When the dishes are cleared and the table is wiped, time to gather again for a family game night. The best family board games provide hours of screen-free bonding time, helping families make memories and get everyone working out their mental muscles, all at the same time.
Playing board games with your kids can help them build social and cognitive skills. Games “teach children to work as a team, negotiate, follow rules and use spatial reasoning and logic,” explains Ellie Dix, a former school behavior specialist and author of The Board Game Family: Reclaim Your Children From the Screen.
Board games also improve kids’ response to delayed gratification. Many digital games provide a quick hit of the “happy chemicals” dopamine and oxytocin, which is why they’re so addictive, says Hanna Bogen Novak, M.S., a director at the Center for Connection family therapy practice. Board games are a slower burn, and regular play can retrain brains to get the same buzz from a delayed release of chemicals. That helps kids focus on long-term projects like schoolwork too.
These Good Housekeeping Institute logged hundreds of data points and had nearly 100 testers (kids ages 1 to 14 and their parents) help us rate dozens of games on ease of use, skill development and kids' interest in playing again and again to come find the best board games. The below games are favorites from GH Lab testing, kid-approved and/or top-sellers on Amazon.
If your family is just getting into the Pokémon trading cards and want to learn how to play the game, this gives you a step-by-step guide to how to play. Once it walks players through the first few moves, they're on their own. Players start with a Pikachu and a Charmander deck, and then they can move on to the more advanced Mewtwo deck as they get better. For two players ages 6+
To play, simply pick a card, read it aloud and then quickly write down two answers you think other players will write. Players will have a blast learning who among their playmates they're most in sync with. For four or more players ages 10+
When you have just a few minutes between dinner and bedtime, bust out this game, which is designed to be played in 20 minutes or less. A cooperate game, players work together to save their town from a host of sci-fi threats, like space aliens or spider robots. Players have to collect the tools and people (like scientists) necessary to fight them off before time runs out. For two to six players ages 8+
You can think of this game as a faster-paced version of Go Fish, but with airborne burritos involved. Players attempt to collect matching sets of cards faster than their opponents while simultaneously ducking, dodging and throwing adorable, squishy burrito-shaped toys. For two to six players ages 7+
This cooperative game challenges players to use their imaginations and spin good yarns. Everyone gets cards that help them prompt the story, and then each player uses a magic coin to mark where they want the story to go next, and the others must guess which path they've chosen. If everyone works together, they can guide the story to a happy ending. Testers said this was a good game for older and younger siblings to play together. For two to five players ages 6+
In this musical game, each player takes turns saying a word while the other players try to blurt out a song that contains that word before time runs out. And don't worry, no singing skills are required to have fun. For four to ten players ages 8+
This deck comes with cards numbered 1 to 100, and players have to play them in ascending order. Sound simple? The twist: No one can speak. Everyone has to learn how to play in sync with each other without talking! Families who get good at it can try The Mind: Extreme, which makes the gameplay faster and also runs the numbers backwards. For two to four players ages 8+
You want to find the head and body cards that match to make one animal. But the real thrill starts when you don’t get a pair: Flip a dog’s head to go with a horse’s body, and everyone has to bark as they gallop around. We like that this is a game in which it’s more fun not to win. It’s also a great chance to teach kids about animals. For two to five players ages 3+
Who's hungry? Yes, players actually cook during this game — and eat what they make! (Testers said that their kids really did try out new dishes this way.) Family members compete to earn the most points, and along the way they face mini challenges, like trying to identify an ingredient while blindfolded or doing prep with only one hand. For two to six players ages 8+
The leaders of each team act as spymasters and use one-word clues to communicate special messages, or card codenames, to their teammates. The team that solves more cards in the end wins. For four or more players ages 10+
This strategy game encourages families to take on the role of their favorite Disney villains, like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, Lady Tremaine from Cinderella, or the Horned King from The Black Cauldron. Each villain has their own goals they're trying to accomplish to win the game, but a shared fate deck affects them all. The game is balanced so it can be mixed with any of the other games in the Disney Villainous line, which each has their own characters. Ravensburger has also starts a Marvel Villainous line (you can play as Loki!), though that skews a little older. For two to three players ages 10+
Don't worry: no kittens are harmed during this game. Players take turns drawing cards, and when a player draws an Exploding Kitten card, they "explode," or get kicked out of the game. There are action cards that can help prevent this scenario, including laser pointer cards, kitten yoga cards and kitten therapy to help players stay in the game. For two to five players ages 7+
This matching game helps beginning readers practice their word recognition. Kids get words and shapes from the "zinger" and have to try to match it to their card — first to fill it wins. For two to six players ages 4+
Practice colors, taking turns and more with this sneaky teaching game. Little ones will love showing off their own belly buttons as they try to match their button and teddy bear pieces with the ones on the board. Parents of our testers said younger kids had so much fun (and stayed so engaged) that they asked to play over and over again. For two or more players ages 2+
This kind of party game will bring you back to your summer-camp bunk days. Players take turns flipping over cards while saying the words taco, cat, goat, cheese or pizza in order. If the spoken word matches the picture on the card, everyone tries to slap the pile, and whoever gets it first gets to keep the cards. Whoever collects the most wins! For two or more players ages 8+
The classic game of musical chairs just got an upgrade. One person reads something from the gadget like “Butts up if you’ve ever had a dog.” Those who have, get up. Anyone standing has to run to claim a chair before the music ends. You can play this almost anywhere — indoors or outside — and there are no small pieces that could get lost. For three or more players ages 7+
This game is a sticky test of your fine motor coordination. You start by rolling up a big glob of goo and placing it on top of a tower — yuck! Then you add a balancing platform on top of the muck. Each turn, players roll to see how many cubes they have to stack on top of the ever-shifting goop. The first person to stack all their cubes wins. For two or more players ages 7+
Mr. Monopoly’s hat doubles as a speaker to track players’ bank accounts and properties. All you have to do is roll the dice, press your token’s button and say, “Buy Park Place.” Testers loved that this was a faster-moving version of the original that also prevented cheating. Caveat: It didn’t always recognize commands right away. For two to four players ages 8+
This game is like any match-four-in-a-row game you know — with a twist, literally. Gameplay takes place on a rotating tower and you have to make your matches around corners, challenging your memory, too. For two or four players ages 7+
Kids will have a blast reaching into the dragon’s belly for a trinket. If it matches the color of his glowing nose, they keep it. The first person with one of each figurine wins. Preschoolers went nuts for the sounds, lights and “magic” look into his belly. The game is challenging enough to keep their attention, but doesn’t feel impossible to win. For two to four players ages 4+
A crime has been committed, and players have to figure out which pup did unspeakable acts, like chewing up homework or eating an entire cake. Challenge cards include clues, and players have to use their deductive reasoning to figure out which suspect did the deed. This game is designed for solo play, though multiple detectives can try to work together. And, for feline fans, there's also Cat Crimes. For one player ages 8+
Players build motor skills, strategy and patience while competing with friends. The goal of the game is to pull out a block without letting the stack fall apart — because once the tower falls, it's game over. For one or more players ages 6+
Race to clear your planet’s mess first. Roll the dice to see if you can off-load trash to a neighbor. But watch out — everyone else is giving you their junk, too. It’s fast-paced and doesn’t stop until someone wins. The more people you play with, the more fun (and hectic) it gets. Kids and grown-ups shared tons of laughs. For three to five players ages 6+
It's hard to explain the rules to Fluxx because, well, the rules keep changing. The object is to play a set of "keeper" cards that match the goal set at the beginning of the game. But "new rule" cards can change the goal — along with everything else, from how many cards you can pick up or play each turn to how many you can keep in your hand. Once you've mastered basic Fluxx, you can get other versions, like Zombie Fluxx or Wonderland Fluxx. For two to six players ages 8+
While there are a ton of humorous "crazy comparison" games for the older crowd, Apples to Apples Junior incorporates the same fun for kids as young as 9 years old. And while they're having fun, kids can expand their vocabulary and thinking skills while making their comparisons. For four to eight players ages 9+