Looking for a gift for your kids that's fun, but perhaps a little more intellectually stimulating than the Nerf MurderGun 5000 or Princess Daenerys's Glitter-Shedding Dragon? Don't worry, Games for Young Minds has got you covered.
Below, I've shared two games for each age level: One game that I've profiled previously, and a new game that I haven't gotten the chance to write about. No matter what age your child or what games they've played before, you should be able to find something useful below. Enjoy!
Pre-K and Kindergarten
I think the cornerstone to any young child's game collection should be Tiny Polka Dot. The cards provided are so beautiful and flexible that you can play dozens of games with a single set! Whether your child is still learning the basics of counting or building their understanding of addition, this gift has a great game they can use to practice those math skills. Check out my write-up of Tiny Polka Dot from January.
Another great game to help early counters is Count Your Chickens. This is another game from Peaceable Kingdom, a game company that has created all sorts of fun, cooperative math games (I am also a fan of Race to the Treasure).
In this game, your child will count along a path, then collect chickens that match that total. This shift back and forth between counting actual objects (concrete) and counting spaces along a path (abstract) helps kids learn how to use counting in differing scenarios. And since it's a cooperative game, there are no hard feelings among siblings; you either all work together to win, or the whole team loses and tries to do better next time!
1st and 2nd Grade
One of my favorite finds this year was Zeus on the Loose, a simple card game that helps kids practice addition. They don't see it that way, of course! They're just trying to steal Zeus from all their friends. Kids take turns playing numbered cards on a pile, increasing the sum of the pile with each card. Make the pile add to a multiple of 10 and you steal Zeus! This game works great in bigger groups, or you can play one-on-one with your child. Check out my write-up of Zeus on the Loose from July!
I haven't gotten to write about this game, but I have been utterly charmed by King of Tokyo. This game has my favorite theme of the year, where each player embodies a monster (Godzilla, King Kong, etc) who is trying to defeat all the other monsters and become the King of Tokyo.
King of Tokyo involves a Yahtzee-like mechanic where players roll dice to determine whether they earn points, attack opponents, or gain health. Your child must think probabilistically when choosing to re-roll their dice, and they have to manage their own health and points all the while. Play King of Tokyo once, and your child will insist on it over and over!
3rd and 4th Grade
If your child is 3rd grade or older, they've got the dexterity for Manifold, an origami-based puzzle game that fits in the palm of your hand. With a sequence of increasingly complex puzzles, Manifold teaches you how to use the basics of origami to create all sorts of fascinating folds. Pair this gift with an origami book for your more artistically-minded child. Be sure to check out my write-up of Manifold from June.
If you're looking for a game that helps kids use multiplication strategically, then Kingdomino is a perfect game for you! Players take turns placing beautifully designed dominoes to build their kingdom (get it? kingdom-ino? hilarious).
The end of the game, where the points are tallied, involves multiplying the number of adjacent dominoes by the number of crowns that appear on some dominoes. This mechanic gets your kids thinking strategically about multiplication - is it better to maximize space, or crowns? There's a reason that Kingdomino won Game of the Year in 2017 - it's addictive, quick, and deep.
5th Grade and Older
Is your child into code-breaking and puzzles? Or do they just like confusing and confounding their parents? Either way, Mastermind is a wonderful two-player game that helps kids develop their logical thinking and skills of deduction. One person creates a four-color code, and the other player gets ten chances to guess the code. Each round, the codebreaker learns how many colors he got right, but not which ones. They must then use that information to make their next guess.
Mastermind is definitely a big hit with my middle school students, and I've used the game as a pretext for a lot of great math lessons about combinatorics and probability. I guarantee that if you play one round of this game, you'll be able to have a fun math conversation about someone's decision along the way to breaking the code. Check out my write-up of Mastermind from May!
If you have an older child who is just a board game kid, I can't recommend Pandemic highly enough. This is a cooperative game, where all players work together to prevent an outbreak of disease from destroying mankind! Each player gets a special ability, but you'll have to work together if you have any hope of saving the world. I've played this game with my kids, my siblings, and my friends, and everyone asks to play it again.
There is definitely a lot of math inherent in Pandemic, as the disease begins to spread at a rapidly increasing pace. Players must plan out sequences of moves two and three turns in advance, then modify those plans as new outbreaks occur. But you won't feel like you're doing math - you'll feel like you're saving the world.
Happy Holidays from Games for Young Minds!
I hope y'all have enjoyed my game recommendations this year! I would love nothing more than to hear about your positive experiences with the games I've shared here and on my website. If you find a moment of calm this holiday season (hahaha), I'd love to hear how your kids enjoy their new games. Just reply back to any newsletter and it'll come right to me. Happy holidays!