Board games are a fun and exciting way to spend time together as a family. They help us set aside technology and be in the present with each other. While this alone is a great reason to pick up a board game or two to play together, there are many other reasons to think about. Board games can offer development in mental skills, social skills, physical skills, and problem solving skills. The ones I have listed below are my top 10 favorites that work these different skills all at once.
1. Sneaky Snacky Squirrel (3+)
Find food for your cute forest friends and feed them! This is a great first board game for you child that helps teach colors, matching skills, strategic thinking, turn-taking, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills. The set includes 1 Squirrel Squeezer, 20 colored acorns, 1 game spinner, 4 logs, and the game board. Spin the spinner, squeeze the matching colored acorn with your Squirrel Squeezer, and place it into your log. Be the first to fill your log with delicious acorns and you win!
2. Colour Code (5+)
This is a fun and unique twist on puzzle games, and helps enhance spatial reasoning. Color Code uses 18 bold, colored shapes, each on a see-through tile. Pick a challenge, stack a rack of tiles, and recreate the challenge. It is a great introduction to colors, shapes, order, orientation, and visual perceptual skills. Work in some movement by arranging the tiles around the room and having your child crab walk, frog jump, or bear crawl to find the ones they need!
3. Tricky Fingers (3-10)
This game is great for building bilateral integration, kinesthetic fine motor skills, and visual-perceptual motor planning. It also helps kids slow down and focus. Tricky Fingers features two self-contained playing boards with 16 colored marbles inside and 14 design cards. Players replicate patterns by manipulating marbles with their fingertips through holes in the bottom of the boards.
4. Ned's Head (4+)
This fast-paced tactile identification game encourages tactile processing and recognition skills, quick thinking, and cooperative play. A bit icky, you will reach into Ned's head to find what is dealt on your card. Some odd things have found their way in there! Game comes with a 15 inch plush Ned’s head, 15 silly objects, 24 game cards and instructions. Get ready to giggle and be grossed out, while helping your child build important sensory processing skills.
5. Monkey Around (2+)
This game is all about wiggling, giggling, and moving around. Monkey Around contains 40 cards that prompt players to do movements together, from hugs to high fives, to simple gross motor skills like balancing, hopping and marching. It is a great way to engage your child in simple and fun active play, while challenging their motor planning, balance, body awareness, and vestibular systems!
6. Hullabaloo (4+ yrs)
From the makers of Cranium, Hullabaloo offers out-of-the-box fun. As kids bounce, spin, and jump between the colorful pads, they'll learn new shapes, colors, and words. They will also work attention, problem solving, listening, and following directions, especially when they have to "freeze." There are tons of variations, so it should never get boring; no round will every be the same. Can be played alone or with others. Game includes a talking musical console that directs play, 16 play pads, and instructions.
7. Honeybee Tree (3+)
Similar to Jenga, you must figure out which leaf to pull without disturbing the bees and making them fall. It is a blast to play, and secretly teaches children hand-eye coordination, strategic thinking, patience, grading of muscle force, and dexterity. Game play is an important tool for teaching children about working together, taking turns, and sharing. Help them develop these social and cognitive skills all while they’re having fun with the honey bees! Game set contains 1 honey pot, 1 old oak tree, 1 flower tray base, 32 leaves, 30 little honey bees, and 1 set of game rules.
8. Froggy Feeding Fun (3+)
It is snack time for the frogs! Reinforce numbers, counting, and color recognition while strengthening fingers and hands as kids roll a color or number cube, or both, to determine which flies to pick up. The frogs are large and encourage whole hand grasping. Your child will also build bilateral coordination skills by squeezing the frog with one hand and feeding the flies with the other. Manipulating the frogs and flies can help children establish a dominant hand and support cognitive organization. Game includes two durable rubber frogs, 60 flies, 1 number cube, 1 color cube, and activity guide.
9. Rush Hour Logic Game (8+)
It's grid lock, and the little red car needs to escape! Move the vehicles one by one obeying traffic laws until the red car can get out of the traffic jam. There are four levels of difficulty, offering a level for beginners, experts, and in between. Kids can alternate turns with another player or just "play in traffic" alone. This problem solving game sharpens reasoning, spatial relations, and planning skills. The game set includes 40 challenges and solutions, instructions, 1 red car, 4 blocking trucks, 11 blocking cars, 1 traffic grid , and game-go bag.
10. Twister (6+)
This might be my all time favorite game as a pediatric OT, so I guess I am saving best for last! The spinner calls the shots, and the players make the moves. All of which challenge listening skills, following directions, balance, motor planning, and directionality. It also puts kids in vestibular-activating positions (such as upside down), helping their sensory systems grow and develop. Help your kids strengthen their body awareness, gross motor skills, and praxis by a family Twister night!
This list could be longer, but the skills are important and the fun is never ending. Feel free to share your favorite family board games below!
meet the blogger
Austen is a pediatric occupational therapist with experience in schools, early intervention, and private clinic settings. She now runs her own private practice in Portland, OR specializing in movement based learning techniques. This blog's mission is to educate and empower parents and children by sharing insights into the complexities of learning and development.