There’s nothing quite as wholesome as a Sunday afternoon spent playing games with your children.
But sometimes it can be hard to find a game that fits all the age groups in your family. At time of writing our kids are 11, 8 and 6 years old.
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Over the years a number of games have vied for family favourite, but all the games below have been tried and tested and played again and again to create our:
Top Ten Best Family Games
Type: Card game
The premise is simple, shuffle and lay out in a grid all the cards in the pack, then each person takes it in turn to flip two cards of their choice over. If they find a matching pair they get another go.
Word of warning: you may have fond childhood memories and consider yourself an expert at this game but when you pit your aged-frazzled brain against that of your spritely children you soon realise the young have far better short term memories!
This set with nature pictures to match is lovely and the cards are nice and sturdy so don’t bend easily (therefore giving the game away — everyone remembers the one with the bent corner is the Mona Lisa etc.!)
- Check price of Nature Memory on Amazon
- Check price of The Avengers memory on Amazon
- Check price of The Gruffalo memory on Amazon
Type: Board game
The board uses cards some of which can slide across the board — meaning that the layout of the maze is constantly changing as each player moves the maze to try and finish their tasks.
This can help children to work on the spatial awareness and forward-planning skills.
Once the older children get the hang of this game they can set it up and play it independently so it isn’t reliant on adult supervision (always a nice bonus with a board game!).
Even our 6-year-old has mastered the premise now and can confidently introduce friends to the game and how to play.
Type: Card game
The rules are simple so once you have explained the idea, as soon as your child understands colours and numbers they are good to go!
The aim of the game is get rid of all your cards… down to your last single card one ‘Uno’ (“one” in Spanish and Italian!).
Each player holds seven cards in their hand. There’s one face-up on the deck on the table.
On their turn each player puts down one card of either the same colour as the card on the top of the pack, or the same number. First person to play all their cards wins!
The fun comes with some of the ‘action’ cards which can: change the direction of play; force players to pick up extra cards; or suddenly change colour to whatever you want.
Its great fun and good to see your children start to get to grips with tactics.
Because it is a card game it is a great one to pop in your bag for train journeys, or deploy at a restaurant while waiting to be served (just try not to shout ‘Uno!’ too loudly!).
Type: Card game
My eldest son came back from cub camp raving about it, saying he and his friends had been playing it all weekend and begging us to buy our own version.
So, with a holiday coming, we invested in the game and it proved to be a smash hit addition to our family games canon.
It is a game of strategy and can get fairly ruthless (much accusations of favouritism/victimisation will ensue!) but that is half the fun.
Each player holds five cards in their hand at the start, the rest going into the ‘deal’ pile in the middle. Before each go you pick up two cards and can then decide to play up to three cards.
The object of the game is to collect three full property sets (much as in the standard game of Monopoly) but there are all sorts of sneaky other cards, such as ‘forced deal’ or ‘sly deal’ which allow you to steal another players properties or sets, and ‘rent’ cards to make other players hand over their hard-earned cash!
Type: Board game
The game is quite a simple idea but needs a certain level of comprehension to make good tactical decisions so it is better for older children or, if playing with younger kids, maybe team them up with an adult.
Players must use their limited supply of travel tokens to move about via boat, bus, Underground and taxi in an effort to track down the mysterious Mr X (a part taken by another player).
Everyone can work on their own — but as you might expect, the police are much more effective if they chose to work together, so it can be a great way to build team working skills.
Whatever the name it is a brilliant brain-teasing game for two people.
One person chooses a secret code of four coloured pegs in any order which they then hide behind the screen provided.
The other player then makes a guess by setting out four coloured pegs themselves.
The code setter then indicates with black and white pegs if any of the colours are correct and if any are in the correct position.
The other player then uses this information to inform their next guess and so on until they crack the code and win — or use up their ten guesses, in which case the coder-setter wins.
This is such a fun game to play with just two people, testing your powers of deduction and stretching your brain.
Type: Action game
The machine has various actions such as ‘twist it’, ‘bop it’ and ‘pull it’ and the player must respond and perform the correct action.
You can play it on party mode and it adds in ‘pass it’ whereby you have to pass it on. Players must keep going until they perform the wrong action or get timed out and they’re out.
It is annoyingly addictive (and harder than it looks!) but it really helps to build up hand-eye coordination and attunes children to following instructions.
Type: Card game
We have numerous versions of this game from dinosaurs to superheroes, but the basic idea is always the same, once you’ve learned how to play it doesn’t matter which set you have. On some rainy days our kids like to make their own sets now!
Each card has a character who is ranked on various things, for example in the Frozen version each character has a ‘magic score’ and a ‘bravery score’.
Each players gets half the pack each and must chose the top most card and select the category they think is best for that card.
Their opponent then must reveal what their top most cards scores for the same category, if its higher they win their opponents cards, if its lower they must give their card to their opponent… and so on until one player has all the cards and wins.
Type: Card game
These Orchard Toys games are brilliant first games to play with young children.
Shopping List was always a favourite as it is so simple and easy to play for even very young children.
Each child has a shopping list card with pictures of the different goods they need to buy.
The cards are then laid face down on the table with the goods on and each child takes it in turn to flip one over to see if it is on their list. If it is they put it in their trolley — if not, it goes back. It’s a good test of young memory skills.
The pictures are nice and clear so kids don’t need to be able to read to play.
Type: Word game
You might think it is too tricky for kids, but actually in my experience as long they can read then they can have a go (and frankly once they can read pretty well they can really start giving you a run for your money!).
For those who don’t know this word game involves selecting tiles with letters on which then need to be laid out on the board into interlocking words.
Each letter has a score based on how hard it is to get into words so, for example, a ‘Z’ (10 points) scores a lot higher than an ‘E’ (1 point).
On the board there are special squares such as ‘triple word score’ or ‘double letter score’ which can boost your score.
All in all it is a great game to play as a family as you can help the younger children and really boost both their spelling and vocabulary.