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Young children grow and change so much from year to year. Each year there are developmental milestones that parents can encourage and support by choosing board games that are suited to their blossoming skills. Children at the age of three have skills that are well suited to some beginning game skills. Their play skills have advanced and they are more likely to join children playing rather than playing alongside. Three-year-olds are able to follow two to three-step directions, and can begin to share and take turns.

Games that Support Motor Skills

Motor skills in three-year-olds have developed to the point where they can stack ten blocks. To continue to develop gross motor skills, games with stacking and balance are a great fit. Fine motor skills also are developing and any game where they can grasp or pick up small items is beneficial to their developing hands. With so many touch screens available to children, the need to develop fine motor skills has increased significantly, impacting writing, drawing, and cutting skills well into school age.

Feed the Woozle

  • Peaceable Kingdom
  • 2-5 Players

With a silly name and adorable art, Feed the Woozle is engaging for three-year-olds. Players roll the dice to see how many snacks to feed the Woozle, but they have to walk them across a distance of a recommended 8-10 feet (which of course can be scaled down at first if that is too challenging). The goal is to get 12 of the 24 snacks to the Woozle. The game also has levels of play, including a spinner that adds movement to the walk across with the snacks, such as March or Bunny Hop. 

Buy Feed the Woozle here on Amazon

2. Boom Boom

  • Blue Orange
  • 1-6 Players

Dexterity and fine motor are at the center of Boom Boom The Balancing Panda. Players need to place different size cylinders only Boom Boom without any falling off. To make it even more challenging the cylinders are different sizes and shapes, plus players pick the next piece for their neighbor to place.

Buy Boom Boom The Balancing Panda here on Amazon.

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game

  • Educational Insights
  • 2-4 Players

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is where you are collecting acorns to feed your hungry squirrel.  At the beginning of each turn, you spin the spinner and that dictates the color acorn you can take or if another event occurs. The first person to fill their log with acorns wins. Buy The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game here on Amazon.

Educational Insights has developed a line of games with a squeezer that also includes: Hoppy Floppy Happy Hunt, Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game, Shelby’s Snack Shack Game, and Sophie’s Seashell Scramble.

The tweezer features of this series are amazing for developing fine motor skills by having resistance on their hands.

Big City Builders

  • Ravensburger
  • 1-2 Players

Build your roads and transport materials to the construction site. Building and trucks are a perennial favorite of three-year-old kids. Big City Builders taps into the early skills of this age and incorporates turn-taking, decision-making, and color matching.

This also can be included with other toys to expand its play.

Buy Big City Builders here on Amazon.

Games that Support Memory and Sorting/Classifying

Games geared for this age can help develop skills with opposites, matching, and problem-solving. Many games for this age tap into their beginning skills and can foster strengthening those skills.

Language skills typically have developed to the point where they can answer questions that include what, when, why, and where. By the age of 3 they are beginning to be able to name their emotions and can tell you if they are sad, happy, etc. Three-year-olds can understand the difference in sizes (bigger/smaller), and prepositions (on, under, behind).

Bandit’s Memory Mix-Up

  • Peaceable Kingdom
  • 2-4 Players

Bandits Memory Mix Up is a game for two to four players ages three and up which challenges memory. This game has players take the spyglass and place five garden tiles inside then shake it up. Then one player removes One garden tile secretly. The challenge: remembering the removed tile. The first player to identify the missing tile wins. There are also variants that support solo and large group play. Play reinforces the skills of turn-taking, visual discrimination, and memory.

Buy Bandit’s Memory Mix Up here on Amazon.

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse

  • Peaceable Kingdom
  • 2-4 Players

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse is a cooperative game for 2 to 4 players ages 3 and up. In this game, players are working together to find all the different Woodland animals playing hide and seek in the tree before Mr. Prickles climbs the ladder. Players worked together to remember the location of the different seekers when they think they have located a seeker they state who they think it is pick up the disk and smash it into the smash to to reveal who’s hiding. If they successfully find a hider they place a token to show that the seeker has been found. Gameplay reinforces memory, simple strategy, cooperation, and fine motor skills.

Buy Smoosh and Seek Treehouse here on Amazon.

Count Your Chickens

  • Peaceable Kingdom
  • 2-4 Players

Count Your Chickens is a cooperative game where you are trying to get all 40 chicks back to the coop before the hen reaches it.  On each turn, the player spins the spinner that has various pictures that correspond to pictures on the path.  The player moves the mother hen to the next space with that picture and counts the number of spaces they travel.  The number of spaces is how many chicks they put in the coop. If the spinner lands on the fox one chick is taken out of the coop and put back in the farmyard.

Buy Count Your Chickens! here on Amazon.

Unicorn Glitterluck

Unicorn Glitterluck is a roll-and-move game with some added components for ages 3 and up.  Players move their unicorns along the path and collect crystals.  If they land on a crystal image they have to roll a special die to find out how many crystals to take.  The player who reaches the sun first ends the game and players count their crystals.  The player with the most crystals wins.  The back of the game board also has a counter track so players can lay out their crystals by the player and visually see who has the most.

Buy Unicorn Glitterluck here on Amazon.

Happy Bunny

  • Blue Orange
  • 1-4 Players

Harvest carrots for the bunny and the farmer in Happy Bunny. Players need to work together to pick carrots out of the garden. If a carrot has a bite taken out of it, it goes to the bunny, but unbitten carrots go to the farmers. There are also three different size carrots. The bunny moves along the path as players roll the dice. Once the bunny reaches the end of the path, the carrots are counted for both the bunny and the farmer. If the bunny has more the players win, while if the farmer has more the game wins.

Buy Happy Bunny here on Amazon.

  1. Snug as a Bug in a Rug

Snug as a Bug in a Rug is a cooperative game for players ages 3 and up.  The game is also designed with three levels of play to increase difficulty as players get older. The bugs in the game have multiple features.  They are different colors, have shapes, have different numbers of shapes, and have large or small eyes.

The basic gameplay has the players roll the specialized die to determine the attribute they are looking for in their bug and then spin the spinner to specify the attribute.  For example, if they roll the color attribute on the die, the spinner would tell them to find the blue bug.  Once they find a bug with that attribute it goes under the rug (the game board). If there are no bugs that match that feature a stink bug is placed on the rug.  The game ends when all the bugs are under the run, which means players win, or there are three stink bugs on the rug.

Buy Snug as a Bug in a Rug here on Amazon.

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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Board games are such a great way to bring people together, and make wonderful gifts. The board game industry just keeps putting out amazing games. We have gone through many of the new games, and curated a list of games that have caught our attention, plus fit a wide range of ages, styles, and experience. Not to mention some themes that will grab your attention. We created a list with something for every member of the family in mind, plus gaming accessories that can be gifts alone or paired with a game.

Games for the Whole Family

These games are easy to learn and can be enjoyed by a wide range of players. We chose games are great for multi age game play as well, family members with a range of gaming experience. Plus we have included themes in a range of interests. Most importantly we chose games that would be fun to bring the family around the table and play.


What can be cuter than herding little dragons? In Dragonkeepers you use the cards to create your “magic book”. This magic book tells you how many dragons as well as what kind you can take into your protection. On your turn you can manipulate the magic book, also known as playing a card. Throughout the game, you are trying to herd dragons, collect eggs, and amulet pieces.’

Dragonkeepers was the 2023 Toy Fair Game of the Show for the EFG team!

Qwirkle Color Blind Friendly

The well loved tile laying strategy game Qwirkle has come out with a new version that is color blind friendly. The game play has remained unchanged, but the tiles have some details added to mitigate for color blindness. First the colors of the tiles have been changed to provide better contrast. In addition to the contrast, there is a symbol in the center of each shape to indicate the different colors.

We have found that having features in games that mitigate the colors, such as unique shapes is helpful for anyone when playing where the lighting is less than optimal. My family often plays games at our camper and the light has a yellow tint, which can distort how colors look and make telling the different colors apart challenging. With the shape indicating color it removes some of that challenge.

Four Corners

In Four Corners, stunning artwork is paired with a strategic tile laying game with two different designs. You can choose the Galaxy with a space motif or Kaleidoscope with the colorful patters found inside its namesake. Calliope Games are the first publisher I have see used a tray to keep tiles in place during play. This was debuted by Calliope in Tsuro Phoenix Rising. This tray allows players to lift out the tiles and manipulate them without disturbing the tiles around them.

In Four Corners each player is manipulating the tiles to try to reach their own secret goal. This beautiful game has great table presence and with two styles can best match the interest of the giftee.

800 Pound Gorilla

Silly games are a perennial favorite for families. In 800 Pound Gorilla, players use a spinner to earn points either by being the first to grab a coconut or banana. The other way is to correctly guess the weight of the gorilla. In this fast paced ridiculous game, there are silly actions and utterances, along with the gorilla guessing. 

Small Box Games ( Perfect for a small container)

Around holiday time there are times where you need a small item. Whether it is a grab bag or a small container needing to be filled. Here are a few new games that will fit!

That’s Not a Hat

In the small box game, That’s Not a Hat, the deck is a series of picture card which are “gifts”. The gameplay is very simple. First players reveal a gift (card) and then flip it over. Then the cards shift based on the arrows. After the shift players need to remember what the cards are or bluff! How good is your memory or will you be able to bluff without being caught?

Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza – 8-bit Edition!

The rules are in the name. For the game series Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza players are laying down cards as they say each word in the name. If the word spoken and the card match, there is a race to be the first to slap the pile. There are also special cards which require a specific silly action. In the 8 bit edition there are three new cards: fireball, beep boop, and barrel, each with their own silly action. The 8 bit game is great for fans of video games with the 8 bit style as well as those who hold nostalgia for the old 8 bit games.

For any soccer fans on your shopping list there is also Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza – 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – Special Edition

Buy Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza Fifa 23 here on Amazon.

Games For the Experienced Gamer

Some of us have that gamer in our lives, or are that gamer, that loves more complex games . These are new games that will be a good fit for those who like more complexity and components to their games.

Horrified: Greek Monsters

Take on the famous monsters from Greek mythology in Horrified Greek Monsters.  This takes the well known game Horrified, where players fight classic monsters, and challenges the players to work together to save the Isle of Elysium. The monsters include: Minotaur, Cerberus, Chimera, Medusa, Basilisk, and Siren. They all have unique abilities and challenges so different combinations will change the game each time you play, and allow you to scale the difficulty. An additional lair mechanic has been added to this game, and you discover the lair of the monster before defeating them.

Casting Shadows

Battle your opponents with some adorable characters. In an enchanted world your battle takes place and you collect shadow fragments. Once you collect enough shadow fragments your character transforms into their shadow form. In this form you have additional powers. 

Casting Shadows originally was on Kickstarter, and has been a huge hit in our house. The artwork is absolutely wonderful, and what we have come to expect from Teeturtle and Unstable Games. Plus we find the battling mechanic easy to use, as we try and take each other out.

There is also a player board that is a good additional gift item. You can buy it here on Amazon.


  • Age: 10+
  • Players: 1-5
  • Playtime: 60 minutes
  • Gameplay: Worker Placement, Hand Management, Set Collection
  • Publisher: Lucky Duck Games, Cardboard Alchemy
  • Buy Flamecraft here on Amazon

Take on the role of a Flamekeeper to place artisan dragons in the ideal shop location to optimize their skills and enchant the town. This beautiful game was originally a Kickstarter, and hit the gaming world by storm once it fulfilled. The artwork is adorable and the fantasy world these dragons live in is so engaging. By incorporating a few different gaming mechanics it makes it appealing for gamers who enjoy a bit more complexity, but remains easy to learn.

Our Favorite Themes

We all have favorite themes whether they are books, movies, shows, or other games. There is something about playing a game within your favorite world or with a beloved character. There have been a several games released in the past year that tap into a favorite topic.

Lord of the Rings Adventure Book

  • Age: 10+
  • Players 1-4
  • Playtime: 20 Minutes per Chapter
  • Gameplay: Cooperative, Strategy
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Buy here on Amazon

Any fan of The Lord Of The Rings will enjoy playing through the different significant moments of the trilogy. The game plays over eight chapters, each being a critical plot point of the story. Through these challenges players collect story cards to complete challenges and try to advance to the next chapter. There is also a Corruption Track, so you need to keep an eye on the influence of the One Ring you are transporting. 

With the chapter format you can fit a session easily in an evening or gaming session with each chapter taking approximately 20 minutes. The adventure book guides you through each section with a map and beautiful art and miniatures. 

Villainous: Introduction to Evil

  • Ages: 10+
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playing Time: 20 minutes per player (40-80 minutes)
  • Gameplay: Variable Player Powers, Strategy
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Buy here at Target:

The Villainous Series from Ravensburger has been a huge hit. In this Target exclusive, Ravensburger took the original Villainous game and streamlined it in a few ways. They only have four villains in this version, versus six in the original game. The villains included in this game are; Maleficent, Captain Hook, Ursula, or Prince John. The game is  asymmetric with each villain having different goals. The gameplay as well as the instructions have been streamlined. Plus videos have been created to make learning the game and getting started even easier. 

While the game has been updated, players can still take villains from other games and play up to four players. 

Scum and Villainy

  • Ages: 10+
  • Players: 2-3
  • Playing Time: 20 minutes per player (40-80 minutes)
  • Gameplay: Variable Player Powers, Strategy
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Buy here on Amazon

In the first expansion to the Star Wars Villainous universe, Scum and Villainy adds a few more key villains for players to choose from. This can be a stand alone game, or the villains can be mixed with Star Wars Villainous. 

Buy Star War Villainous here on Amazon.

In Scum and Villainy, you can play as  Boba Fett, Seventh Sister, or Cad Bane. Just as in all the Villainous games, each villain has their own objective they are working toward to win. So players need to both work on their villain’s objective and try to disrupt the progress of the other villains.

Games for Younger Gamers

There are so many options for games for young children beyond the “classic” games everyone knows. What is great is the newer games tend to be more fun for the grown-ups playing with the kids. These are some of the newest games for kids age 7 and younger. The games below are organized from youngest to oldest.

Happy Marshmallow

Begin building skills with your toddler that will serve them in playing games and turn taking. Happy Marshmallow is an adorable two player game where the skills of turn taking and matching are reinforced as they pretend to cook marshmallows over a campfire. On their turn a player draws a card and places the matching marshmallow on their stick. The game is over and both players win when both sticks are filled.

Pete the Cat: Terrific Taco Game

  • Age: 3+
  • Players: 2-4
  • Gameplay: Set collection
  • Publisher: Briarpatch (University Games)
  • Buy here on Amazon

In this adorable game featuring Pete the Cat, players are helping Pete fill taco orders. Players are given three order cards. On their turn, players flip over ingredient cards (which stay face up) to try and find the ones they need to fulfill their orders. Watch out for the grumpy frog, if he is revealed all face up cards and flipped back face down. 

This game supports young games with their counting, matching, turn taking, and visual discrimination skills.

Exit Kids: Jungle of Riddles

  • Age: 5+
  • Players: 1-4
  • Playtime: 20 Minutes
  • Gameplay: Cooperative
  • Publisher  Kosmos
  • Buy here on Amazon

In the jungle you have found nine treasure chests, can you solve the puzzles to open all of them? The popular Exit Games now have a version for kids. Unlike the standard Exit games these games are replayable and none of the components are destroyed. The puzzles are designed without any reading, and the game contains escape room style puzzles and brainteasers.

Stomp the Plank

  • Age: 5+
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 15 Minutes
  • Gameplay: Push Your Luck, player elimination
  • Publisher: Ravensburger
  • Buy here on Amazon

Elephant pirates are on an adventure, and want the treasure. The elephants are trying to get treasure from Captain Giraffe. Players can draw as many treasure cards as they wish, but for each repeated card they draw their elephant moves forward on the plank. Who will be the last one remaining on the pirate ship?

Beat the 8 Ball

  • Age: 6+
  • Players: 2-4
  • Gameplay: Party, Dexterity
  • Publisher: Blue Orange Games
  • Buy here on Amazon

Challenge your patience and test your timing with Beat the 8 Ball. Players need to time when they will release their ball after the 8 Ball is sent into the funnel. If you beat the 8 Ball you score points, but landing after the 8 Ball will cost you. The challenge is to be the one closest without getting behind the 8 ball.

Board Game Accessories

Being a gamer lends itself to collecting. Sometimes it is challenging to find an amazing fit or you want to get something that is not a new game. Perhaps you need a small item for a small holiday container. There are great accessories that can enhance the gaming experience for a huge range of gamers.

Game Storage On the Shelf

Storage of board games can get challenging. Depending on your storage situation you may need to store them on their sides instead of laying flat. One item I have invested in are bands to hold the box closed and minimize the change of pieces falling out. This also helps with traveling with games where the lid is a smidge loose.

Click here for Silicone Rubber Bands on Amazon

Click here for Elastic Box Bands on Amazon

Traveling with Games

There are bags for carrying games, and then there are bags! You can get a more basic tote bag to bring your latest favorite to game night, or go all out on a special game hauling backpack or tote.

Click here for a USA Board Game Bag

Basic tote from Amazon

Game Box Storage

Ticket To Ride storage bins

Bins for game components

Jazz Up Your Game

100 Wooden Meeples

Keeping it Neat On the Table

Foldable bowls

Mini Silicone Pinch Bowls

Dice Trays

Simplifying for the Little Games

Gamewright Card holder

For More Gift Ideas

EFG Essentials: Great Board Games for Kids

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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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!

The EFG Essentials

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The Spiel Des Jahres, translated as “Game of the Year,” is not just an award—it’s a seal of quality for families seeking the best in board gaming. Since its establishment in 1978, this prestigious accolade has been guiding parents and caregivers toward games that promise fun and memories that can last a lifetime! In 2022, the coveted award went to Cascadia, a tile-laying game for nature lovers everywhere! As we step into 2023, let’s explore this year’s winners and nominees that are perfect for family game nights.

A Brief History for New Parents

The Spiel Des Jahres was initiated by German game critics with a vision to promote top-tier games in the German market. Today, it’s a global benchmark. Winning or even being nominated can significantly boost a game’s popularity, making it easier for parents worldwide to identify quality games for their children.

Spiel des Jahres 2023 Winner

Dorfromantik – Das Brettspiel (Dorfromantik – The Boardgame) is more than just a game—it’s an experience. Crafted by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach and brought to life by illustrator Paul Riebe, this tile-laying game is perfect for families. Players aged 8 and up can bond over creating serene landscapes. This gorgeous game is actually based on a video game of the same name and helps teach kids about strategy, patience, and the beauty of nature.

Other 2023 Spiel Des Jahres Nominations

  1. Fun Facts by Kaspar Lapp is not just entertaining but also educational. It offers enlightening self-assessment, making learning fun for kids and adults alike.
  2. Next Station London by Matthew Dunstan is a colorful adventure through London’s underground, teaching kids about the city’s history and geography in an engaging manner.

Kinderspiel des Jahres 2023 Winner

Mysterium Kids is a gem for younger members of the family. This acoustic association game is tailored for children aged 6 and over and was designed by Antonin Boccara and Yves Hirschfeld. It encourages listening skills, teamwork, and creativity as kids try to solve mysteries using sound clues.

Other Nominations for the 2023 Kinderspiel des Jahres

  1. Carla Caramel by Sara Zarian lets players take on the role of ice cream parlor owners. It’s a cooperative game that fosters teamwork and decision-making for kids aged 4 and up.
  2. Gigamons by Johann Roussel and Karim Aouidad is a delightful monster-collecting game that builds memory and recognition skills for kids aged 5 and over.

Kennerspiel des Jahres 2023 Winner

Kennerspiel des Jahres 2023 highlights games for older kids and teens. The winner, Challengers!, is a chaotic tournament game suitable for players aged 8 and up. It’s a fantastic choice for families with older kids, promoting strategic thinking and healthy competition.

The 2023 Spiel Des Jahres Awards offer a treasure trove of family-friendly games. Whether you have young children, tweens, or teens, there’s something for everyone. As parents, investing in these games means not only hours of fun but also opportunities for learning and bonding. So, why wait? Dive into the world of board gaming and create cherished family memories!

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The Engaged Family Gaming team has the mission to provide information and support families who want to play board games with their kids (and video games too). We work hard to provide parents with the tools they need to make informed decisions about their children’s gaming. To facilitate this, we help parents who might not be “gamers” themselves learn to understand the games their children are playing and help them find great board games for their kids.

The “EFG Essentials” is a core collection of games we frequently recommend across different genres. The purpose of these essentials is to provide a starting point for families to engage with high-quality games. Below are our EFG Essential board games for kids.

Games for the Whole Family


Buy Planted here at Target

  • Card Drafting/Resource Management/ Set Collection
  • 2-5 Players
  • Age 10+

There is something very satisfying about caring for plants and watching them flourish. Planted takes the premise of collecting and caring for plants and couples it with beautiful artwork and components. This Target exclusive game had a high production value for the price. Players collect Resource Cards and Item Cards at the beginning of each of the four rounds. Then players draft their cards by picking and passing the cards to the right or left, the direction changes each round.

Planted plays over four rounds with a very simple card drafting mechanism. The game design keeps beginning players in mind. The player boards and nursery board do a great job of communicating clearly for the players. Each round players draw 6 Resource cards and 2 Item cards. Over the round players pick a card simultaneously, reveal and gather any resources based on their cards.

Planted takes some more complicated gaming mechanics and has streamlined their play as well as provided lots of visual support on the player boards, cards, and nursey board. For novice gamers this have become a great new gateway into set collection, resource management, and card drafting.

Chonky Donkey

  • Party Game
  • 3-8 Players
  • Age 12 +

Buy Chonky Donkey here on Amazon

Party games are wildly popular and easy to find, but may have a similar gameplay or theme from each other. Chonky Donkey has taken the party game and transformed the judge into the reader. In Chonky Donkey, just as in many other party games with cards and a judge, players submit a card to a prompt.

However, this is where there is a twist, the judge is only a reader. This game has question cards and answer cards. First the reader flips an answer card and all the players (except reader, who is in “the hot seat) submit a question card that they feels goes with the question, or is just ridiculous. As they read the cards summitted my their fellow players. the reader can not smile or laugh. If the reader smiles or laughs, the player who’s card they were reading gets the prompt card and the point. Should the reader keep a straight face the whole time, the reader keeps the prompt card and they get the point.

Ticket to Ride 

  • Route Building and Set collection 
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Ticket to Ride on Amazon!

Ticket To Ride is the quintessential starting place for families looking for the next level in board games beyond Monopoly or Uno. This is the game that was the starting point for multiple members of the EFG team to become passionate about board games.

During gameplay, players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout the United States. Each player is working on completing their own secret routes. If another player claims a path they need, the player needs to try and find another path to complete their route, if possible. This also adds a potential “take that” element to the game.

On each turn you can only take one of 3 actions: draw Train Car Cards, claim a Route between two cities on the board, draw additional Destination Tickets. The object of the game is to score the highest number of total points. Points are earned from completing routes, and lost for incomplete route cards. Each round allows for players to plan, think strategically, and make tactical decisions.

Ticket to Ride has expansions for other geographical areas (EuropeAsiaIndia, etc), in addition to First Journey for younger players. We love the fact that this game has so many version and appeals to such a wide range of players.

  • See our review of Ticket to Ride here.
  • See our review of Ticket to Ride First Journey here.

Sushi Go

  • Card drafting 
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Sushi Go on Amazon!

Sushi-Go takes place in the fast-paced world of a sushi chef, you must be the most creative and the fastest of all to be the best! The game comes in a cute tin and plays two to five players.

Players start with cards in their hand based on the number of players. Then select one card to play before passing the rest of their cards to the next player to choose from!  The game plays in 3 rounds. The strategy of the game lies in making the most of the cards passed to you, while trying to stop opponents from making the combinations they need to maximize points. The most interesting dynamic of this game is the chopsticks.  They are played in one round, and used on a subsequent turn to play two cards at once from the current hand.  The chopsticks get passed on to be used by someone else.

Sushi Go! is a fun game to play with anyone, and it is a light streamlined game that is a perfect first card drafting game.

See our review here.

The Crew

  • Trick Taking, Cooperative Strategy
  • 3-5 players
  • Age 10+

Buy The Crew on Amazon!

Multiple award winner, the 2020 Kennerspiel Des Jahres and 2021 American Tabletop Casual Game, the Crew combines two unique gaming styles, cooperative game play and trick taking. Players take on the roll of a space crew trying to complete missions. The rule books tells the story of each mission as well as the conditions players need to follow to succeed. Once a mission is completes successfully players can move on to the next mission. The game has 50 mission, which increase in intensity both within the story and in the requirements needed to be successful.

The Crew does a great job of adding small elements to each mission to make the difficulty increase. It is done in a gradual way that keeps the game approachable for families. For a small game, and modest number of components there is a lot of game packed into the small box.

The Crew Mission Deep Sea

  • Trick Taking, Cooperative Strategy
  • 2-5 Players
  • Age 10+

Buy The Crew Mission Deep Space

If you like The Crew, another adventure is available. In The Crew Mission Deep Sea, players search for the lost city of Mu beneath the ocean depth with in this sequel to the award winning game, The Crew. Using an easy to learn cooperative trick-taking gameplay the players take on different missions to tell the story. Completing each hand under certain conditions completes each mission and advances you through the story on your search for Mu. Just like in its predecessor, as you complete each mission additional rules and conditions might applied to future missions.

Abandon All Artichokes

  • Deck Builder (Deck Deconstruction)
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 10+

Buy Abandon All Artichokes on Amazon!

Winner of the 2021 American Tabletop Early Gamers category, Abandon All Artichokes has you build your hand of garden vegetables by deconstructing your deck of artichokes. In Abandon All Artichokes, players start with a hand of all artichoke cards. The goal is to abandon their artichoke cards and create a hand with other vegetables from the garden.

This is a great deck builder game for players new to that style of game, and has been referred to as a “my first deck builder” While the game is rated for age 10 and up this is a game that can scale down to slightly younger players. The non-artichoke vegetable cards have text with the actions the card allows. Young players being able to read the cards is helpful.


  • Roll and Write
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Quixx on Amazon!

Qwixx is a simple roll and write where all players participate in every dice roll. However, you must be strategic about the numbers and colors you select each turn. Roll and write games have a set of dice and each player has a scoring sheet. The genre of roll and write games have become more popular in the last few years, and Qwixx is the perfect game to learn the genre.

To play, there are six dice, two white, one yellow, one red, one blue, and one green. On a turn, the active player rolls and announces the total of the two white dice. All players have the option to mark any color on their sheet with the corresponding number.  The active player only has the additional option to add one white die with any one of the red, yellow, blue, or green dice to select a number on their record sheet. The more numbers you can mark off the more points you score. Players must choose carefully once you cross off a number you can not go backwards.


  • Tile Laying
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Kingdomino on Amazon!

Kingdomino, the 2017 winner of The Spiel Des Jahres (The Game of the Year), and combines the universal simplicity of dominoes with kingdom building. It is a tile drafting and placement game for two to four players.  The game is played in short rounds.

First, tiles are laid out in a field and players take turns drafting tiles based on the order of the previous round. Players draw domino shaped tiles and lay them out in their 5×5 block kingdom. only one side of their domino needs to match the land the connect to, but it can gain them more points if both sides match. The goal is to sort their kingdom so that they have large contiguous terrain (lakes, forests, etc) to earn points. Points are calculated by taking the number of continuous terrain times the number of crown icons found on any domino in that terrain. The gameplay is quick, easy to teach, and the game ages down very nicely.

See our Spiel Des Jahres 2017 article here.

Forbidden Island

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 10+

Buy Forbidden Island on Amazon!

Forbidden Island puts players on an island that is slowly sinking into the ocean, and they need to work together to gather treasures then escape. Each turn is filled with tension as players flip over cards that indicate which tile will sink (and thus shrink the board). As the game progresses it really feels like the world is sinking.

The tiles are laid out in a set island pattern, and six cards are flipped from the Flood Deck. As cards are drawn from the Flood Deck, the corresponding tile on the board is flipped over. Which reveals a blue tinted version of the same piece. This represents the location “flooding”. If a flooded location floods a second time (via the same flood card being drawn later in the game), that location is lost to the abyss and both the tile and the corresponding flood card are removed from the game. 

The randomness of the tile layout leads to huge variety and replay value. The difficulty can be scaled to all abilities based on how high the water level starts the game. Even at the easy setting can provide a decent challenge for some of the most experienced gamers.

See our review here.


  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Pandemic on Amazon!

In Pandemic, two to four players take on one of several roles, such as Medic, Dispatcher, or Researcher, in their quest to cure 4 diseases before time runs out and humanity is wiped out.

Game play follows a standard turn-based approach. Each player starts their turn by drawing from an event deck to determine where the newest infections are.  Then, they use location cards to move around the globe, treating diseases to prevent outbreaks.  Finally, they draw more location cards to restock their hand.  If a player can get three location cards of a single color and can get to a lab, they can create a cure.  The cure that won’t immediately eradicate the disease. Rather, it will make the disease easier to treat.

There is one way to win (working together to cure all 4 diseases), and multiple ways to lose (running out of time, being overwhelmed by diseases, etc.)  Players can change the difficult by increasing the starting number of infections.

See our review here.


  • Tile Laying
  • 2-8 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Tsuro on Amazon!

Tsuro is a tile laying game for two to eight players with a beautiful Asian aesthetic. In this game you are a flying dragon. Your dragon is represented by a colored carved token. Tsuro consists of tiles with twisting lines on them, a 6×6 grid on which to lay these tiles and a token for each player.

Each player has a hand of tiles. On your turn you do two things: place a tile from your hand onto the board next to your token and move your token as far as it can go along the line it is currently on. You continue to move it until it is stopped by an empty space with no tile in (yet), the edge of the board, or if you collide with player’s token. If your dragon reaches the edge of the board or collides with another player’s token, you are out of the game.

The goal of the game is to be the last player left with a dragon on the board. The strategy, therefore, consists of trying to drive your opponents either into each other or off of the board. While trying to extend your own route in directions that will make it difficult for your opponents to hinder your path.

See our review here.

Zombie Kidz Evolution

  • Legacy/ Cooperative
  • For 2-4 Players
  • Ages 7+

Buy Zombie Kidz Evolution on Amazon!

Your successes or failures affect the game in your future plays of the game, in Zombie Kidz Evolution. This is a perfect first step into Legacy games. Legacy games are played over a series of sessions and what occurrences in previous sessions permanently changes the game and can influence the next events in the game. In Zombie Kidz Evolution you are working together to protect yourselves and drive off the zombies in the school. All the staff at the school zombies. The rules start off very simply, and as the game progresses new rules and abilities are added.

Zombie Teenz Evolution

  • Legacy/Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Zombie Teenz Evolution here on Amazon

The zombies are causing trouble around the town and you must work with your friends to find all the ingredients for the antidote to save them. Zombie Teenz is another game in the same world as Zombie Kidz Evolution. This is a stand alone game which can also be combined with Zombie Kidz Evolution. Just like in its predictor, this is a cooperative legacy games and evolves as you play. If your family likes Zombie Kidz Evolution, the this adds just a little more complexity and challenge for players.

Happy Salmon

  • Party Game
  • 3-8 players
  • Age 6+

Buy Happy Salmon on Amazon!

Happy Salmon is a great game for motivating your family to get up, laugh, and shout their way through a game. The rules also suggest being creative for a silent mode in locations where shouting is too disruptive. Each player gets 12 cards in their personal deck with three of each action card and the players who stand around a table. Each player shuffles their deck and flips it over so only one card is visible.

Once play begins, all players simultaneously say the name of the action on the revealed card. They are trying to find another player with a matching card. If no one has the same card the card moves to the bottom of their deck. If they find a match the two players perform the action and discard the card in front of them. The actions of Happy Salmon include: High Five, Fish Bump, Switch it up (where players switch places), and Happy Salmon (where players slap arms together) will leave players doubled over in laughter.  The first player to run out of cards wins.

Exploding Kittens

  • Player Elimination and Hand Management
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 7+

Buy Exploding Kittens on Amazon!

Exploding Kittens is one of the silliest games in our collection, and is a family favorite. There are fifty-six cards in the deck. The artwork is exactly what you may have come to expect from The Oatmeal. Characters such as Taco Cat and Beard Cat make an appearance alongside original artwork on each card. The game play is quite simple; the box claims it takes two minutes to learn. They weren’t kidding.

You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple. The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out. 

This game is a lot more fun than one might think it would be. It plays very quickly and is very easy to learn.

Check out the review here.

Evolution: The Beginning

  • Engine Building
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Evolution: The Beginning on Amazon!

The Evolution Series by North Star Games has multiple games in this line. In the Evolution games you are evolving your creatures with various traits to help their survival. Each animal needs to have enough food or they die out and can go extinct. There is something for everyone in this series. For elementary age students you can start with Evolution: The Beginning. This is a simplified and streamlined version of the game good for ages eight and up. For older children: Evolution, Flight (which is an expansion), Climate, and Oceans.

The Evolution: The Beginnings the perfect lighter family game. It has streamlined the game elements of the Evolution series. For players new to engine building board games this gives a framework for that genre of game that is easy to understand. An engine building game is where the players are building something that will ultimately produce points for them in the game. The theme of Evolution is also very engaging to a wide range of players. It can be played with a wide range of players.

Block Ness

  • Area Control/Basic Resource Management
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Block Ness on Amazon !

Loch Ness Monsters are taking over the Loch, in Block Ness by Blue Orange Games. Players are vying for the limited space and trying to make their monster the longest before running out of room. To keep space limited and challenging at all player counts the number of players impacts the size of the loch (play space).

Each player gets 12 segments of their color monster, including a head and tail. Each segment is slightly different, they vary both in length and height. As players add to their monster, they can place a new piece horizontally or vertically only. Monster pieces can also (and eventually will need to) go over other monster pieces. The must be taller than the existing piece to cross over.

Block Ness is a great family game, and it plays well multi generational. The rules are very easy to learn and only takes 15 minutes to play, making it a great addition to family game collections.


  • Engine Building
  • 2-4
  • Age 10+

Buy Splendor on Amazon!


Blending a  balance of easy to learn rules and deeper strategy, Splendor is a fantastic game for older children and grown-ups alike. Splendor is a simple and elegant set collection game for two to four players. This is a game that is easy to teach, quick to learn, and will take a long time to master. The bottom line here; Asmodee has a huge hit on their hands as this has become one of our family’s favorite games.

In Splendor, players take on the role of Renaissance jewelers who are working to build their prestige and attract the attention of wealthy noble patrons. They do this by gathering resource tokens and spending them on development cards that represent new designs, tools, mining operations, and store fronts. The game is essentially a race to fifteen prestige points. Players acquire gems in order to buy mines, which in turn provide more gems (and ultimately points). While the gem-dealer theme may feel thin at times, the card drafting mechanic and  engine-building gameplay will quickly make this a family game night staple.

Check out our review! 


  • Set collection
  • 2-8 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Skyjo here on Amazon!

Skyjo is a great addition to any game collection. It supports of wide range of players and scales well at all player counts. Being able to support up to eight players is a huge asset. It is challenging to find a game, which is not a party game, that supports such a high player count. Skyjo’s rules are simple and easy to learn. It fits a casual gaming and multi generational gaming setting.

Players receive cards face down at the beginning of the round they reveal three cards. On their turn a player can either draw a revealed card from the discard pile, or they can take a card from the draw pile. If a player selects a revealed card from the discard pile, they must use it either for one of their face up cards or flip over a card and use it there. Should they choose an unknown card from the draw pile, then players can either substituted for a visible card or flip a card as well.

The round ends when 1 player has revealed all of their cards. One final turn occurs for the remaining players. Finally, players reveal their remaining cards and calculate points. There is a risk to ending the round, because that player must have the lowest score or their points are doubled. Additional rounds are played until one player meets or exceeds 100 points. The player with the lowest score wins the game. There is one special condition in the game.

Check out our review here.

Drop It

  • Dexterity/ Abstract Strategy
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 8+

Buy Drop It on Amazon!

Some of the best family games are easy to learn, but hard to master. Drop It has very simple rules and can be taught in minutes, yet has enough strategy within the simple rules to keep it engaging for all members of the family. Do not be deceived by the bright primary colors of the game, Drop It is more than a kids game!

In Drop It, each player has a collection of shapes in one color, and players drop them down the vertical game board to try and score points. The challenge come in meeting the criteria to score points. Along the side and the bottom there are colors (or shapes depending on the set up you select) and if your piece touches the side of the same color it does not score any points. Pieces also may not land touching another piece of a matching shape or color. The player with the most points when they run out of shapes wins.

King of Tokyo

  • Push Your Luck 
  • 2-6 Players 
  • Age 8+

Buy King of Tokyo on Amazon!

Attacking Aliens, Rampaging Lizards, Giant Robots, Mutant Bugs, and Ferocious Gorillas: this game has them all! King of Tokyo is a game for two to six players that combines a board game, a dice game and a card game. You play as one monster whose main goals are to destroy Tokyo and battle other monsters in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo!

At the beginning of the turn, each player rolls six dice. The dice show the following symbols: numbers 1, 2, or 3 (representing Victory Points that can be earned), a lightning bolt (representing Energy that can be earned), a heart (representing Healing), and a claw (representing Attack). The player with the most Attack dice goes first (the fiercest). Each turn consists of 4 steps: rolling and re-rolling the dice, resolving the dice, buying cards and using their effects, and the end of turn decision.

The fiercest player will occupy Tokyo, and earn extra victory points, but that player can’t heal and must face all the other monsters alone! When you add in cards that can have a permanent or temporary effect, like growing a second head, body armor, nova death ray, etc., you get a VERY exciting game. In order to win the game, one must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 victory points, or be the only surviving monster once the fighting has ended.

See our review here.

Fire Tower

  • Area Control and Hand Management
  • 2-4 Players
  • Age 14+

Buy Fire Tower on Amazon!

Most fire fighting games are cooperative, but in the game Fire Tower, you compete with other players to protect your fire tower from the fire and spread the fire to your opponent’s tower.

Players are working to defend their Fire Tower, the nine squares in the corner of the board, and to breach their opponents. In the Fire Tower squares fire can spread, but water and fire breaks can not be used. Players take  a range of actions depending on the card they play. There are Fire cards that spread the fire regardless of wind direction.  Water cards put out the fire in a small area. Fire Break cards create areas the fire is unable to burn, but may not be added to adjacent spots with a Fire Break. Once fire reaches the orange square in the corner that player is eliminated. The player with the last unburned tower wins.

See our preview from when this was on Kickstarter here.

For Young Gamers

Rhino Hero

  • Dexterity
  • 2-5 players
  • Age 5+

Buy Rhino Hero on Amazon!

Rhino Hero is a competitive  3-D stacking game where players are building a tower of cards and moving Rhino Hero up the tower.  This is a great games for younger players and involves no reading.

This dexterity game directs players were the wall cards need to go on each turn.  Players have wall and ceiling tiles.  On their turn, the player first builds the wall in the place indicated on the ceiling tile and then place their ceiling tile.  Actions indicated on some of the ceiling tiles and those benefit the player, such as skipping the next player.  The game ends when the tower fall, a player places their last roof card, or all the walls are built. 

Animal Upon Animal

  • Dexterity
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 4+

Buy Animal Upon Animal on Amazon!

Animal Upon Animal is a dexterity game perfect for young games, where players are stacking wooden animal pieces.  On a turn, players roll a special die to determine what happens on their turn. If the player rolls one pip they add one animal, two pips the add two animals, the crocodile image has the player place one animal on the table touching one side of the base animals, therefore further expanding the base. The hand icon has the active player choose one of their animals and give it to another player who then has to add it to the stack. Finally the question mark icon has the other players determine which animal the active player has to add to the stack.

Should animals fall off while a player is trying to add one to the stack, the player who was placing the animals takes them if there are one or two that fall. Should more than two fall one two are kept and the rest returned to the box. The game ends when a player runs out of animals to stack, and the last player to place their piece can declare victory.

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel

  • Set Collection
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 3+

Buy Sneaky Snacky Squirrel on Amazon!

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is where you are collecting acorns to feed your hungry squirrel.  At the beginning of each turn you spin the spinner and that dictated the color acorn you can take or if another event occurs.  If a player lands on a storm cloud their acorns get blown back onto the tree. A sad squirrel means you lose a turn.  The thieving squirrel picture allows the player to steal one acorn from another player. The first person to fill their log with acorns wins.

This is a great simple game for very young gamers.

Hoot Owl Hoot

  • Cooperative
  • 2-4 players
  • Age 4+

Buy Hoot Owl Hoot on Amazon!

Hoot Owl Hoot is a cooperative game where players work to bring the owls back to the nest.  The goal is to get all the owls back before the sun comes up.  Each player has three cards dealt in front of them.  Players choose a color card to play, and draws a card to refill at the end of their turn.  With a color card the player selects an owl and move it to the next corresponding space of that color. If a player has a sun card they must play it, and the sun moves one space on the tracker. The difficulty can be increased by adding more owls to put back in the nest.

The EFG Essentials are reviewed and updated every few months to make sure we have the most current information for our readers.

The EFG Essential Guide Collections

Check out our other Essentials Guides for great collections of games!

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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As a parent I groan a little when the summer reading, summer math, packets, etc. come home. We all know kids work so hard for academic gains during the school year. The break for the summer is a great mental reprieve for kids, and for families, but those school year gains are hard to hold onto. No one wants to see those hard acquired skills fade over the summer months.

So as an elementary teacher of over 20 years, here is the inside information from the teacher side of summer assignments. Much as we main groan when they come home in the folder, those summer assignments and online resources are an attempt to mitigate the “summer slide”. Summer slide is the loss of skills acquired during the previous school year. It is the almost inevitable regression that all teachers face in the beginning of a new school year. Some skills that students showed they had mastered in the previous school year are forgotten and require reteaching. The summer work is the teacher’s last resource to supporting the skills over the summer to minimize this loss.

Besides supporting your child with the material sent home by their teacher and school, board games can help with some incidental learning and skill reinforcement. The nice thing with using board games for skill reinforcement is that it does not feel like work to the kids. Choosing games that support, or extend the skills they have been working on are a great asset for families!

There are a few key things to help guide the selections of board games to bring to the table.

1. Keep is easy

If the game or skill is too hard your child will get frustrated. This is a case of less can be more. As a parent or caregiver the goal is reinforcing skills, not new learning. I know we all want to push our kids to do even better. If you want to reinforce a skill, repeated practice is needed, and if a skill is very challenging it is a lot more work for the child. Most kids are not going to be engaged in a game and want to play it multiple times if it is very challenging.

While too hard is frustrating for kids there is a certain amount of struggle that is beneficial, and this is called Productive Struggle. This productive struggle is the delicate balance of challenge but no so much challenge as to create frustration. On example may be for a beginning reader who just finished kindergarten. They can read simple words, especially ones that are easy to sound out. If there is a game with some reading, it might be frustrating to have to read all the words on a card, but just asking for reading the ones within their skill level will prevent frustration, and put them in the band of productive struggle.

2. High interest

Fun fact, kids have been known to read a book a level or two harder than what they normally can read, if it is a high interest subject. If the game is high interest there is more motivation to persevere through any reading challenges. Additionally if the topic is something that they have a lot of knowledge it makes the material much more approachable and accessible.

This high interest pushing the level happened with my younger son. In second grade he was a struggling and reluctant reader. We played What do you Meme Family Edition, he was so excited to read the silly cards, he took his time and read each card in his hand carefully. This careful reading leads into the the next tip…

3. Wait time

If a child is playing a game with a skill they are not fully proficient in, all players need to allow for wait time (thinking time). Wait time allows the child time for processing the task and mentally work it out. I have to be honest, this can be the hardest thing to do, just biting you tongue while they have their productive struggle.

Wait time is the most valuable time for developing their skills and supporting their previous learning. When my son was reading the What Do You Meme: Family Edition cards, it was tempting to jump in an help him read the words, but that time to go through the decoding process and independent succeed was critical. It did mean the game took a little longer, and it was worth every extra minute.

4. Celebrate their success in the task

We all like to be recognized for accomplishments, and kids flourish with praise. One thing I have found very powerful with my students and my children is to let them know that you understand that they had to work hard and persevere through. Cheering them on and complimenting their hard work is a powerful tool to support them. Rather that saying something like, “You’re so smart” name what they did.

Powerful Phrases to Praise Hard Work

  • Wow, you really worked hard and looked at all the letters part by part.
  • What strategy did you use to find the answer? (Great for math)
  • You didn’t give up!
  • Your really put in a lot of effort

For more ideas on ways to celebrate success, check out 25 Words of Encouragement for Kids to Promote a Growth Mindset

Have fun!

These are intended to be incidental learning experiences that are light and fun. Kids will be much more receptive and eager to play if they find it fun.

Check out some of our articles with specific game recommendations.

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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As parents we are familiar with the world of edutainment. We have endless choices of games and programs that are games with a focus on learning. A free site that gets used in my classroom is www.abcya.com  That said, how do we know what is the best choice for our children? Do these games and programs even work?

Learning Styles

Before we go into the actual games, we need to discuss learning styles. Your child’s learning style will determine the type of game they will be most likely to enjoy and get the most out of. The three primary learning styles that impact children in games are Visual Learners, Auditory Learners, and Kinesthetic Learners. Visual learners are going to enjoy games with lots of graphics, bright colors, fun artwork, and maybe charts. Auditory learners will enjoy games where they get to listen to snippets of stories and hear others have discussions about different aspects of the game. Kinesthetic learners enjoy games where they get to be hands-on that have lots of pieces to move and manipulate. It’s good to think of the people you are going to be playing with to come up with the best game for your group.

Eduplay Games

While this article focuses on mainstream family-style games that are available, we would be lax if we didn’t mention that there is a huge world of board games designed specifically for classroom learning. These games are designed to drill down and reinforce specific learning concepts like letter recognition, language acquisition, phonics, reading comprehension, storytelling mechanics and so forth.

Lakeshore Learning and Edupress are staples in the educational field. We’ve played a few games in this style, and they do not have the spark that we like to have in our games. Unless you were using your gaming time as a type of additional homework, we don’t find the replay value to be very high or the desire to play to be very high. But, there is no denying that this type of game is a useful learning tool. They at least add a skin of fun over traditional learning.

What is all the buzz about The Science of Reading?

In and around the instruction of reading there has been a paradigm shift in the education field. Without going deep into the weeds of educational theory and practice, the shift has been building up and really came to the foreground of the education field in the past few years. Educational practice has moved from a Balanced Literacy Approach where there is explicit phonics instruction, but the greater focus was comprehension and utilizing cues in the books/texts instead of first looking at the letters in the words.

Now there is a greater focus as an educational community on the data about how students best learn. What has been learned is explicit high quality phonics and phonemic awareness instruction. (Just as a quick definition, phonics are working with letters on the page, and phonemic awareness is manipulating just the sounds in words without any text.

Florida Center for Reading Research has free student activities Pre-k to 5th grade. Check it out here!

With this new knowledge working with letters and word building for beginning readers is even more critical to develop the bank of skill needed to fluently read. There are quite a few games that involve building words, and with a little background about the phonics of the English language it can be a huge asset when you play a word game with a beginning reader.

Here at Engaged Family Gaming, we have come up with a collection of games that are a lot of fun to play that teach some of these Literacy concepts as well.

Games with Literacy Concepts

Scrabble 8+ (Vocabulary Development and Letter Arrangement)

Scrabble, by Hasbro games, is a classic for a reason. It has retained its popularity through the years (think Words With Friends) because it is fun to play and challenging. In case you’ve never played Scrabble, it is a word game in which two to four players score points by placing tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a gameboard which is divided into a 15×15 grid of squares. The tile must be placed in a crossword pattern (words flow left to right in rows or downwards in columns). The words must be standard and acceptable words in an agreed upon dictionary. Players score points based on the numbers on their letter tiles and can add bonuses from cues on the gameboard.

Scrabble has many variations, including a Junior version designed to help younger kids with letter matching and recognition. This is a great game for kinesthetic learners because there are small pieces to manipulate which these learners LOVE to handle.

Bananagrams 7+ (Vocabulary Development, Letter Arrangement, Time Management)

Bananagrams, by Banagrams, is a similar game to Scrabble, but it doesn’t require a game board, pen, paper, etcetera. It is a letter tile game that comes in a fun banana shaped zip up pouch. It is easily portable and gives you more freedom than Scrabble because you play independently for speed while making your individual crossword board. There are no complications from trying to get the perfect spot on the board, or waiting for a slow player to make a decision, or from losing out on the triple letter space. This game moves quickly because you are working against a clock. There are some unique challenges and ways to manipulate game play which add some fun elements into the game and can allow you to put a crimp in your opponents’ play. In our playtests of this game, we found that this game can be more of a challenge for younger players because it lacks some of the structure built into Scrabble, but some of your outside the box players will enjoy this one much more.

Much like Scrabble, this game appeals to kinesthetic learners because of the tile manipulation. Also, since there is no game board, please make sure to play this one on a smooth surface. The tablecloth became way more of a hindrance during play than any of us anticipated.

Rory’s Story Cubes 8+ (Language Development, Vocabulary Development, Story Sequencing, Storytelling)

Rory’s Story Cubes, by Gamewright, is a pocket-sized creative story generator. The original game comes in a box with 9 cubes (dice) with different images on each side. Players simply roll the cubes and let the pictures spark their imagination and tell a story out loud based on the pictures on their cubes. There are several expansions to the base game with different themes (actions, voyages, clues, Batman, intergalactic, etc.). There are infinite ways to play with Rory’s Story Cubes. The rules suggest playing solitaire or with others. The 8+ age suggestion is misleading. This game can definitely be played with younger players.

We’ve used this game as a party game or ice-breaker and I’ve used it to work with my youngest on speaking & listening skills. My oldest finds a way to use these as story starters for creative inspiration in his writing activities. They can also help early learners with literacy development and problem-solving. Again, because this game involves dice rolling, it is great for kinesthetic learners. And, because the stories are told aloud, we’ve had great luck honing our children’s auditory learning skills with this game. Finally, because of the creative images on the cubes, this game works as a great inspiration for visual learners. All around, these are a terrific learning tool to add to your arsenal.

Buy the original Rory’s Story Cubes here on Amazon!

Last Letter 8+ (Vocabulary Development, Letter Recognition, Picture Cues, Time Management)

In Last Letter, by ThinkFun, each player gets five cards featuring intricate, fun, and brightly colored illustrations. Players must race to come up with and shout out a word from one of the picture cards in their hand. The word MUST begin with the last letter of the word previously called. The first player to get rid of all of their cards will win the round. This game is an awesome game for visual learners! The fast paced nature of this game might make it more challenging for younger players who are slower to process what they are seeing in front of them. If play around the table gets too excitable and loud, you may lose younger auditory learners as well. But, be prepared to be surprised by the creative words kids come up with from the images that adults would not normally think of.

Buy Last Letter here on Amazon!

Zingo 3+ (Letter Arrangement & Recognition, Vocabulary Development, Picture Cues, Time Management)

Zingo is a new classic with a few different variations of the game available. It’s like Bingo with a fun twist. The original Zingo is a matching game that encourages pre-readers and early readers to match pictures and words to their challenge cards. The Zingo! Zinger dispenses tiles as players race to be the first player with a full card and yell “ZINGO!” With two levels of play, this matching game builds language skills through fast-paced play. This game is designed to develop early literacy skills for very young players. Zingo Sight Words and Zingo Word Builder are also available and these games introduce more challenging literacy skills. Our children request these games regularly and LOVE to play them. While these are learning games at their core, they use fun and exciting game mechanics to keep young players engaged!

Buy Zingo here on Amazon

Dixit 8+ (Language Development, Story Sequencing, Storytelling, Picture Cues)

Using a deck of cards illustrated with dreamlike images, players select cards that match a title suggested by the “storyteller”, and attempt to guess which card the “storyteller” selected. Each player starts the game with six random cards. Players then take turns being the storyteller.

The player whose turn it is to be storyteller looks at the six images in his or her hand. From one of these, he or she makes up a sentence or phrase that might describe it and says it out loud (without showing the card to the other players). Each other player then selects from among their own six cards the one that best matches the sentence given by the storyteller. Then, each player gives their selected card to the storyteller, without showing it to the others. The storyteller shuffles his or her chosen card with the cards received from the other players, and all cards are then dealt face up. The players (except for the storyteller) then secretly guess which picture was the storyteller’s, using numbered voting chips. If nobody or everybody finds the correct picture, the storyteller scores 0, and each of the other players scores 2. Otherwise the storyteller and all players who found the correct answer score 3. Players other than the storyteller score 1 point for each vote their own pictures receive.

A large part of the skill of the game comes from being able to offer a title which is neither too obscure nor too obvious. The game ends when a player reaches the end of the board (30 points). Much like Rory’s Story Cubes, this game helps children to learn storytelling skills, story sequencing, and helps broaden appreciation for art and gives players the ability to articulate thoughts concisely and to comprehend metaphor.

About the Authors:

This article in its initial format was created by Jenna Duetzmann.

The update for the article has been done by Linda Wrobel, who as a first grade teacher is on the ground learning the shifts in educational practice, and seeing the impact of beginning readers.

For Additional Games to Support Learning

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

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By: Jesse Stanley

  • Age Rating 7+ * (Note there is a NSFW edition that should not be played with children due to language and adult content)
  • Players: 2 – 5* (Can be played with up to nine people by adding a second deck)
  • 15 Minutes
  • Competitive
  • Buy Exploding Kittens here on Amazon

Exploding Kittens exploded into our lives in early 2015. The game became the most-funded project in Kickstarter history at that time, backed by the most people ever. More than 219,000 people showed their support to make this happen. The popularity of Matthew Inman and The Oatmeal certainly helped.

With all the buildup the expectations for this game have been rather high. When the announcement that the game had shipped came it wasn’t too long thereafter that people were posting photos of their spoils online, it was here, but was it good?

The Game

There are fifty-six cards in the deck. The artwork is exactly what you may have come to expect from The Oatmeal. Characters such as Tacocat and Beard Cat make an appearance alongside original artwork on each card. The gameplay is quite simple; the box claims it takes two minutes to learn. They weren’t kidding.

You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple.

There are a variety of cards that make the game move along and add a layer of strategy to the game. You can use cards to skip your turn or force others to take two turns in a row. There are cards that allow you to steal card or peek at the deck. There are even some that allow you to reshuffle the deck. If you don’t like a card that your opponent has just played you can counter it with a Nope card, though if they respond by playing their own it becomes a Yup!

If you are unfortunate enough to draw an exploding kitten the only thing that can save you is a defuse card. After that is played you put the explosive feline back into the deck anywhere you like. You can do this in front of everyone or even bring the deck under the table to place it. One rather mean strategy is to place it right on top for the next player to draw.

The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out. This feature makes games pretty quick and it was quite refreshing to know that the games were short and sweet.

Family Game Assessment

After playing the game several times now, it was a lot more fun than anticipated. The concept is rather simple, but the execution was nice. It is by no means a game with deep strategy, but that is what makes it so fun. It’s a game about exploding kittens. It isn’t meant to be serious, and the humorous nature of the cards really adds an air level of levity to the gaming table.

During the games it wasn’t uncommon for everyone at the table to cheer and laugh as kittens were revealed and either placed back in the deck in a clever way or took a player out. Overall this game is a good time and comes with a good recommendation so long as you aren’t taking it too seriously.

Expansions and Spin off Games

The team at Exploding kittens has been busy since the Kickstarter of the original Exploding Kittens hit the board game scene. Below are just some of the games and expansions they have put out since then. There are even more outside of the Exploding Kittens theme too!

The ease of the game makes it a great game for the age ranges that are indicated on the box and it plays well for groups of adults as well. The real test will be how much replay value it has. Given the short nature of the game it is a nice way to cleanse the palate between other longer more involved games.

  • Exploding Kittens Party Pack
  • Exploding Kittens Recipes for Disaster
  • Zombie Kittens
  • Exploding Minions
  • Exploding Kittens NSFW (Not Safe for Work)
  • Barking Kittens (expansion)
  • Imploding Kittens (expansion)
  • Streaking Kittens (expansion)


For some reason, this game is a lot more fun than one might think it would be. It plays very quickly and is very easy to learn. Pick it up for something additional to do during a night of gaming. It probably couldn’t support a game night on its own, but it is a fine addition to throw in while someone is running to grab and set up something else.

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Attacking Aliens, Rampaging Lizards, Giant Robots, Mutant Bugs, and Ferocious Gorillas: this game has them all! King of Tokyo is a European style game that combines a board game, a dice game and a card game. You play as one of the aforementioned monsters whose main goals are to destroy Tokyo and battle other monsters in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo!

The game comes with a clear & colorful rulebook, a game board, 6 monsters each with their own control boards with spinning wheels to keep track of damage and victory points, 6 cardboard monster figures with plastic stands, 8 dice to roll each turn, 66 cards you can purchase to give your monster special abilities, 50 tiny plastic cube energy tokens, and 28 round cardboard card effect tokens.

All of the pieces are sturdy and well designed. The energy tokens are a choking hazard and very tiny and easily lost. But, we found that this problem can be solved by giving players a tiny bowl to store them in during gameplay.


Gameplay can be fairly complex. There are 4 steps involved in each turn, and the game requires basic reading and an understanding of simple strategy. We think the recommended age range is spot on.

At the beginning of the turn, each player rolls six dice. The dice show the following symbols: numbers 1, 2, or 3 (representing Victory Points that can be earned), a lightning bolt (representing Energy that can be earned), a heart (representing Healing), and a claw (representing Attack). The player with the most Attack dice goes first (the fiercest).

The player then starts the turn by rolling 6 dice. Over three successive rolls, the player can which dice to keep or discard in order to advance.

Each turn consists of 4 steps: rolling and re-rolling the dice, resolving the dice, buying cards and using their effects, and the end of turn decision.

The fiercest player will occupy Tokyo, and earn extra victory points, but that player can’t heal and must face all the other monsters alone! When you add in cards that can have a permanent or temporary effect, like growing a second head, body armor, nova death ray, etc., you get a VERY exciting game.

In order to win the game, one must either destroy Tokyo by accumulating 20 victory points, or be the only surviving monster once the fighting has ended.

Family Game Assessment

This game fits so perfectly into our household of comic and cartoon obsessed boys, that it has eclipsed all other games that we own. My oldest son LOVES it, and often chooses this game when he has friends over. He tends to play for Attack and cool card abilities, while his more cautious friends play for Victory Points. My 5 year old was begging to try, and we gave it a few attempts, but he got bored very quickly. While he liked to roll the dice, the strategy and steps in each round frustrated him and he gave up playing, but stayed to watch.

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

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What is better than a board game to make you laugh? The old adage “Laughter is the best medicine” is so true. Life can be stressful and uncertain. Sometimes, the only answer is a good laugh. It is even scientifically proven that laughter has health benefits, such as releasing stress, improving your immune system, and improve your mood. Learn more about the health benefits according to the Mayo Clinic here.

We love light games that are silly and ridiculous. Below is a list of relatively inexpensive games great for the whole family to make you laugh.

Chonky Donkey

Buy Chonky Donkey here on Amazon

Chonky Donkey has taken the party game and transformed the judge into the reader. In Chonky Donkey, just as in many other party games with cards and a judge, players submit a card to a prompt. However, this is where there is a twist, the judge is only a reader. As they read the cards summitted my their fellow players. the reader can not smile or laugh. If the reader smiles or laughs, the player who’s card they were reading gets the prompt card and the point. Should the reader keep a straight face the whole time, the reader keeps the prompt card and they get the point.

Exploding Kittens

Buy Exploding Kittens here on Amazon

Exploding Kittens is one of the silliest games in my collection, and is a family favorite. You can play as many cards as you like and you end your turn by drawing a card. If the card is an exploding kitten and you cannot defuse it you are out of the game. The last person standing wins. That’s it. The game really is that simple. The design is such that you never need to reshuffle the discard pile into the deck. There will always be a winner by the time the cards run out.  Check out the review here.

Not Parent Approved

Buy Not Parent Approved here on Amazon

If you are looking for something to get everyone laughing then check out Not Parent Approved. It is played in the same style as Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity, with one player as the judge and the rest of the players trying to provide the best answer to the prompt card. The game has a large range of cards, and for younger players, parents may want to screen the cards for content.

Happy Salmon

Buy Happy Salmon here on Amazon

Happy Salmon is really, really stupid. But, in the best ways. This is a great game for motivating your family to get up, laugh, and shout their way through a game. You can even buy two copies (there are two different color versions) so you can get up to 8 players. That is WILD.

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers

Buy Invasion of the Cow Snatchers here on Amazon

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers is also a single player game with a hilarious theme from Think Fun. In this game players are collecting cows represented by colored disks, and the red bull must be collected last. There are fences of different heights that add challenges to each puzzle.

Shaky Manor

Buy Shaky Manor here on Amazon

Shaky Manor is a game unlike any I have ever played before, where each player is given a tray containing eight square rooms each connected by doorways. Players place an meeple, a ghost, and three treasure chest cubes into the tray. They then shake the tray to try and get the meeple and the cubes into a designated room without the ghost. The first player to do it five times is the winner. The game is noisy, silly, and loads of fun!


Buy Hoagie here on Amazon

Hoagie is a sandwich building game where each player is trying to build the perfect sandwich without any part getting spoiled by three oogies. It has a level of gross that kids and adults will find entertaining.  Hoagie is a light game that can be played with multiple ages all together making it a great game for the whole family. See the review here.

Unstable Unicorns

Unstable Unicorns is a card combat game that features whacky unicorns as you build an army. The art is adorable and gameplay loop as you pass between turns feels very similar to Magic: The Gathering (and I mean that in a good way). We enjoy it every time we play.

Go Nuts for Donuts

Buy Go Nuts For Donuts here on Amazon

Go Nuts for Donuts is a card drafting and set collection game where players are trying to collect the best donuts to eat.  Really, what better topic for a game can you have beside collecting donuts! Player bid on the different donuts available in the donut row. Players bid in secret, and at the end of the bidding players may only collect those donuts where they are the sole bidder. Each kind of the 21 kinds donut ( and two beverages) has either points it gains you, an action you can take immediately upon retrieving the card, or both. The artwork and text on the cards are fun and adorable and sure to make you smile.

What Do You Meme: Family Edition

Buy What Do You Meme?: Family Edition

What Do You Meme is a hilarious game that invites players to create funny memes using a stack of funny pictures straight from the deepest corners of the internet and a huge deck of caption cards. The problem is that the original version of the game is a bit… grown-up for our tastes. The good news for all of us is that there is a bespoke Family edition of the game that replaces the sex and drugs with fart jokes (which just makes it all around better in my opinion). Just look at the box. It’ll all make sense. This is the definitive edition of the game!

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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