IN THIS POST: Finding the right game for family game nights depends a lot on the age of the children involved. If you want to throw in an educational component, it can narrow the list even further. These six learning games are some of our favorites and are perfect for families with elementary-age kids!
Family game nights don’t have to be educational, but sometimes we can’t help it. Living a learning life seeps into a lot of our decisions. These games are fun for their own reasons, but also bring a bit of learning into the mix. Use them for a game night or an alternative teaching option.
What makes a game good for the elementary age-group? Based on my experience, it should be easy to understand, involve building levels of strategy as a child gets older, and be in the 30-minutes timeframe (possibly longer with older kids).
With that said, we had a great time with all of the games on this list, but some were better suited to older kids. I’ve made notes for each game. I’ve arranged them so the first few are good for younger elementary kids (5+) and upward, then the last few are better suited for your upper-elementary kids (8+) and upward.
When the winter doldrums strike or your homeschool routine needs a break or you just want to try a new game, then families with elementary-age kids will love one of these learning games. Add one to your regular rotation!
Games for the Younger Crowd (5+)
Flower Families (A Go-Fish Game)
Flower Families is a traditional game of Go-Fish. The object is to collect the four flowers of a certain flower family. The cards are beautiful, and the rules are familiar. It’s a good comfort game for when trying something too new might be overwhelming.
As you play, you’ll become familiar with thirteen of the different flower families and may even make some surprising connections. The cards could also be used to play a Memory-type game.
Wildcraft is a cooperative learning game challenges players to proceed around the board to get huckleberries from the center and then return them to Grandma’s house before the sun sets. Players encounter a range of obstacles and afflictions that need to be treated with various natural plants. Match a plant from your cards (or get another player to help) with the ailment, and you’re good to go.
All ages can play this game, but it does take a while to make it to the center and back. We’ve modified the rules and objectives at different times to speed it up. Nevertheless, we’ve had a great time considering what natural remedies can be used to help with common scrapes and bruises.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a guide included that talks about why Cottonwood is good for a mosquito bite or how to prepare Pine for a scraped knee. The game prompted us to take out a couple books on natural medicines and to Google some answers, but we’ve not been brave enough to try any of the solutions. We have become better at identifying the plants though, and that’s a plus!
I’ll be honest and say that the packaging really suckered me into this one. A giant blue whale unzips to reveal the game pieces inside. Time to get your addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills going!
Mobi Math is Scrabble for mathematicians. Each player blindly selects a few tiles. The tiles contain numbers and math process signs. Then each person takes a turn making equations and connecting their pieces to those that are already on the board.
For example, someone might play 3+4+7 and then the next person might play 4-2=2 starting by using the 4 in the first equation. It looks like a sort of giant crossword puzzle at the end.
You can modify this game depending on your child’s math level. Initially I played mostly with multiplication and division while my first grader used addition and subtraction.
Also, be sensitive to your child’s relationship with math and reaction to games. My youngest gets tense when competing so we made this more of a collaborative effort. She would make her own choices but sometimes I would offer a couple suggestions depending on what tiles she had.
Games for the Older Crowd (8+)
It took me a while to open Valence and give it a try. I glanced at the directions, thought it would be too difficult to explain, and planned to donate it. My eldest daughter pulled it out and asked accusingly, “You’re not going to donate this, are you?” She studied the directions, set it up, and we have had so much fun since.
To be fair, there’s a reasonable amount of complexity, so plan to play with upper-elementary-aged students and older. After we figured it out, we were rolling.
Players collect elements and turn them into molecules. The first person to collect 10-points worth of molecules is the winner. Be warned! Other players will be attempting to react with your molecules and set you back!
You don’t have to understand the science concepts to play, but the visuals and explanations will support any teaching you’d like to do along the way.
Apples to Apples, Jr.
We have had this game for a couple years, and it is a guaranteed hilarious family night when we bust it out. Apples to Apples, Jr. is the appropriate level for our kids, but Apples to Apples is a great game too if you have older students or if you’re planning a game night with friends.
The game includes red cards (nouns) and green cards (adjectives). One person is the judge for each round; the judge changes each round. The judge picks a green card and let’s everyone know what the word is. The other players then select the best noun from their hand of red cards to illustrate the adjective. The judge picks the noun she agrees with and the person who put that red card down wins the green card.
Usually this escalates to a scene resembling an elementary school courtroom with each person shouting arguments for why their answer (however absurd it is) is the best.
We’ve explored vocabulary terms, the adjective/noun relationship, variations in meaning, and argumentative strategies.
If your younger children are capable readers, then they could certainly join in as well. Being able to navigate the vocabulary is the defining skill for this game to work.
Another math game! In Prime Climb, each player gets two pawns to move around the spiral path on the game board. They roll the two die and determine how they want to connect the numbers in order to advance most strategically. The goal is to get both pawns to the 102 end and declare victory. Watch out for Action or Keeper cards – sometimes they’re good and sometimes you end up back at the beginning!
This is definitely a game for upper elementary. You could manage with addition and subtraction only, but when you’re able to throw in some multiplication and division options you can really move around the board. Subtraction and division don’t seem terribly strategic until you’re trying to get your pawns on the last spot – without going past it!
Other Learning Games for Families with Elementary-Age Kids
These are only six games for families with kids in the elementary age range. As you might expect, there are dozens (possibly hundreds) more. I won’t claim to have the market cornered on this topic, but these are tried-and-true lots of fun that have worked well in our family.
(I will put a plug here for adding Bingo to your games to play. I glanced at options for Bingo a while ago and compiled a list of 30 variations – that’s one versatile game!)
To get some other ideas of board games your family might enjoy for a range of ages, check out these three links to other blogger recommendations.