Board games don’t discriminate. People of all ages can enjoy a good game night, but of course, it can be difficult to find just one game that all members of your family can enjoy sometimes. After all, there’s not many five-year olds that truly understand the concept of chess – and if they do, that’s a topic for a whole new article!
For the days you want to include even the little ones in good, family-friendly entertainment, you want to pick out board games they can comprehend and enjoy. More importantly, at young ages, games that promote collaboration can teach valuable lessons in teamwork.
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Importance of Collaboration
The importance of collaborative and cooperative learning cannot be stressed enough. Before children are exposed to the world at large, it is worthwhile for them to hone their teamwork and communication skills in the form of games and in the comfort of their own home. When the time comes to deal with social and educational issues, kids who have experience in successful cooperation will do much better than those who have none.
Cooperation overall can really be the basis for many qualities in children as they grow older. At home and at school, they can transform what they have learned into respect for each other and respect for property and space. Honesty and fairness are two more standards of behavior that get strengthened with constant subjection to necessary teamwork.
For this purpose, games can be a wonderful tool to teach important attributes to children. Since most games are competitive, cooperative games are a fresh change from the usual. Even for the older crowd, such games can highlight how important teamwork and coordination can be and for those who are not that good at it, they can find out where they need improvement! Whether it’s learning to communicate or helping each other out, players of cooperative games will find that they learn much more than just the rules of the games. For kids, this can translate into a major aspect of their personality around friends and strangers.
Of course, not all cooperative board games are the top choices for family game night. Some are better than others and we need to distinguish the good from the great!
This depends on what you personally look for when board game shopping. An important element would be the theme of the board game or the rulebook. A specific and complicated niche game would be difficult to explain to children. The more rules information there is to memorize, the more they will think of the game as a chore rather than a fun exercise. The best collaborative games for kids are those that are simple to start playing right off the bat! Additionally, we all know how short attention spans are for children, so games that run long would never be completed.
Wildcraft! A Cooperative Herbal Adventure Game
Wildcraft! A Cooperative Herbal Adventure Game is one of the first games that springs to mind in this category. The concept is adorable and is a favorite of many kids. The basis of Wildcraft is that Grandma needs to bake a pie! The players all act as cousins who need to then go on an adventure collecting the major ingredient for Grandma’s pie – huckleberries.
The issue though is that all the correct plants need to be harvested and the cousins need to return by nightfall. While playing, kids will also learn a lot about nature and plants and their uses. Wildcraft! has it all, and it starts with the board. The gameplay aesthetics contain all the elements young children love: bright, colorful drawings with waterfalls and logs that act as shortcuts. It comes with beautifully illustrated plant cards and ‘trouble’ cards – things that stop you from gathering your huckleberries.
Another advantage of Wildcraft is that no reading is really required (icons are used more than words) and young children will have a blast playing it. Along with that, there really is no requirement of knowledge about nature and plants, everything is learned on the go! Cooperation is a big part of the game, as discussed, as without the help and knowledge of all players together, it would be impossible for Grandma to bake her delicious pie for her grandkids. The importance of teamwork is therefore emphasized and young kids will understand thoroughly the need for communication as they play this game.
Outfoxed runs about twenty minutes and the advertised age range is 5+, but sometimes even younger children can play.
Outfoxed (check out our review!) is a deduction game that requires kids to think hard and play the role of detective to catch the conniving fox before he disappears. Together, all players must work together to identify the criminal fox from the group of innocent foxes.
The rules are easy: on every turn, a player must decide the path they are going to take. Will they hunt for clues or identify a suspect? Next, the player rolls the game’s stylized dice until a matching icon appears that goes parallel to their decision (footprints or eyes). Players can then move across the board or flip over suspect cards, attempting to identify the fox. Clues have additional rules, but still, these are easy to understand.
Outfoxed fosters discussion between all players, as they are encouraged to spend time after every turn discussing possible new suspects and clues. The atmosphere of collaborative teamwork is very apparent in this board game and that’s why it’s a top contender in this category.
Race to the Treasure
Race to the Treasure might be the most well-known cooperative children’s game on the market. It’s popular in families with young children, as they can play together without needing an older player to guide them. Children as young as three or four are big fans of this board game. And with a playing time of twenty minutes, it does do a good job at captivating them.
The premise of the game is to reach the treasure before the ogre does and, in doing so, everyone must find three keys that help to unlock the treasure. The ogre’s path goes straight to the treasure, so the challenge is to beat him! To create their own path, players strategize and build it together by laying tiles.
There is no reading required, inviting even the youngest children to help the others win. The feeling of cooperation is greatly apparent in this one, as no player wants another player to pick an ogre tile. If an ogre tile is picked, the ogre’s path gets easier! So, each player is rooting for each other in this friendly game and when the tiles are completed, the keys are collected and the treasure obtained, the whole group is a winner!
Escape: The Curse of the Temple
For kids a bit older, such as eight and above, Escape: The Curse of the Temple is a great choice. As the title does imply, all players ally together in order to, of course, escape from a cursed temple.
The most unique aspect of this board game is that you can be done and finished with a full game in about ten minutes! With a maximum of five players, this does seem perfect for quick entertainment for the whole family. The fun part is that the whole game, for all ten minutes, is filled with frantic dice rolling. Which child doesn’t love frenzy and fast-paced action?
All players are playing their part simultaneously, mimicking explorers escaping from the crumbling temple, and the dice guides them on where to go. Additionally, gems are hidden throughout the temple (again, of course) and the explorers collect them on their way out.
To add to the intensity of the game, it is accompanied by a soundtrack that you should listen to as you play. The soundtrack also contains gong sounds and a countdown to the breakdown of the temple. When all these pieces come together, the players really will feel like they are in the middle of an action movie. Teamwork is the foundation of Escape, as the whole group loses if even one player is left inside the temple at the time of it’s destruction. With everyone rooting for each other, Escape is a refreshing change from the usual competitive games kids are used to and is wonderful for a friendly, yet tense, afternoon.
Castle Panic targets a slightly older age range than the other games on the list.
The board itself is illustrated well and quite colorful, which aids children in picking up elements of the game more easily and learning as they go along. There are expansions for this board game, but even the base game is a great start for family-friendly cooperative gaming.
Together, the players defend their castle from mobs of monsters that thrive in the forest around it. Turn by turn, each player picks an attack card for variations on protection on the castle and monsters inch closer as the game goes by. Luck plays a big role in the outcome of this game, so this game is for those who would like a game that does not rely heavily on strategy.
Of course, strategy can be utilized for a more challenging game, as there are many small rules one can use to increase points. Competition is part of the game slightly, as the winner is declared to be the player with the highest number of points. Overall though, the goal of all the players is the same – to protect the castle – and this common goal helps the players stay on track and even help each other attack monsters.
Cooperative games are a breath of fresh air when compared to heated board games that result in fights and disagreements. They can keep an evening peaceful and contained and even foster friendships and healthy discussions amongst the players. Children benefit greatly from such games, as they learn important skills and acquire lessons in social dealings and teamwork that they would otherwise miss out on in completely competitive games. That’s why, next game night, you should break out one of the previously mentioned board games and invite your kids or siblings to join you in baking Grandma’s pies or finding treasure or protecting your castle. It’ll be a guaranteed family favorite for many nights to come.