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November 18, 2011



A second for the Looney Lab's games - my kids and the kids at school love them. Aquarius and 7 Dragons are easy and visual for the nonreader. A first game I often give is Haba's Orchard. The wooden fruit is so amazing, the whole tactile experience is a win, even if the game play isn't complex. It comes in a couple of sizes, so I stick with the standard size - not mini or little. I thought the fruit wouldn't be as fun to hold.

M Lepage

try "spot it" from Asmodee: my 3 years old daughter loves it.. so do I & the grand parents too!

Aart Van Essen


It says age 6+ on the box, but the hyperfocus that makes your three year old kick your ass at Memory, also puts young kids on par with their parents in this game. The artwork is a tad boring though.


Love anything by Ravensberger, too- they have some cool puzzles with multiple-sized pieces so kids can do the part with big pieces while grownups do the part with tiny pieces: very cool!
we also like the games "geisttreppe" (ghost steps) and "the magic labyrinth"- found at the cool game store in Pasadena, CA.
my girls are 5 and 7 and their dad is the big gamer in our family.
Thanks for a great list, I'm sharing it with friends!

Dave C

I cannot say enough good things about our recent game discovery: Forbidden Island.


The game is based on the very popular cooperative boardgame Pandemic, with a view to making it simpler and faster to play. The game 'board' consists of a number of lavishly-illustrated thick cardboard-ish tiles (randomly distributed each time you play) that form the island. Each location has suitably fantastic names like "Temple of the Sun" or "Phantom Rock," etc. with really groovy pictures on them.

Even when not playing the game by the rules, we found that the game pieces themselves are great stimulation for creative storytelling and unstructured play - at least they were for our friends' six- and eight-year-old daughters.

There is a scalable difficulty slider that allows you to adjust the speed of the island's sinking (this is especially helpful for adjusting the game for younger children or beginners). Each player gets a 'role' card that gives them a unique special ability that means everyone is important to success.

The game recommends ages 10 and up, but since gameplay is cooperative you can provide guidance and so I suspect one could successfully play through with especially bright younger children as well. Since it's non-competitive it can accommodate children of different ages and competencies and lessens opportunities for disagreements. A typical playthrough might run for about half an hour.

To top it all off, the game comes in a gorgeous metal tin (making it very robust and portable), retails for a ridiculously low price (it was under $20 CDN after tax for us), and has a large fan following online, including homebrew variant rules and expansion cards you can print yourself or order online from Artscow.

This is truly a must-buy for gamer parents.


+1 for Ravensburger Four First Games.


Ack, just say no to Monopoly! It may be a "classic" but the actual gameplay is horrible. By the time she's old enough to understand it, she can play way better games. 4 is a little young for a lot of the better boardgames, but by the time she is 6 or 7 she can probably play Zooloretto, which my friends' kid quite enjoys. (And my adult friends enjoy playing too, without any kids at all even).


SPLAT! The game is out of print but you can find copies. A simple dice movement game with two awesome additons: Kids love that the pieces are made of Playdough and are literally splatted on the board. Parents love that as pieces are splatted it reduces the available spaces so the game ending gets shorter. It is luck vice strategy based but we've never found anyone who didn't enjoy it.

Jeb Adams (@jeblucas)

Gulo Gulo is great because it's actually competitive between kids and adults. The game requires you to fish different colored (and sized) eggs from a little bucket that a tall wobbly stick is precariously balanced in. Kids and their tiny little fingers can go in and get the little eggs but my fat sausages plow through everything and set "the alarm" off constantly (viz., the stick falls out). I make better judgements about which egg is likely safest to grab, but they can just go grab whatever with their little egg magnets.


Cariboo is lots of fun for little kids, but is not much of a game for adults. My four year old loves it, but needs help with it.

Rat-a-tat-cat is great for kids who are learning addition. It is fine to play as an adult as well. You have four face down cards with numbers or special abilities on them. Your goal is to have the smallest sum when you add the numbers on the cards. It teaches addition as well as greater than and lesser than. The special abilities add some tactical play as well.

Catch the match is fun and requires no reading, just pattern matching.

Make n Break is fantastic and kids can play it by themselves. It is game where you have ten colored blocks like you would have in a wooden blocks set. You then have cards you draw with pictures of block towers you need to copy. It is fun for kids and adults but adults may have an edge just by being faster.

Pitch car is fun for the whole family. You make a racetrack and then flick a "car" around the track. This is a game that was going for $200 while it was out of print (it is back now) and that enthusiasts have broken out the jigsaws to make home made expansions.

When the kids get a little older, Settlers of Catan is way better than Monopoly while using some of the same skills. Carcassone is fun as well, but I prefer the Hunters and Gatherers version.



My nine year old is already playing Dominion and Thunderstone. He is particularly good at Thunderstone. In both of those games you can give the kids an edge by making their initial deck slightly better than normal.


I would like to second the recommendation on The Amazing Labyrinth. I would also like to second the thumbs down on Monopoly. Dino-opoly is just a variant on Monopoly so avoid it as well. I had to play it yesterday, so I know what I am talking about with it.

Qwirkle is fun, and kids can certainly play it, but it is another game where adults will have a pretty big edge in the strategy. On the other hand, kids will not have a problem with the basic rules so it is a good choice for that reason. I think that this is a game that might be better for kids to play with each other than to play with adults. This is only because of skill differences though, both adults and kids will like it.

Kim Pallister

My kids love Dixit, and I recommend it for all ages. Even the 4 yr old can make up a story about a picture, though he needs help with points.

Another co-op survival game the kids like is Castle Panic. Work together to survive oncoming orc/goblin hoards. Even if the strategy may be a little hard for younger ones, they love the 'group anxiety' that sets in as your castle walls start to fall to the hoarde. And since it's co-op, you can work with them on deciding strategy, etc.

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