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“Real” Board GamesThis category includes games with an actual board.
Name and Link: Ticket to Ride: Days of Wonder.
How we got it: I asked for it for my birthday in 2009. Daughter started playing at 6 years old.
Pros: Great quality and game mechanics, combination of luck and strategy with a weight towards strategy. Teaches geography, game strategy, math.
Cons: Long, need at least one hour to finish. Daughter cannot win yet, which frustrates her a little bit.
Name and link: Monopoly Classic Edition
How we got it: Family Christmas Present – 2013
Daughter started playing immediately (early 6 years old)
Pros: Easy rules, high component of luck (appealing to younger players), exciting changes during the game (getting rich or going broke), interaction. Teaches math, choices, negotiation tactics.
Cons: For three players it takes a really long time to get to the more interactive part of the game. Boring for parents!
Name and Link: The Settlers of Catan.
How we got it: My husband owned it before marriage.
Daughter started playing at six and a half.
Pros: Requires strategy and planning, but has a luck component as well. Great game quality, winner is not certain until the end.
Cons: Complex rules, long (can be made faster by playing for fewer points), requires quite a bit of strategy (or a lot of luck!) to win.
Favorite Math GamesWe are moving now to the section of math games that can be played on any flat surface as a “board”.
Name and Link: Quirkle
How we got it: A present for Smarty’s 4th birthday.
Daughter started playing at 4, but liked it better at 5+.
Pros: Beautiful game quality, relatively fast. Teaches pattern recognition, visual perception, math (on scoring).
Cons: Best suited for 2 or 3 players, need to watch out for missing pieces (so far so good!), complex scoring. Name and link: Yahtzee
How we got it: Found at the garage sale in 2011.
Daughter started playing at early 6.
Pros: Daughter loves that she can win, since the game is mostly based on luck. Teaches probability and math, especially on scoring.
Cons: Because of high element of luck, game can be “won” before it’s officially over. Can be long for several players.
Name and link: Rummikub
How we got it: Christmas 2013.
Daughter started playing without help closer to 7 years.
Pros: Fast (under 30 min), teaches math and combinatorics, good for visual perception.
Cons: Best for at least 3 players, a game for 2 can get unbalanced with players having too many tiles on their hands. So far daughter has not been able to win.
Name and Link: Set
How we got it: Birthday present for 3rd birthday.
Daughter started enjoying it at early 6.
Pros: Great game for visual perception, equally challenging for us and for our 7 year old, fast (under 30 min).
Cons: We always played it with 3 players, I think it can get longer and less interesting with 2 players.
Current Top 3 GamesDrum roll, please. I am now sharing top 3 games in our house!
Name and link: Apples to Apples Junior
How we got it: Christmas 2012
Daughter could play on her own immediately (she was a very early reader)
Pros: Very interactive, length can be negotiated, teaches word associations, synonyms, reading, persuasive skills.
Cons: Needs at least 4 players to be interesting (more is better!). We are a family of 3, so we have to save it for special occasions. Name and link: Launch Pad
How we got it: Christmas 2013
Daughter could play it immediately even though the rules are a little overwhelming.
Pros: Daughter loves that she can win. This game has a big element of luck, but there is some strategy in deciding how much to expand and which cards to play. Teaches reading (the cards have a lot of text!) and math (including negative numbers) in scoring.
Cons: I resisted this game for a while, because every time I had to relearn all the complex rules. Now it grew on me. The game is finite, but can run for more than an hour (unpredictable length ends to the excitement).
Name and link: Zeus on the Loose
How we got it: A birthday present for Smarty’s 7th birthday.
Daughter could play immediately, and could have played it since about 5 years old.
Pros: Very fast (each round under 5 minutes), easy rules, inexpensive, interactive and portable. Teaches simple addition and strategy.
Cons: None in the game for 3 players. I suspect that it’s less engaging for 2 players (one of the rules cannot be applied).