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15 of the best board games for children and families

From card shooting and chimp balancing to railway building and drone catching, we pick the most fun games for children to play on their own or as a family

best board games for children

We’re spending more time indoors with our families than ever, and board games are having a bit of a heyday. There are loads of new and reinvented board games for kids and families which will take this sometimes under-appreciated form of entertainment from last resort to number one choice.

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If you’ve got little ones, you’ll be looking at simple, bright and engaging games to help children develop their skills and get involved. For slightly older kids, the best family board games might involve a little strategy, inventive thinking or outright silliness.

We’ve rolled a lot of dice, spun a lot of spinners and had a fair few slightly over-competitive moments in our quest to find the best board games for children of all ages, from pre-schooler to teen. And after a lot of turn-taking, card-dealing and, believe it or not, monkey-nappy-filling, we’ve found some brilliant board games to recommend…

Here’s our pick of the best family board games for different ages, as tested by kids and rated by parents

1. Drone Home, £19.99

Age: 6+

What it is: A fast-moving action race game featuring an actual drone. Your aim is to launch each of your 3 aliens down a ramp and into the drone, which will then lift off into the air. But you have to watch out for other players, who can knock your alien out of the drone with their own. Requires 4 x AAA batteries (not included). For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: Our child tester Wyatt, 8, got his whole family playing this game – and it was a huge hit, with all of them “screaming in excitement”, according to mum Rebecca. “I like how the drone flies off with the alien inside it,” said Wyatt. “It flies so high to the ceiling, it makes me laugh so much. I love this game!”

Available at: InterplayArgos and Smyths Toys

2. Peppa Pig Muddy Puddle Game, £19.99

Age: 4+

What it is: A game where you vie to help George jump over muddy puddles to reach Peppa at the top of the hill – without falling through a puddle and having to start again. Comes with a green hill topped by Peppa, 12 playing pieces and 24 action cards. For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: Anything Peppa-themed is (obviously) a big hit in any household with small occupants but this 20-minute game is a good game in its own right. It’s well designed and fun – and our child testers found the idea of falling in the deep puddles very amusing. It’s definitely aimed at preschoolers but, according to Mackenzie, mum to our child tester Reuben, 4, it’s a hit with school-age children. too. “The whole family joined in to play,” she said, “and we all thoroughly enjoyed it!”

Available at: Very and Amazon

3. Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, £9.99

Age: 8+

What it is: A Snap-style game with cards that (mostly) have a taco, a cat, a goat, a cheese or a pizza on them. Each player takes it in turn to place a card down while also taking it in turn to say the words Taco, Cat, Goat, Cheese or Pizza. When the card you put down matches the word you’re saying, everyone races to slap a hand down on the card pile. The last person to slap the cards picks them up, and the first player to get rid of all their cards wins. For 2 to 8 players.

Why we love it: Our child tester Georgie, 11, has already seen this furiously fast-paced game on YouTube and was very excited to play it with her family. “The drawings on the cards are super cute and it’s so easy to play but SO much fun!,” she said. “I can’t wait to play it with my friends.” A great game for older children (and grown-ups).

Available at: Board Game Geek and Thirsty Meeples

4. Orangutwang, £19.99

Age: 4+

What it is: A Buckaroo-type game that involves hanging fruit and animals on an orangutan that’s hanging between 2 palm trees – trying to ensure he doesn’t spring up! Comes with a base, 2 palm trees, toucan lever, vine string and dice, orangutan, 14 hanging game pieces and rules. For 2 or more players.

Why we love it: It’s a tense, fast-paced game that demands dexterity and care – and always ends in laughter when the orangutan twangs up and drops all the fruit. Our child tester Michael, 4, was “full of giggles and jumping about”, according to his mum Michelle. She also admits that “Mummy and Daddy joined in, too, and, er, maybe got a bit too competitive with each other!”

Available at:  Smyths, Argos and John Lewis

5. Dirty Dinos, £8.30

Age: 3+

What it is: A colour, counting and observation game in which you race to find the right dirty dinos and be the first to get them all in your bathtub. There are 3 different ways to play. Comes with 4 bath playing boards, 1 double spinner, 25 dinosaur cards and instructions. For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: It’s an Orchard Toys game and, as we’ve come to expect from them, it’s colourful, fun, educational and great value for money. “Both my daughters had fun playing this simple and easy-to-understand game,” says Isabel, mum to Aurora, 2, and Olivia-Rose, 4. “They played for hours! It helped them learn dinosaur names, backed up their counting skills and helped their colour knowledge.”

Available at: Orchard Toys, Amazon and JoJo Maman Bebe

6. Cobra Paw, £14.99

Age: 6+

What it is: A quick-paced game where you take turns to roll a symbol-studded dice and then try to the matching symbol tiles before your opponents can. The first to grab 6 correct tiles wins. For 2 to 6 players.

Why we love it: This is an easy-to-master, 5 to 15-minute game that encourages quick recognition skills, quick reactions – and a healthy competitive spirit! “Noah got the rules really quickly,” says Sarah, mum of our child tester, Noah, 7. “It’s a fantastic, fun game. It’s also really portable and excellent value for money.”

Available at: Waterstones and Amazon

7. Cheeky Monkeys, £10.50

Age: 4+

What it is: A fast-moving game of chance – you race to collect the bananas – with a (not-so-serious) element of strategy – you can steal bananas from each other. Includes a 2-part 3D tree, 32 monkey cards, a spinner board, a pool board and instructions. For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: It’s a simple and really well thought-out game that’s fun to play – from hanging bananas on the tree to making monkey noises to – thrillingly – nicking other people’s nanas. Our child testers had a ball! From Orchard Toys, like Dirty Dinos (above), it features nice and sturdy (recycled) cardboard playing pieces, and it’s a decent price.

Available atOrchard Toys and Amazon

8. Froggit, £24.99

Age: 7+

What it is: A board game in which you try to be first to guide your frog family across the lilypads to the other side of the pond – without getting blocked by another player or scared back to the start by the big fish. Can be played at Junior or Expert levels. Comes with 6 frog families, a big fish and instructions. For 2 to 6 players.

Why we love it: This game is such fun and we love how you can adapt it to the age of the children playing: younger players will enjoy the thrill of a fast game, while older children can take their time to develop a winning strategy. “The game is easy to understand, fun to play and great of kids of all ages,” says Becky, mum of our child tester Archie, 7. As for Archie himself? “This is a really cool game,” he said. “I like trying to beat my brother and want to try playing it with 5 friends at the same time!”

Available at: SmartGames and Amazon

9. Uno Showdown, £19.99

Age: 7+

What it is: A twist on the bestselling card game where you try to get rid of all your cards by matching the colour and numbers of the card on the central pile, only now there is a Showdown card which allows you – if you’re fast enough – to use an electronic unit to fire extra cards at your opponents. Comes with 112 cards, the showdown unit and instructions. Requires 3 x AA batteries (not included). For 2 to 10 players.

Why we love it: The original UNO games is a deserved classic but this, according to our child testers, takes things to a whole new level. The tension as you wait to press the showdown unit when the completely unpredictable noise sounds is hilarious – and a fun counterpoint to concentrating on the cards in your hand. A great family game.

Available at: Smyths Toys, Argos and The Entertainer

10. Munchin’ Monkey, £19.99

Age: 4+

What it is: An all-action board game where you roll the dice to get your chance to feed a monkey with a spoon and watch his nappy get fuller and fuller. The winner is the one who makes the nappy burst. Includes Charlie the monkey, a tree for him to swing from, 20 plastic coconuts, food bowl and spoon, plus 30 tissue nappies. Requires 3 x LR4 batteries (included). For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: We like the sounds the monkey makes as he swings and eats, as did our child tester Cameron, 4. “This cheeky monkey makes me smile,” he said. “I get to feed him and he poos out coconuts. This is very funny!” Be aware that the paper nappies can only be used once, so you’ll need to order more (you can buy spare doll nappies from Amazon) once they’ve run out.

Available at: Smyths Toys and Amazon

11, Baffled, £21.99

Age: 6+

What it is: A memory game in which you have 60 seconds to remember the position of 12 symbol tiles ­– which then keep changing position as you play. Includes a board, 12 symbol tokens and lids to cover them, ‘life’ cards and a dice. For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: Our child tester Thomas, 6, really enjoyed trying to remember where the different symbols are and even liked getting it wrong so he could “lose a life!” We reckon this absorbing 40-minute really game comes into its own, though, with children aged 7 or 8 and above. We rate it highly (and are trying to look past being beaten at it by our own children).

Available at: Cheatwell and Amazon

12. 5 Second Rule Spintensity, £19.99

Age: 12+

What it is: A new, electronic version of the popular board game in which players have to name 3 of something within 5 seconds. Run out of time and the timer turns red and sounds you out. Requires 3 x AAA batteries (not included). For 2 or more players.

Why we love it: It’s a great – and somewhat frantic – family game. “It’s so funny watching people answer the questions,” said our child tester Cadence, 14. Her mum Sarah-Jane added, “The rules are simple and easy to follow, there aren’t a lot of pieces and you can get going quickly. It gets everyone laughing and we’ve played it repeatedly – it’s totally worth the money.”

Available at: Very and Interplay

13. Grouch Couch, £19.99

Age: 5+

What it is: A wacky game that involves rolling a dice and putting the corresponding number of small treats onto the plastic couch, then pressing the remote control mounted on the arm of the couch. This prompts the couch to ‘eat’ the treats (complete with sound effects) and spit out plastic coins. The winner is the player with the most coins when the victory song plays. Requires 3 x AAA batteries (not included). For 2 to 4 players.

Why we love it: The sound effects are great – the couch makes lots of grumbling and chuckling noises – and it’s immediately engaging and straightforward to play. Our child tester Olly, 5, liked playing this game so much, he played it 5 times with his parents and – he made sure to tell us – won every single time! Our only quibble would be that the coins do ping out quite far – you might lose a few under your own couch…

Available at: Smyths Toys, Argos and Asda

14. Dog Crimes, £19.35

Age: 8+

What it is: A logical-reasoning game where you work out clues to find out which pup committed the canine crime. Includes game board, 6 dog tokens, 6 crime tokens, 40 challenge cards and an instruction booklet. For 1 player.

Why we love it: This is a brainteaser game with a nice sense of humour: “In one challenge, I had to work out which dog had pooed!” said our delighted child tester David, 9. The various ‘whodunit’ challenges are graded from beginner to expert level, so you can increase the level of difficulty as you get the hang of it. Very nicely made, with good thick card and great illustrations. A great gift for a would-be sleuth.

Available at: Amazon

15. Ticket to Ride Europe, £39.99

Age: 8+

What it is: A board game where you build railways across Europe to take you to and from specific cities you draw (as cards) at the beginning. The winner is the person whose journey takes the longest. Includes board map of European train routes, 225 coloured train cars, 158 illustrated cards, 15 stations, 4 wooden scoring markers and a rules booklet. For 2 to 5 players.

Why we love it: This is a really good game for older kids – and it also has great inter-generational appeal, with one of our child testers having hours of fun playing this with her granny. The secret’s in the blend of luck and strategy – and how you’re never quite sure who the winner is until you tot up the scores at the end.

Available at: John Lewis

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