Families are always looking for fun and engaging way to spend quality time kids. Board games are a wonderful family activity. They provide so much more than just an activity to occupy some time. There are many skills which can be developed and strengthened through playing board games. Knowing the additional benefits of board games allow families, teachers and caregivers to optimize the time spent at the table.

Boost Critical Thinking Skills

There are a significant number of games that require a great amount of thought. Many games require decision making, strategic thinking, and problem solving. All these tasks develop critical thinking skills in children. One ways to support their critical thinking is to asking them questions about their strategy. This shows you are letting them take point on the strategy rather than telling them what to do, which can help foster creativity and encourage your kids to think outside the box. That said, if they are really stuck on what to do suggestions can be offered, and they can choose the strategy they think is best.

Some examples of games

  • Sushi Go (decisions on cards to pick)
  • Ticket to Ride (section of cards and planing routes)
  • Planted (choices about which resources to take/use)

Improve Communication Skills

Board games whether they are cooperative or competitive provide lots of opportunities to develop communication skills. In competitive games, there can be communication about rules and turns. In those instances there needs to be active listening as well as clear communication.

With cooperative games the communication is even more critical since all players are working towards the same objective. It really encourages players to express themselves in effectively so their ideas are conveyed clearly. Ideas need to be shared and all players need to listen and respond to the ideas. This support the ability to understand others’ perspectives both around the table, and communicating outside the gaming setting.

The greatest communication skill cooperative game support is learning how to work together effectively. It is really easy for one player to take over the game a direct the other players on what they need to do on their turn. Working together, all players contribute to the strategy. Seeing more experienced gamers listening to their thoughts on the the strategy and being encouraged to collaborate, rather than just following the directions of the player that has taken the lead, will really support their development of communications skills.

Some examples of cooperative games that require communication include:

  • Last Defense
  • Forbidden Island
  • Indiana Jones Sands of Adventure
  • Zombie Kidz Evolution

Develop Sportsmanship and Resilience

Sportsmanship is so important in all different aspects of life. Board games offer a low investment way to learn how to loose graciously and bounce back from setbacks. If a child needs to develop their sportsmanship and/or resilience, games with a short playtime are the way to go. When the game is short then the time and mental investment in the game is lower and it is easier to reset and play again.

Throughout the game make sure to reinforce the importance of being a gracious winner and loser. Encourage your kids to congratulate the winner and offer encouragement to the losers. This can help them learn how to handle both success and failure with grace and humility.

For more suggestions check out my article Building Sportsmanship with Board Games

Some examples of games that Develop Sportsmanship and Resilience

  • The Fuzzies
  • Happy Salmon
  • Drop It!

Choosing the Right Game

Regardless of the purpose it is so important to choose the right game for the players. You need to consider the age recommendation on the game, the skill level involved, and the theme of the game. What is engaging and best for younger kids is different than older kids. Younger kids do best with simple games with only a few rules. Short playtime is best since their attention wains quickly. In contrast, older kids may enjoy more complex games that require more elaborate strategic thinking. That said, some older kids prefer shorter streamline games. Overall game play can take longer and have more rules than with their younger counterpoints.


Games for younger kids:

  • Unicorn Glitterluck (3+)
  • Count Your Chickens (3+)
  • Hoot Owl Hoot (4+)
  • Dragomino (5+)
  • Ticket to Ride: First Journey (6+)

Games for Older Kids:

  • Kingdomino (8+)
  • Block Ness (8+)
  • Abandon All Artichokes (10+)
  • Forbidden Island (10+)

For more recommendations, check out my other articles:

Board Game Recommendations for Toddlers and Preschoolers Ages 2 to 4

Games for Beginning Readers: Board Games for Ages 5 to 7

EFG Essentials: Great Board Games for Kids

Final Thoughts

Board games and gathering together around the table creates many opportunities to develop critical thinking and communication skills. Like so many things, it is important to match the skill you are looking to develop with a game that supports that skill. Additionally, making sure the game matches the skills and interest of the child is key. Time spent at the table can be so beneficial to modeling, and practicing skills and strategies. Board games are a great way to spend time together, and supporting you child’s skill development is an additional benefit.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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By Linda Wrobel

Managing Editor: Board Games Mother, Educator, and Board Game Editor.

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