like we have gone insane, it is because we are holed up in a paper castle, besieged by orcs beyond counting. You’d lose a few marbles too.

Board games for kids typically do not brandish a challenge like Castle Panic does. But perhaps the best board games for kids do, because we love this game. It is fairly simplistic, as games tend to be when aimed at younger audiences.

But as you barter and trade with your fellow players, organizing a defense against the overwhelming green foe, you may enjoy a pleasant sense of tension. The best co-op board games do this consistently, and it’s a perfect quality in such a straightforward “gateway game” like this one. Get ’em hooked!

Man the Parapets. Or Woman. Woman Those Parapets, Soldier!

Essentially, you have soldiers in the form of randomly drawn cards, and those cards are color-coded. Blue footmen can attack orcs in the first ring of the blue zone, but blue archers must be used to reach the third zone. A red archer can’t attack the blue zone at all, and is only useful for slaying orcs in his own red zone.

Meanwhile, every turn, the orcs gather and lumber steadily toward the castle through all zones, brushing off death and pouring endlessly out of the woods. Fending them off is hard enough, but if you can manage to personally slay the largest number of enemies, you will be the winner of this “cooperative” game.

Of course, you don’t need to play with the Master Slayer rule, but why not embrace family gaming with kids and remind them who’s boss at the same time? The best board games for kids are fun for the parents too.

Is it one of the best board games for kids? Yes. Buuuut…

Castle Panic is a bit repetitive, and adults will tire of it before children do. As games for kids go, this one is still pretty fun. Despite the violent theme, there is no gore or blood — just menacing dudes holding shiny weapons.

Kind of like the Roll for Turns editorial staff, so long as we meet our deadlines.

Check Castle Panic availability on Amazon here!


Rumpelstiltskin

Players: 2 | Complexity: 7/10 | Competitive | Ages: 14+ | Grownup Fun Factor: 7/10

Oh great! Now you can’t tell if his nostrils are shapely.

Rumpelstiltskin is a terrifying fable about a tiny man-creature who tries to manipulate a young woman into letting him abscond with her child for an undefined reason.

Well, now it’s a game for kids. Great idea!

The game version is decidedly less scary than the old story, featuring large cards with intricately rendered illustrations of cute little fairy people. This game plays very quickly, but it’s both tactical and highly replayable.

In addition to our main man Rumple, we have such classic accompanying characters as “Shenanigan” the leprechaun, a fiscally minded, yet buoyant Irish imp with a suspiciously flushed face…

Or “Tim Tit-Tot”! The old man counterpart to Rapunzel, trapped in a tower. His incredibly long beard will no doubt lead to the severe disappointment of many athletic young princes. But maybe after a vigorous climb, they can sit down together and play Rumpelstiltskin, the card game. What else does one do in a tower? Gaze at Tim Tit-Tot’s shapely nostrils?

Please Stop Talking About Nostrils

Never!

So basically, in Rumpelstiltskin,you try to guess the name of the card on the bottom of your opponent’s deck. As the game goes on, options are eliminated and your guesses get sharper. You can thwart accurate guessers with trick cards that exchange your bottom-card with another one, or perform similar schemes.

Rumpelstiltskin is ideal for camping trips and car rides. It’s quick, requires little space, and easy to clean up. The box says it’s for ages 14+, but we say 8+ is more accurate. If you can quickly read and understand the text on the cards, you’re probably in good shape. And did we mention Tim Tit-Tot? You can’t talk about the best board games for kids without mentioning Tim Tit-Tot!

Check Rumpelstiltskin availability on Amazon here!


Magic Labyrinth

Players: 2-4 | Complexity: 5/10 | Competitive | Ages: 6+ | Grownup Fun Factor: 6

Perfect game to engage that sense of wonder in your kids and you!

Technically, there is no real magic behind this game. It’s all science! This is a particularly cool little concept, where players are wizards trying to escape the titular labyrinth, only the maze has no walls.

Well, none you can see. Below the checkered board is a series of tiny wooden walls that you can custom arrange to create your own labyrinth.

The twist is that player pieces have magnetic bottoms (LOL), and as you slide them across the board, you are actually sliding a metal ball beneath the board. If you run the ball up against a wooden board, you hit an “invisible” wall and must begin at the start of the maze.

The trick is basic, but it makes for a lovely little memory game. All the squares feature their own little symbol to help kids remember which squares they can safely pass over. It’s those little design touches that often define the best board games for kids.

This is sort of like when you ask your roommate for yet another bailout loan to cover your gambling debts, but you have run head-on into the invisible wall of his expired patience. Only you do not have a magnetic bottom.

Bro, not even if our hands were plated with solid steel.

Designing mazes is honestly pretty fun for adults, and it’s entertaining to watch kids navigate your invisible designs. Try to avoid the temptation of frustrating your small child with an unsolvable maze.

Check Magic Labyrinth availability on Amazon here!

Telestrations

Players: 4-8 | Complexity: 2 | Cooperative | Ages: 12+ | Grownup Fun Factor: 10/10

Great way to have fun and let everyone’s creativity come out!

The game of Telephone just grew some teeth, folks. You know the premise of the old classic: A message is whispered from person to person, around the circle, until the final person says aloud what he or she just heard.

The final message is hilariously different than the original message, and everyone learns a valuable lesson about gossip.

Take that premise and add white boards & markers. You write down “The mean streets of L.A.” You hand your flipbook to the next player, who must draw a picture of what you have written. It goes on in this way, one player at a time, draw-describe-draw.

Five players later, the last person holds up a flipbook in which she has written, “Shapely nostrils,” which is what she claims was depicted by the previous player.

It’s Educational! Indirectly.

Where the original Telephone game called attention to the power of miscommunication, Telestrations exemplifies how our brains uniquely process visual data and interpret words. This game is basically proof that personal testimony is the weakest evidence.

Yeah, you say you saw Tim Tit-Tot shaving his beard in the nude, but remember that game of Telestrations where a player drew a woolly mammoth and you wrote that it was “Teddy Roosevelt”?

You probably just saw a peach-colored coat with a fuzzy hood, and you only thought it was a naked dwarf with a razor.

That being said, we are not averse to a little photo evidence.

On that note, Telestrations is a clever, funny concept. It’s a great board game for kids and adults alike, so bring your best drawing hand and a sense of humor.

This is another game where we’ll lower the recommended minimum age to 8. It’s a pretty simple game, so it’s not clear why the box lists ages 12+ — that’s like, the final grade before middle school.

Bill: Do you think my son can play Telestrations? He’s 11 years old and practices long division and reads Harry Potter with full comprehension.

Ted: Sure! Hey, Litttle Timmy. See this marker and flipbook? Just draw what you read or write what you see. Got it?

Little Timmy: *proceeds to vomit copiously and rapidly spin in place*

Ted: Maybe next year, Bill.

TL;DR — Telestrations is good.

Check Telestrations availability on Amazon here!

Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?

That’s our list, folks! The top 7 best board games for kids. The right game for a kid may vary with age range, but with our guide on hand you know what you’re getting into before you buy. Roll for Turns does not advocate sending your child to his/her room for winning at a board game. Especially a board game for kids.

And remember, even the best board games for kids are not a substitute for loving parents with shapely nostrils. Your children will probably still love you if you lost your nose in a terrible accident, or if it was stolen by Rumpelstiltskin.

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