The newest and coolest games for kids promise to teach creativity and cooperation, but it’s a rare grandparent who’ll happily sit down to a session of Robot Turtles without asking a dozen questions. That’s where classic games come in. They’re engaging for the whole family but come without long explanations and pages of rules. We found our favorites and shared them below. Talk about winning game night!
This ancient game of strategy is popular with millions of people around the world. While the individual moves of the chess pieces might be hard for little ones to remember, the goal is simple—to win by trapping your opponent’s king. It’s a two-player game that gets kids thinking deeply and lasts 10 minutes to an hour, depending on experience.
Nothing could be simpler than a game of cards, and Rummy involves the fairly easy task of grouping ones that match— something even little ones can do once they’ve mastered actually holding them! If you’re rusty on the rules it might be because there are dozens of variations, but once the kids have mastered Rummy it’s a quick leap to playing Rummikub which also has a junior version for younger players.
photo: Emily Meyers
Financial ruin is never a good thing, but this game has a popularity that just keeps on growing. Hundreds of cities have their own versions, and it’s printed in at least thirty-seven languages. With a roll of the dice, players hustle to develop properties and charge rent while hoping to be the last to face jail and bankruptcy. Plan on counting up your assets after a certain amount of time or be prepared for the long haul because a game can last for hours!
Thirty years ago, Pictionary brought Charades to the table—with artwork replacing mime. Players of all ages race against the timer to identify what their teammates are drawing. This game is great for big family gatherings as all-age teams can work together to move counters based on the success they have at drawing and guessing.
photo: Liz West via Flickr
This classic word game has players earning points not just for the words created, but where they are placed on the board. For alternative versions, skip scoring and just enjoy watching the words take shape on the board, or team up in pairs to help younger spellers build their vocab. Scrabble’s junior edition involves matching tiles to a pre-written grid, and once the kids outgrow the board, they can flip it over to find the more advanced original grid on the other side.
Call it Sorry!, Ludo, Pachisi or Coppit, the idea’s the same; players move their pieces around the board trying to be the first to get them all “home.” The name Sorry! comes from the number of times an apology needs to be issued as players trip each other up in the race around the board. Fast and fun, this is a winning game for families.
photo: Emily Meyers
This compelling murder mystery game is far from scary. Watch the kids turn detective as they try to work out the missing cards and deduce who has done something dastardly in the Clue mansion. Was it Colonel Mustard in the ballroom with the dagger? Younger sleuths might need tips on how to speed up their calculations as the family races to see who will be the first to uncover the details of the crime.
Use your squidger to flip winks and try squopping your opponent in the process (translation: flip plastic coins into a central pot and try to land on your opponents’ coins so they can’t score). Tiddlywinks is at least a hundred years old, and although it might sound confusing (and boasts several Tiddlywinks Associations), it’s easy entertainment for all ages, even if you don’t master the terminology!
photo: Emily Meyers
9. Connect 4
This 3D Tic Tac Toe on an upright board has been a household favorite for forty years and is still as popular as ever. Two players take turns dropping discs into a grid and try to get four in a row. With instructions this simple it’s no wonder it’s addictive family entertainment.
Played on the same board as Chess but with counters instead of pieces, the strategy game of Checkers (or Draughts) is hundreds of years old. Move pieces forward diagonally and capture your opponent’s pieces by leaping over them. Get one of your own counters to the other side of the board and they earn superpowers!
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Which classic board game is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.