Games I Play with my 7 and 3 year old sons: The Good, the Bad and the...Ones to Avoid at all Costs!!
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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I know there have been Geeklists like this before. They were a huge help to me when I was first looking for great games to play with my family (back then my oldest was 4 and my youngest just born). Since then I have bought a bunch of games. This list is intended to help those interested in gaming with their kids learn from my experiences. Some of these games work well with one of my boys (either too complex for the younger or too simple for the older) and some are great to play with both of my kids (now 7 and 3....sorry 3 and a half).

You won't find the "roll and move" games like Candyland and Shoots and Ladders on this list. These games don't involve any decision making at all (except for what color you want to be). I'm assuming most people buy these games because they don't realize that there are much better games out there for all ages.

I'm listing all the games in my collection that I have played with my kids, both good and bad, and will comment on what we all thought of them.

Feel free to add the games that work well with your kids (as well as the ones you feel should be avoided).

Enjoy!!
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1. Board Game: Chicken Cha Cha Cha [Average Rating:6.65 Overall Rank:1040]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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Let's start with a gem. This is such a great game that all of us can play. The great equalizer in this game is memory (the gradually failing memory of the adults against the amazing memory that young kids have). I try my hardest to win and I get crushed by the kids. My youngest (almost 4) is just starting to get into this game but he does very well. My oldest (7) wins most of the time. When we play with my nieces (11 and 18) I am not even competitive, they stomp me.

I can't recommend this one enough!

Great for kids 4-up and fun for the parents too.
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2. Board Game: Gulo Gulo [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:637]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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Ok, here's another winner. My 3 year old LOVES this game and he wins more than anyone (including my 7 year old). The equalizer here is small fingers (the smaller the better). The game involves picking small wooden eggs of various colors out of a bowl very carefully. My three year old picks them out with ease while I struggle.

Highly recommended for kids 3 to 4 years old and is fun and challenging to play with older siblings as well as adults.
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3. Board Game: Slamwich [Average Rating:4.96 Overall Rank:11070]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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Now for a bad one. I had some great experiences with card games published by Gamewright (Loot is one of our favorites, see below). They are pretty cheap now (used to be around $10 each but have recently found them sold at Target for around $4. Can be a real bargin depending on the game you buy).

Unfortunately, Slamwich is just a horrible game (this is my opinion, of course, but my kids don't like it either). It's kind of like playing War with a standard deck of cards but has a few special cards that just make it worse (if that is even possible).

I would avoid this game.
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4. Board Game: Loot [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:1312]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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Loot, published by Gamewright and designed by Reiner Knizia, is a family favorite. You can find Loot at Target for around $4. Best bargin I can think of for a great kids game although you don't need kids to have a great time (great filler for gamers as well as non-gamers). I have yet to find people that don't have fun playing this game. It is too complex for my 3 year old but my oldest first started playing this when he was 4. It can be played in teams too so you can play with the kids and help them out if they need it. Pirate theme is also good for some laughs (Arrrrr!).

Highly recommended! Great for kids 4.5 and up. Fun filler game even when there are no kids involved.
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5. Board Game: Rat-a-Tat Cat [Average Rating:6.21 Overall Rank:1928]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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Another Gamewright game. Like I said above, some of the gamewright games are now available at Target for around $4 but I have yet to see this title for under $10 (still worth it, my family has lots of fun playing it). My oldest just loves this game!! If you have a kid that loves cats then he/she will probably go nuts over it. We bought it when my oldest was 5 and he still loves it at 7. Great game for adults and older siblings to play with younger kids. There is a memory aspect so the kids have the advantage. I'll wait till my youngest is closer to 5 before we try it with him (at 4 and a half he should be ready for it).

Great for the kids 4.5 and up. Fun for parents to play with their kids but you probably wouldn't want to break this one out with your game group (unless there are some 5 year olds playing with you).
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6. Board Game: Hey, That's My Fish! [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:475]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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We just picked this one up the other day. Very good area control game to play with my 7 year old. After several plays he is starting to pick up the idea of isolating the opposing penguins so that he can eat all the fish. You really have to think ahead for this one and it is great for developing skills in strategy and tactics for young minds. The only interest my 3 year old has for this game is the cool and colorful penguins that come with the game.

Great game for kids 5 and up (parents will have fun too!). The game will grow with the kids as they pick up the strategy and tactics involved. This would also be a fun filler game with your game group.
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7. Board Game: Cranium Cariboo [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:3759]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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It's hard to find games targeted for children 1-3 years old but this is a good one. Both my sons really liked this from the ages of 10 months up to 4 years old. The game has six colorful rubber bouncing balls that are hidden under little trap doors in the game board. Players use a plastic key to open the doors and find out if they have found a ball or not. The young kids (10 months) will squeal with delight when they find a ball. The great part of the game is that players can practice their skills in counting, matching colors, and learning letters while playing the game. The basic set teaches counting to 4, the letters A, B and C, as well as matching green, blue, yellow and red. The game also comes with an expansion that includes the entire alphabet. I can't tell you how many of these games we have bought over the years for my kids (both of them) to take as gifts to birthday parties. Not so much fun for the older siblings but the little kids love it.

Great game for kids as young as 10 months and is fun up until around 4 years old. Older siblings may be bored but the parents will have a ton of fun playing a game with their younger kids.
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8. Board Game: Cranium Zooreka! [Average Rating:5.19 Overall Rank:10243]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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Another game published by Cranium. Unfortunately, there is no need for players to use their brains to play this game. A great idea for a game gone to waste in my opinion. Save your money and avoid this one (much, much better games out there). If you already have it you can salvage somewhat of a game out of it if you limit trades at the trading post to one per turn (or two if you have a card that lets you advance to the next trading post).

I would avoid this game, there are not many meaningful decisions here. it is targeted to kids 8 to adult but there are much, much better games out there for this age group.
 
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9. Board Game: Dragonland [Average Rating:6.36 Overall Rank:1973]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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This is a very fun game, especially if your kid is into the fantasy thing (or, if YOU are into the fantasy thing and want to introduce dragons and such to your child). This is a set collecting game designed by Reiner Knizia. Players move around the game board (by foot, by boat or by flying a dragon) collecting different color gems and dragon eggs. The game is well balanced and there is quite a bit of strategy involved. It is too complex for my 3 year old but we have been playing this with my older boy since he was 5 (he loves it!!).

Great game for kids 5-up and will also be a fun and challenging game for the adults as well.
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10. Board Game: Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.03 Overall Rank:3597]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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I am a huge tolkien fan and bought this for my older son when he was 5. My thought was it was a Reiner Knizia game, I liked his other game with the same title very much, and....did I mention I was a huge tolkien fan? Unfortunately this game is pretty boring with hardly any real decision making involved. The only plus is that my son learned to pronounce Legolas and Nazgul (well not a total loss I guess) but that's about it. He asked to play it a bunch the first week after opening the box but I soon learned it was only because he wanted to win the Bill the Pony token (if he didn't get Bill he would quickly lose interest).

Save your money for something else.
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11. Board Game: Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie [Average Rating:7.42 Overall Rank:193] [Average Rating:7.42 Unranked]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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I'm not a big fan of miniatures but this game is great for the kids. It grows with the kids. My three year old has a blast with just playing with the miniatures while my 7 year old can play the game pretty well (I am starting to try REALLY hard to hold my own against him now while I used to take it easy on him when he was 5).

My kids also like to just build a crazy board with all the map tiles (kind of like building a big puzzle).

The problem with this game is that the expansions (so many) are expensive but you really don't need them to have fun with the game.

Great game for the kids 3 and up to play (either as a toy or a game). They will grow into it if they are young. Not a good game for big and little kids at the same time since the younger ones just like to smashh the pieces together while the older kids will actually be trying to play the game.

There is supposed to be a Marvel super hero expansion coming out soon. This would bring Iron Man, the Hulk, Spider Man, etc. characters into the game. I can't wait......er, I mean, my son seems to be very excited about this.
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12. Board Game: Pick Picknic [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1044]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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This is a game that everyone will enjoy, adults included. A bit too complex for my three year old but we will try it with him when he is 4. My oldest has loved this game since we bought it (when he was 5). Best with more people (6 is best I think). Lots of decisions to make but you won't get hurt too badly if you make the wrong decision.
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13. Board Game: Dawn Under [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:2036]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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Dawn under is a memory game (this gives the advantage to the kids off the bat). However, it is a memory game that will drive you crazy since there is WAY too much to remember. The game involves placing different colored vampires in empty tombs of the correct color. Since there are something like 100 tombs to place them into, there is no possible way to remember where all the empty tombs are. Unless you are a computer you will get frustrated (and so will the kids).

Fun but it can become very frustrating for everyone. Chicken Cha Cha Cha is far superior to this if you like memory games.
 
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14. Board Game: Tally Ho! [Average Rating:6.09 Overall Rank:2127]
Tom Volpe
United States
Evanston
Illinois
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Tally-Ho! is a fun game. We bought this when my oldest was 7 and he really likes it. This is very simple to learn but will help kids develop skills in planning ahead. My son plays this with his friends (other 7 year olds) and they have lots of fun. It is also a game that I can play with my gaming buddies so it scales well.

Great game that involves planning ahead. I would recommend this game for ages 5 and up. If they can play chess they will have no problems with this game.
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15. Board Game: Stratego [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:2082]
Jason Matthews
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
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This is an American classic that deserves more respect. As a teaching game that demonstrates deductive reasoning, planning and strategy, I think it introduces a lot of valuable concepts.
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16. Board Game: Hula Hippos [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:3005]
Jason Matthews
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
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A very amusing, very light dexterity game. Flick your mice into the ring as its landing. My 5 year old loves it, and I think our nearly 2 year old may be ready for it next year.
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17. Board Game: Klondike [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:2773]
Jason Matthews
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
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Another great dexterity game. It also has an interesting betting element. I've introduced this to a number of families. Everyone wants to pan for gold. Also an interesting betting element.
 
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18. Board Game: Igloo Pop [Average Rating:6.27 Overall Rank:1916]
Jason Matthews
United States
Alexandria
Virginia
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I really like this kids game, teaches an interesting skill about judging weight and sound.
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19. Board Game: 1313 Dead End Drive [Average Rating:5.75 Overall Rank:6129]
Tim Mossman
United States
Gaithersburg
Maryland
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We've really enjoyed this game with the kids.

Although it appears to be a chromed-up, roll-and-move (since it has lots of bits and a pair of dice), the game actually features some good bluffing elements (i.e., disguising which heirs are yours) and resource management decisions (i.e., use your roll to imperil someone else's heir or move your own heir towards the exit).

Best of all, (although I've never played with my "game face" on) I've never felt like I had to "play down" to let the kids be competitive - they've beaten me on a regular basis with their own abilities.
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20. Board Game: Clue Jr.: The Case of the Missing Cake [Average Rating:5.28 Overall Rank:10323]
Tim Mossman
United States
Gaithersburg
Maryland
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Of all the "Junior" games, Clue Junior is the best. Introduces the kids to deductive thinking. The game also feels like the "parent" game.
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21. Board Game: Scrabble Junior: The Disney Edition [Average Rating:4.59 Unranked]
Tim Mossman
United States
Gaithersburg
Maryland
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Scrabble Junior was my least favorite of the "Junior" games.

I never figured out what kids were supposed to learn from this game. Maybe it conveys some notion of word formation, but I didn't feel that getting across.

Also, the game itself is clunky. Since you always have to play the next letter in a word on the board, we had several occasions in which neither player had any legal letter to play - we had to spend several turns just swapping letter tiles.
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22. Board Game: Waterworks [Average Rating:5.43 Overall Rank:10461]
Tim Mossman
United States
Gaithersburg
Maryland
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Tried this one with the kids. With limited prompting, they picked up on the game reasonably well and made decent decisions.

However, the game has a bit of a confrontational element (i.e., you can play broken pipe tiles on your opponent's pipe) and that led to a few ruffled feelings.
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23. Board Game: Blokus [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:367]
Tim Mossman
United States
Gaithersburg
Maryland
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This game has been great with kids. The kids definitely have some thinking to do in this one - determining what piece to place and where to place it involves a lot of puzzle solving / pattern recognition.

While the adults would probably win this one more often than not if playing all-out, the kids can win. In fact, after 8 to 10 plays, our 6-year old became the first player in the family to use all her pieces and place her one-block piece last.
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24. Board Game: Queen of the Cupcakes [Average Rating:5.84 Overall Rank:5741]
Tom Decker
United States
Foothill Ranch
California
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This is one I've been playing with my family for a while now and it never seems to get old. Best of all, my wife really enjoys it, too, so the whole family plays. It can be played in about 10 minutes, so it's one that we'll play before bedtime or sometimes even before school. Also, for some reason my 6-year old son who is prone to meltdowns rarely seems to melt down on this one...sometimes he still does, but his acceptance of a loss always seems to go down easier than with most other games.
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25. Board Game: Los Mampfos [Average Rating:6.17 Overall Rank:3493]
Guy Riessen
United States
Sebastopol
California
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Ahem, prepare yourself to sink to the humor level of a 4 yo! Donkeys, poop, and oat biscuits, Oh My!

This is the hit of the pre-K set around here (I took it to our daughters preschool, to RAVE reviews). Again, it's the memory element that seems to set the kids onto the winning track, and we're consistently stomped by our 3 yo--who wins and all the while never stops giggling and laughing. It's a more innovative mechanic than the simple memory aspect of Chicken Cha Cha Cha (which don't get me wrong, is great with our daughter too), because you must remember the quantity of various colored biscuits fed to donkeys (which move in a circle hopping over each other to further confound the memory challenged) and correctly guess which color will be most represented once the poop card comes up.

I had to fix the poop-color-guessing-wheels though--I'm not sure if they changed card thickness or if it is a universal flaw. Basically the dial kept falling off the wheel because the little snap-thingy was too short for teh cardboard thickness. I used brass-model-pinning "wire" to attach the two pieces and they fit nicely now.

We had to order ours from Germany, but Timewellspent is getting (or already has) them in stock for US customers!
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