The Best Brain-Boosting and Age-Appropriate Board Games

You can never go wrong with a board game. It’s the perfect gift — for Christmas, birthday, celebrations, or just because. Board games boost brain activity, helping kiddos exercise their skills and smarts. Board games also teach team work, patience, taking turns, and how to be a good winner and loser. And who could forget the times together laughing, competing, and talking — all around a board game. Board games? GREAT idea.

Then you walk through the board game aisle. What to choose? What’s age appropriate? Which games are actually worthwhile? Which are just fluff? What’s the best board game for _____?

Fret no more, dear reader. These are Fort Worth Moms Blog’s favorite board games to get that noggin’ working, the kiddos (and you!) having fun, and a whole host of memories making.

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Elephant’s Trunk (ages 4+). Help Emmet the elephant pack his suitcase for vacation, but watch out for the mouse who keeps dumping out Emmet’s bag! This game teaches color and pattern recognition, as well as fine motor skills.

Ladybug Memory Game (ages 2-6). Age appropriate for the smallest of gamers, lift the adorable ladybug’s dots to find the matching pair. Made of wood and includes three levels of difficulty in the laminated cards. Both precious and fun!

Sneaky Snacky Squirrel (ages 3+). Spin the wheel and remove the colored acorns from the tree, without the wind blowing all your acorns away. My kids LOVE this one. It teaches colors, counting, and fine motor skills.

Hoot Owl Hoot (ages 4+). Cooperative game to get all the owls back to the nest before the sun comes up. This teaches strategy and cooperation with all players in the game and includes two levels to grow with your child. This award-winner is on my kiddos’ Christmas list!

Snug as a Bug in a Rug (ages 3+). Players cooperate to hide bugs under the rug, teaching colors, numbers, shapes, and matching. It has multiple levels so the game can increase in difficulty as your child grows in knowledge. Love that!

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Blokus (ages 5+). Each person selects a color and attempts to place all his or her puzzle pieces on the playing field without being blocked. We love this strategy game as a family and can sometimes be found playing it after the kids are gone to bed!

Zingo (ages 4-8). The manufacturer describes this as “BINGO with a zing!” Grab a card, slide the zinger, and try to match the word to your card. Teaches language and matching skills, with a side of fun!

Forbidden Island (ages 10+). Work with your favorite team of explorers to retrieve treasures on the sinking island. Easy to learn and simple to play, this makes a great family game.

Apples to Apples Jr. (ages 9+). Just like you loved the adult game, kids and parents alike will love this child-appropriate game of funny comparisons!

Race Through Space (ages 6-10). Space travelers fly their rockets through the Milky Way heading to the moon. Dangers abound as players take turns rolling the dice and collecting galaxy cards. As the galaxies are collected, the universe shifts, changing the game. If you have a space-loving kiddo, check this one out!

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Catan (ages 8+). There’s a reason people talk about the game formerly known as “Settlers of Catan” now just “Catan.” No two games are ever the same, and it’s fairly easy to learn. Form strategy and alliances to settle the land of Catan, building properties, trading for goods, and winning points. Bonus: there are expansion packs available for future gifting opportunities!

Scrabble (ages 8+). According to Time, the world has been playing Scrabble since 1931. Give this gift for a quintessential family game night opportunity to put away social media and challenge creative vocabulary and spelling prowess. Bonus: it’s only $14.99 at Amazon!

Mastermind (ages 8+). This classic game of logic requires two players: one creating secret codes while the other must break the code. If your recipient loves brainteasers, this one is sure to be a hit.

Ticket to Ride (ages 8+). Based on “Around the World in 80 Days,” players must collect train cards that enable them to travel around the U.S., connecting through cities. The player that travels through the most cities in seven days wins. As with Catan, there are expansion packs available to increase the fun.

Balderdash (ages 8+). In this game of bluffing, players make up fake answers to questions and read them along with correct answers, while the other players vote on which one is real. Creative thinking and a good poker face will be an asset for this one!

Emily G
Emily is married to Brad and mother of the handsome Jack and precious Annabelle. After more than a decade as a software engineer (two of those as a working mother), she cleaned out her cubicle and can be found most days at one of the beautiful parks Cowtown has to offer, without a WiFi hotspot in range. These days, Emily spends her time exploring our fair city with her babes in tow, volunteering at her church, cheering on the Fightin' Texas Aggies, and shopping her way through DFW at large. You'll find her journaling her daily life at Being Mrs. Gentry.


  1. Emily, I wanted to mention a new game called Choice Words, published by MindWare (you have seen their catalogs – – “brainy toys for kids of all ages”). Choice Words was first published in October 2014. Since then the game has won several industry awards, and it was recently nominated for “Game Of The Year.” Sadly, Pie Face won. Ugh! Pie Face is silly fun; Choice Words is sophisticated fun. The game has a Scattergories feel, in the sense that you scratch off answers (in Scratch Play) that you have in common with your opponents. The great thing is that EVERYTHING COUNTS (words, terms, titles, phrases, etc.) and you know all the answers. Recalling them is tricky because they are not organized in categories. The game’s motor is root words. They have been carefully culled to ensure that they are very prolific in generating lots of answers, and you will be charmed when you hear others’ lists and realize that you missed so many. JACK: jack rabbit, jack hammer, Cracker Jack, the Union Jack, jumping jacks, etc. If two players have not heard of the answer, then that answer is scratched as well. The Rolling Stones’ song “Jumping Jack Flash” would be a valid answer for older groups, but younger players would rightly say, “nope; never heard of that.” You bring your peas and carrots, as it were. Great for larger groups. Younger players tend to prefer the Match Play part where you write 3 words to fill in 3 blanks. You score here for matching others. CANDY____ is the most popular answer going to be “candy bar”? “candy cane”? or something else? For ___BOOK, is the best answer “cookbook”? “phone book”? or “Facebook?” Interesting to hear the answers from different generations. In Scratch Play, my elderly parents my include CUT a rug (to dance), but my kids won’t know that one. My kids know how to “CUT-and-paste” but my computer-less parents wouldn’t know that one. Get a few couples together, and you will be wondering how did we ever live without this game? You will love it, I promise!!


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