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18 best board games for kids in 2021 that they'll love to play

Classic board games for kids are great, but there are a lot to comb through. We’ve rounded up some of the best board games to keep your little ones entertained.
Illustration of five board games for kids
Whether you need a board game to keep your kids entertained or a fun option for family game night, these are some highly rated games for kids.Amazon ; Target

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As the holiday season approaches, a good board game can be a fun way to get the family together and encourage kids to take a break from phone, television and video game screens. While a number of adult board games on the market are fun for parties or casual get-togethers, many board games aimed at kids can also entertain both the little ones and the adults — and can include the strategy, challenge and interactivity that make the best board games exciting.

As interest in board games soared during the pandemic, several standout tabletop games launched for kids between 3 and 12. And while classics like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders are top contenders for beginners and early gamers, there are plenty of kids board games to explore outside of the typical ones you’ll find in any family home.

To save you time browsing through the endless sea of board games online, we’ve compiled a few of the best, based on expert recommendations, high ratings and our past coverage. They’ll keep your little ones engaged and entertained.

Best board games for kids

Here are highly rated board games for kids ages 12 and under recommended to us by board game experts. We also included approximate playtime, number of players and appropriate ages as recommended by game manufacturers and BoardGameGeek.

A Game of Cat & Mouth

W. Eric Martin, news editor of BoardGameGeek, recommended this game, which has a 4.8-star average rating from over 400 Amazon reviewers and is “like playing Ping-Pong on an ordinary table.” Each player has a “cat’s paw” that stays on the board using a strong magnet, and players must flick a yellow ball using the paw. Ideally, the ball flies through the cat's mouth to the opponent's side of the board. Players win the round when they get rid of all the balls on the board.

“Each round lasts less than a minute, but your excitement level goes through the roof as you try to get rid of those last few balls,” Martin said.

  • Ages: 7 and up
  • Players: 2
  • Playtime: 10 minutes

Abandon All Artichokes

A 2021 American Tabletop Awards (ATTA) winner, this colorfully illustrated card game features a world where people suddenly hate artichokes — and your garden is full of them. Your objective is to get rid of your exclusively artichoke-filled deck and harvest fresh vegetables, with each card having its own rules for swapping and discarding. Martin called this game “delightfully simple, yet engaging.” This game earned a 4.5-star average rating from over 700 Amazon reviewers.

  • Ages: 10 and up
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 20 minutes

Animal Upon Animal

Both Martin and Michael Barnes, senior board game reviews editor at There Will Be Games, recommended Animal Upon Animal, which involves carefully balancing colorful, chunky wooden animals on the back of a crocodile. Players roll a die to figure out their next move and win by getting rid of all of their animals first.

“The catch is, if any animals fall off the stack while you are placing one, you have to take them, which you don’t want,” Barnes said.

This highly rated game has earned a 4.8-star average rating from more than 1,000 reviews on Amazon.

  • Ages: 4 and up
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 15 minutes

Disney Villainous

Barnes called this title “the best Disney board game published to date, offering players a chance to enact diabolic schemes straight from the classic films.” Disney Villainous, which has earned a 4.7-star average rating from over 5,800 reviews on Amazon, poses the question, ''What if popular Disney villains actually triumphed?” Each player controls one of six villains, with multiple expansions adding additional characters.

“This is a great choice for older kids and teens, but younger players will enjoy this with some help from older friends, siblings or parents,” Barnes said.

  • Ages: 10 and up
  • Players: 2-6
  • Playtime: 50 minutes

Draftosaurus

Draftosaurus, which has a 4.8-star average rating from more than 400 reviewers on Amazon, transforms players into theme park proprietors building dinosaur destinations.

“Functionally, it's pretty simple,” ATTA committee member Eric Yurko told us. “At the end of the game, you've built up a cute (and unique) little dinosaur park, like a more colorful (and micro-scale) Jurassic Park.”

  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Players: 2-5
  • Playtime: 15 minutes

Dragonwood

This board game, which has earned a 4.8-star average rating from over 4,100 Amazon reviewers, involves collecting colorful adventurer cards and earning dice to defeat various monsters.

“It’s a game that demonstrates some key gaming elements to kids quite well, such as gathering sets, taking risks, choosing between different opportunities and learning when to push your luck,” Barnes said. “Kids with an interest in fantasy will find a lot to enjoy in Dragonwood.”

  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 20 minutes

Guess Who?

This deduction game is a childhood favorite for good reason: It keeps players engaged by encouraging them to continually ask questions and formulate guesses. Each tile has a face, and players must ask questions to narrow down who it could be. If you guess correctly, you win, but if you guess wrong, your opponent gets the victory. This game has a 4.8-star average rating from more than 13,200 reviews on Amazon. It is traditionally a two-player game but can be played in teams.

  • Ages: 6 and up
  • Players: 2
  • Playtime: 20 minutes

I Never Forget A Face Memory Game

This award-winning memory game includes 24 cards that players must match together each turn. The player with the most matching cards wins the game. The faces on the cards represent a diverse group of people. Kids will not only have fun jogging their memories throughout the game, they’ll also be introduced to an array of different countries, including Myanmar, Bolivia, Mongolia and Tanzania. The game has a 4.8-star average rating from over 600 reviewers on Amazon.

  • Ages: 3 and up
  • Players: 2-6
  • Playtime: 30 minutes

ICECOOL

Using a 3D board, each player in ICECOOL must flick a wobbly penguin around walls and doorways to collect fish and avoid the Hall Monitor.

“Dexterity games — those in which physics, skill, and luck collide for exciting results — are always a sure hit with kids, and ICECOOL is a great one,” Barnes said. “The genius is in the relative unpredictability of movement: Each penguin has a rounded base, so when it careens across the board it can hit walls or other penguins.”

ICECOOL has a 4.7-star average rating from over 1,100 Amazon reviewers.

  • Ages: 6 and up
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 20 minutes

Minecraft: Builders & Biomes

You’ll likely recognize Minecraft: Builders & Biomes from the popular computer game that inspired it: You mine resources, build structures and earn points. Players also have the chance to fight traditional Minecraft monsters like Creepers and Endermen.

“One of the coolest features is the big ‘resource cube’ shared by all players and composed of smaller wooden blocks representing various resources — players get to ‘mine’ the cube and get what they need to complete their projects,” Barnes said.

The game has a 4.6-star average rating from over 4,400 Amazon reviewers.

  • Ages: 10 and up
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 30 to 60 minutes

My First Carcassonne

The children’s version of the popular tile-laying game Carcassonne, My First Carcassonne has players place tiles to build a city and create a network of streets, houses and green spaces. The goal of the game is to place all of your pawns to win. The game has earned a 4.8-star average rating from more than 300 Amazon reviewers.

“It’s a simple, puzzle-like game with gentle competition and a satisfying sense of creating a village with other players,” said Barnes.

  • Ages: 4 and up
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 10 to 20 minutes

Rhino Hero

A card-stacking game that offers the challenge of Jenga, Rhino Hero players use cards to create walls and roofs for a shared building — all while attempting not to knock it over. A wooden, superheroic rhinoceros also moves around the building from floor to floor.

“Everyone gets to feel like they're in a shared movie, each player taking a turn moving the hero through the scenery — until someone gets careless and destroys the building, that is,” Martin said.

  • Ages: 5 and up
  • Players: 2-5
  • Playtime: 5 to 15 minutes

Shadows in the Forest

Shadows in the Forest is “a wonderfully atmospheric game meant to be played in the dark,” Barnes said. Players play forest creatures called Shadowlings, which need to avoid being seen by the Seeker, represented by an LED lantern. The game has a 4.6-star average rating from over 1,800 Amazon reviewers and comes with a miniature lantern and glow-in-the-dark die.

“The board features 3D trees that block the light and give the Shadowlings actual shadows in which to hide,” Barnes said.

  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Players: 2-7
  • Playtime: 15 minutes

Ticket to Ride

In Ticket to Ride, which has a 4.9-star average rating from over 16,500 Amazon reviewers, players connect cities with train tracks — and block others from doing the same. In our guide to the best quarantine board games, Lincoln Damerst, the director of media at BoardGameGeek, told us Ticket to Ride is his “go-to recommendation, especially for new gamers.” It even has its own Amazon Alexa skill to teach you how to play.

“The magic of Ticket to Ride is that you can play it casually, focusing only on your own tickets, or cutthroat, with you trying to sabotage other players in their city-connecting efforts,” Martin said.

  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Players: 2-5
  • Playtime: 30 to 60 minutes

The Mind

The Mind is a game in which all the players try to discard the numbered cards in their hand in ascending order into a shared discard pile — “but you can't talk or give clues about the cards in your hand,” Martin said. The cards range from one to 100, and the strategy involves playing the card you think is the lowest of the round — if no one holds a lower number than the card you played, you win the round. The game has a 4.7-star average rating from more than 4,300 reviews on Amazon.

  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 20 minutes

Yeti in My Spaghetti

Yeti in My Spaghetti has a lot of what can capture a young kid’s attention: a fun premise, easy-to-follow rules and pretend food. The game is similar to the classic Pick Up Sticks, where players need to move and collect sticks without disturbing the others in the pile. In Yeti in My Spaghetti, though, players must move the “pasta noodles” without letting the yeti fall into the bowl. It has a 4.7-star average rating from more than 8,400 reviewers on Amazon and can keep kids busy without taking too much time — they’ll be able to play multiple rounds within an hour.

  • Ages: 4 and up
  • Players: 2+
  • Playtime: 15 minutes

Zingo Board Game

With a 4.8-star average rating from over 19,800 reviewers on Amazon, Zingo is a fun take on classic bingo where kids get a tile that matches a square on their respective boards. The first one to cover their board with matching tiles calls out “Zingo!” This is good practice for pre-readers and early readers, since each tile is represented by a picture. The game has won multiple awards, including the 2002 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award and the 2011 ASTRA Best Toys for Kids Award.

  • Ages: 4 and up
  • Players: 2-7
  • Playtime: 5 minutes

Zombie Kidz: Evolution

In this game, players defend their school from hordes of zombies and work together to avoid being overwhelmed, according to Barnes. He said it’s a great game to “show kids the value of listening to others and evaluating situations to determine better outcomes for everyone.” It’s also a “legacy” game, meaning you can unlock characters and other content for future playthroughs every time you play. Available in versions for both younger kids and teens, Zombie Kidz: Evolution is highly rated, earning a 4.8-star average rating from over 500 reviews on Amazon.

  • Ages: 7 and up
  • Players: 2-4
  • Playtime: 5 to 15 minutes

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