Kids spending too much time on their Switch? Try switching it up with some old-school board games instead
With video games having such a grip on kids’ attention these days, it can be difficult to find a screen time alternative. And it’s no mystery as to why—they’re designed that way. Developers purposely make video games addicting, and “just a few more minutes” can turn into hours. Since games like Fortnite and Animal Crossing connect players across the world, you don’t always know who your kids are connecting with, which can make things seem a little scary. But there’s another option, which can provide hours of fun, exercise brains a little more, and create connections IRL: board games!
Press Pause on devices and challenge your crew to some of the coolest tabletop family games available.
Lightning Fast Family Fun
Like the old game of “Telephone,” but with pictures—Telestrations has players start with a word, draw their interpretation, and see where it ends up when it comes back to them.
Telestrations comes with cool digital drawing pads that don’t leave a mess or require multiple reams of paper to play. (No mess is always a plus.) Players pull from a list of secret words and do their best to draw their interpretation of it. They then pass their pad to the person next to them who tries to draw what word they think it is, and so on. Finally, the original artist sees how the drawing (and word) changed by the time it gets back to them. Warning: outcomes can be hilarious and induce wild fits of laughter.
Telestrations Ages 1+
5 Second Rule Jr.
Trying naming three zoo animals in 5 seconds—it’s harder than it sounds with the 5 Second Rule! Challenge friends and family and find out how difficult it is to remember three things in five seconds while fighting off giggle fits. With over 200 cards to choose from, and expansion packs available for even more fun, 5 Second Rule Jr. is a fun, easy way to get offline with family games and pass an hour together… when it only felt like a few seconds. Also, the timer it comes with makes a really fun zoooooop noise that keeps players coming back for more.
5 Second Rule Jr. Ages 4+
Sharpen kids’ critical thinking skills and give them a chance to hone their creative vocabulary with Hedbanz.
The game is simple: everyone picks up a card and puts it in their headband and starts guessing what they are—but yes or no questions only. Rounds are action-packed as each player tries to guess as many cards as they can before the timer runs out. Up to six players can join in on the fun as they try to get someone to guess their card without giving away exactly what the card is.
Hedbanz Ages 6+
Elegant and easy to learn, Azul is an award-winning tile placement game where players compete against each other by claiming and arranging tiles on the board to win the highest score. While the setup is fairly simple, the game takes on a life of its own as players try to collect the same color tile sets or create different patterns, and they’re penalized for tiles they don’t use. Keep coming back for more with this fun, addicting, and visually amazing game.
Azul Ages 8+
Encourage a budding ornithologist with Wingspan. Players discover and attract the most birds to their growing network of wildlife preserves by using different tactics to grow and expand the bird-laden parks. Wingspan comes with beautiful cards and eggs that serve as game pieces, has several “expansion packs” available for more birds and extended games, and there’s even a “solo mode” for quiet, contemplative games.
Wingspan Ages 10+
Lightning fast, simple, and fun to play, the goal of Quoridor is to reach the opponent’s side of the board, but with a twist: players either move their piece or place a wall down to block the other paths (however, players can’t completely block another path). What seemed like a good move at the start can suddenly become a downfall as more walls get added and mazes begin to pop up across the board. Rounds generally last about 15 minutes and players will never take the same path twice.
Quoridor Ages 8+
One on One
Outfox opponents with the quick puzzle game of Mastermind. One player is the “Mastermind” and selects 4 pieces from different colored pegs and hides them behind a covered side of the board. Players must then try and guess the “code” using whatever color combination they can come up with, as the Mastermind gives them hints after each turn if they have guessed the right combination of colors and patterns. If the code isn’t cracked in 10 tries, the Mastermind wins.
A modern classic, Mastermind is one of the best-selling tabletop games of all time and is fun time after time.
Mastermind Ages 8+
Ideal for two players, Cathedral pits players against one another with light and dark buildings of varying size and shape. The game starts when the titular Cathedral is placed inside the city walls, with players taking turns strategically placing their buildings on the grid, trying to outmaneuver the other to gain the most land. Surround the other player’s building in a shameless land grab—it’s all about getting the most buildings.
With each round being more fun than the last, Cathedral is the perfect way to get offline and have some creative fun.
Cathedral Ages 8+
One of the oldest known board games in history, Backgammon is the fun cousin of chess and checkers, with a pair of dice thrown in. A combination of strategy and luck, two players square off to try and get all their pieces to the other side of the board before their opponent does. And since the playtime for each round is relatively short, rematches often occur to settle the score or try and outdo each other every time. Backgammon is a great way to introduce kids to strategic thinking, problem solving, math, and the joy of friendly competition in family games.
Backgammon Ages 6+
Bonus: A New Take on an Old Classic!
All the pieces are the same, but instead of trying to capture others and knock out the king, the goal is to eliminate as many of your own pieces as possible. When moving to a square that another piece can take, the other player must take it. The player with the fewest pieces on the board when you run out of legal moves wins.