9 Board Games to Get Kids Thinking, Moving, and Working Together
Could your family use a few new games? If you've had it with standard-issue board games like Candyland and Monopoly, consider these games that are favorites of the kids I work with as a pediatric occupational therapist. They're not only lots of fun, they also sneakily address developmental issues your child may need to work on.
In this fast-paced Bingo-like game, players take turns matching pictures. Kids love sliding the Zinger to reveal two tiles that they hope will match pictures on their cards. The double-sided cards offer two levels of play. Great for: working on visual motor and perceptual skills, fine motor and grasping skills, improving language and social skills. • More information
In this cooperative game from Peaceable Kingdom, kids work together to try to stack 12 blocks before the tower is knocked down by the Stack Smasher. There are three different levels to the game, so it is good for kids of various ages and skills. I like that different motor challenges are incorporated into the game so it gets kids up and moving. Great for: improving both fine motor and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and social skills/teamwork. • More information
This cooperative board game by Peaceable Kingdom is ideal for pre-schoolers or young school-age children who need to work on recognizing and naming a variety of emotions. Kids remove a token from the Helping Bag, and if the token can help someone on their board, it is a match. Great for: having conversations with your child about how people are feeling and what can be done for them, which helps kids begin to develop empathy and understanding for others. • More information
This simple game is a favorite of all the kids I work with no matter their age or skill level. The object of the game is to pull strands of spaghetti out of the bowl without letting the Yeti fall into the bowl. I like adding challenges to this game by having kids roll a dice and remove that number of spaghetti pieces or have them use children's chopsticks to remove the pieces from the bowl. Great for: improving fine motor and grasping skills, hand-eye coordination, visual motor and perceptual skills, focus, attention, and organizational skills. • More information
This has been a fan favorite for years and years with kids of all ages and abilities. All players wear a special headband that holds a card with a picture (animal, food, or common object). You have one minute to ask each of your friends a question that will help you figure out what your card is. Variations: For some kids, the idea of being timed could cause anxiety, so you might want to eliminate the timer and make a two-question/clues per player rule instead. If you have children who struggle with asking questions, you can adapt this game by letting each friend give a clue about what is on the card instead. • More information
I'm a sucker for games that are still popular from when I was growing up. Guess Who? is one of those games that I remember playing for hours and hours with my sisters and friends. The point of the game is to be the first to guess which person is on the card that your friend chose. You take turns asking yes or no questions (for example: "Is your person a girl?" " Does your person wear glasses?") in order to figure out who is on the mystery card. Great for: working on improving visual motor and visual perceptual skills, organizational skills, focus, and attention. Additionally, it is great for improving language skills (asking questions), processing information, and social skills. • More information
Tumbling Monkeys is another one of my favorite games that can be adapted to suit children's skill sets. Kids set up the game by assembling the tree, placing all the sticks into the holes, and dropping the monkeys into the top. Then they roll the dice and pull out the colored stick that matches. The person who has the least amount of monkeys at the end is the winner (although for my younger kids, we play that whoever rescues the most monkeys wins). Great for: working on improving fine motor and grasping skills, hand-eye coordination, motor planning, focus, attention, and organizational skills. It also encourages social skills and good sportsmanship. • More information
Players work together to beat the Ogre to the treasure by creating a path from start to finish. Along the way, they must collect three keys in order to unlock the treasure. Kids have to work together to come up with the best way to build the path before the Ogre gets to the treasure. Great for: working on social skills, teamwork, and cooperative play. It is also great for working on improving visual motor and perceptual skills, problem-solving, and focus and attention. • More information
in this board game, kids get up and moving. Kids spin the spinner and move their pawn the number of steps, take a card, and perform the activity (it could be an exercise, yoga pose, etc.) that is pictured. Great for: working on developing gross motor skills, organizational skills, and endurance. The best part is that kids build confidence and self-esteem as they move around the board and perform a variety of movements. • More informationListen to Meghan Corridan talk about these games on the Parenting Roundabout Podcast
Meghan Corridan has been a pediatric occupational therapist in New York City since 2001. She spent over ten years working at the SAGE Center and is now at Heads Up Therapy. In addition to her private work, she is a founding member of The Meeting House, a recreational after-school program for children with social special needs, and now runs The Meeting House Juniors program. She blogs about OT-tested and approved toys, games, books, and apps at MAC&Toys.