Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

best family board games

Everdell is a great family strategy game with a beautiful setup. (Amber Elbon photo)

Game night! 24 family games we love

Seattle's Child staff picks for a great family game night (or gift)

Seattle’s Child staff members got to discussing their favorite family games — which is the best and why do we and our kids love them? The list got pretty long at the end of the day and it was so good, we can’t help but share it. If you’re looking for gift ideas or new material for game night, read on.

And we’d love to hear your favorites. Leave a comment or email

Mexican Train

This summer we’ve gotten big into Mexican Train — a very fun and easy to learn dominoes game that can be played by up to 8 people.  We haven’t played with kids yet but plan to this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes. I think it works well for kids as young as preschool because you don’t have to read and it’s pretty simple. — Ann Bergman, Seattle’s Child publisher


According to its makers and several Seattle’s Child staffers, Rummikub is easy to learn, fast moving and combines luck and strategy. It also changes quickly so every player has a chance to win until the very end. Players take turns placing numbered tiles in runs and groups. “We are Rummikub lovers!” — Kathryn Halloway, Seattle’s Child art director


I love Everdell! It’s a beautiful game. The critter illustrations in it remind me of the Redwall series books by Brian Jacques, which I read voraciously when I was in middle school. Everdell is never the same game twice because there are so many variables. The cards you’re dealt can force you to alter your strategy significantly, which keeps things exciting. We also got three of the expansions, so we can add those on when we want to make it feel a little different. You can check out videos on YouTube about Everdell that will give you a better sense of what it’s about. — Amber Elbon, Seattle’s Child ad production manager

20 family games

Bananagrams / My First Bananagrams

We love wordplay in our house and so for years Scrabble was our favorite game. I played with my my grandmother, my kids, my husband who was a reporter and also loved words. We let a lot of the rules fall away because of our kids learning challenges, but I’m convinced both improved their spelling through play. But then Bananagrams came along. It’s a word-building game that plays out a little like verbal dominos. It’s fast-moving, frenetic, and so much fun. A great way to build a love of words in kids. We didn’t have My First Bananagrams when my kids were young learners but it’s a great introduction for kids ages 4 and up — Cheryl Murfin, Seattle’s Child managing editor

Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza

This game has a high level of suspense and silliness that keeps everyone engaged and laughing. It also ends relatively quickly, so you can dull the sting of loss by offering a chance to play again. TCGCP is a great game to play with friends because it’s so portable — just a deck of cards — and the rules are easy to explain, so you can have a game going in no time. — Amber Elbon

Rhino Hero

Like TCGCP, Rhino Hero is a game full of suspense and silliness and moves quickly. Rhino Hero is simple enough that my 5- and 8-year-old can play together without a grownup, but it won’t bore adults who want to play either. — Amber Elbon

The Forbidden Games

We’ve recently been into cooperative strategy games where you play as a team together against the game. That way if you lose, you all lose, and if you, win you all win! Easy to learn, easy to play and you can help each other out. Lots of moving parts so you’ll need a table to spread out.
The Forbidden Games — Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, Forbidden Jungle — are fun. It’s totally different to play as a team. — Julann Hill, Seattle’s Child senior account manager


My son just discovered Splendor when we went camping with friends. It’s a little like Monopoly but without the board. Players purchase things of wealth with gems and accrue points in the process. Places purchased are nothing like Park Place or Boardwalk, but are interesting like castles and stallions. The person who first reaches 17 points wins the game. It can be played in about 30 minutes with 2-4 players. Great for ages 9 and up. — Jasmin Thankachen, Seattle’s Child associate publisher


We took “Chicken!” on our summer road trip. Its small size, both in the box and on the table, made it perfect to pull out at the campsite or in the hotel room. It’s a push-your-luck dice rolling game that plays in about 10 minutes, so it was perfect for filling small pockets of time, or doing several “rematch” rounds. The object is to roll the dice to hatch chickens without rolling foxes (who “bust” into the henhouse). It was easy for my 10-year-old to learn and to teach to family members we visited. — Amber Elbon

5 Crowns

This one is addictive. We bought it a few years back and every time we played it with family or friends they’d love it so much, we’d give them ours. We have given away five of them! It’s easy to learn: Even younger kids can pick it up. It’s a card game that starts out with three cards, and you end up with 13 at the end. There are wild cards and you have to put together sets and runs of three or more. — Julann Hill

Zombie Dice

Best for teens, Zombie Dice is super easy and quick and fun! You can play Dead Ed, Oozin Susan or Gooey Louie to name a few.  You take turns rolling dice — there are runners, shotgun blasts and brains. You’re trying to collect as many brains as possible to win. It’s easy to play on the go and doesn’t take up much room. — Julann Hill

Trekking the National Parks

I had not heard of Trekking the National Parks until we received it as a gift. Although my family does love visiting the parks, no particular knowledge or expertise is required (but the game cards do offer a chance to learn more). The large game board takes up most of our dining room table, and playing usually takes about an hour. The great thing is: No one has figured out how to consistently win! We’ve been playing since our daughter was 10, and she wins as often as her parents do. It’s made by Underdog Games, which says that a portion of proceeds go to the National Parks Conservation Association. — Julie Hanson, Seattle’s Child books editor

Relative Insanity

Our subversive favorite lately is Relative Insanity. It’s an Apples-to-Apples style “complete the sentence” thing with a lot of bodily functions and other inappropriateness. Although I claim to be “above” that stuff, this game can make me laugh my head off. And we have invented a new version in which the cat also “plays” (we needed more people) and that has been surprisingly successful, too. You can play this game for 15 minutes or two hours, depending on everyone’s mood. — Julie Hanson


The thrill of the chase around the game board is what gets my children, ages 7 and 10, excited to play the game of Ludo! Originating in India and recorded to be played as far back as 3300 BC, the game is similar to the American version of Sorry! The goal is to get all four of your pieces off base, have them hop around the board, and end at your color-coded “home” circle. Opponents can send you back to base by knocking you off the board (my kids are usually giggling and in stitches when they take down a parent). My youngest child is known to shout, “Revenge is mine!” It’s a game that requires some strategy and a lot of counting squares. We’re often laughing around the dinner table, plotting our next move. You win by getting all your pieces home before your opponents do. We end up playing this a few times in one sitting — it’s easy, fast and incredibly fun! — Jasmin Thankachen

Alternate writing and drawing what you see in The Best Game Ever

The Best Game Ever: one for a very large family gathering

When our large Italian family gets together for the holidays, we can count on at least one round of The Best Game Ever. It’s perfect at the end of a meal when everyone is still sitting around the table. All you need are one sheet of paper per person and one writing utensil. Think of it as a form of the game “telephone.” Here’s how the game goes.

  1. Each person WRITES a phrase, sentence or idea at the very top of the page in as small letters as one can muster.
  2. Each player passes their sheet of paper to person on their right.
  3. When you receive your neighbor’s paper, you DRAW what you phrase, sentence or idea (without labeling it in any way.
  4. Now fold the words backward so that the person you next pass it to cannot see the original words but only the drawing. Pass to the right.
  5. Write in a few words, a phrase or sentence what you think the drawing is (without looking behind the fold. Then fold over the drawing so it too cannot be seen, but only the new words are seen. Pass to right
  6. Keep drawing and writing (depending on what lands in front of your plate), folding and passing until your original paper comes back to you.
  7. Take turns reading allowed and showing drawings where each phrase started and where it ended. We howl like wolves as papers are read and delight in the creativity of our family members.

You can play this game with any number of people, but it’s best for a group of six or more and even better when newly reading kids are involved. — Cheryl Murfin

The list goes on: Other games our staff enjoy with kids

About the Author

Julie Hanson

Julie Hanson is a longtime journalist, South King County resident and mom to a 15-year-old girl.