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7 Brain-Boosting Board Games for Young Kids and Tweens

In cupboards, closets and charity shops the length and breadth of the country, board games gather dust. In the wake of smartphones and tablets, today’s kids are losing interest in board games. That’s according to a recent survey which found 73% of parents regularly played board games as kids, but only 44% of their kids do so now.

For many families, board games have become a fullback when all else fails. When there is nothing on tv, the internet is offline or there is a power cut. But board games are far more than a last-ditch attempt to pass the time on a rainy day.  Making time for board games is the perfect excuse to bring the family together away from the hustle and bustle of modern life and screens. And they are a great way to stimulate and train young brains too!

Brain-Boosting Powers

Board games are a great opportunity for young kids to “follow rules, focus, take turns and defer gratification, which helps with self-regulation, the basis of problem-solving and thinking creatively,” says Peter J. Pizzolongo from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. And during the school holidays, these brain-boosting board games help ensure young minds stay exercised and stimulated. Just four 15-minute sessions a week have been shown to boost young kids mathematical abilities significantly.

But it’s not just for young minds. Tweens and teens benefit from playing board games too:

  • Game rules provide an even playing field but can be tricky. Kid’s problem-solving skills will be put to the test as they try to figure out how they can win whilst abide by the rules.
  • Board games are inherently visual, which helps kids think about strategy and planning ahead. Not only do they have to think about their next move, but their opponents too!
  • Board games are often fast-paced, with turns coming around quickly. Some are even timed! This requires your kids to think on their feet and make decisions quickly.

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7 Brain-Boosting Board Games

Chances are you played these brain-boosting board games as a child. But just because they might predate you doesn’t mean they can’t teach your tech-savvy kids a trick or two!  And they’re the perfect excuse to down screens and spend quality time together as a family, whilst training brains. So without further ado, here are our favourite brain-boosting board games.

1) Snakes and Ladders (aka Chutes and Ladders)

Quick, simple and great fun, this game is a superb introduction to the world of board games for young kids. Playing Snakes and Ladders will help your child master the essentials of board games including taking turns, dice, counting, patience, and rewards.

Age: 3+

HowTo: Take it in turns to roll the dice and move your counter up the board from start to finish. Advance by climbing a ladder a level or two whenever your land at its base. Or if you’re unfortunate to land at a snakes head or top of a chute, slide down to the bottom!

Mods: Brainstorm some fun forfeits should someone land at the head of a snake or top of a chute. Not only do you have to slide down the snake or shoot,  you have to do a forfeit too!

2) Connect Four

7 Brain-Boosting Board Games for Young Kids and Tweens | Habyts

OK, so this one’s not technically a board game, but playing Connect Four is a great strategy game which helps kids think and plan ahead. How will their next move influence the game? How many counters do they need to win? Can they win faster next time with a different strategy?

Age: 4+

Players: 2 (more in teams)

HowTo: Take it in turns to drop counters into the grid with the aim of getting four counters in a line (connect four), vertically, horizontally or diagonally. The first to get a line of four wins!

Mods: PopOut! Once per game, choose to pop one of your checkers out of the bottom row, causing all checkers above to move down. You can see PopOut rules in action in this video.

3) Battleships

Master the oceans and wipe out your opponents fleet with this fun, naval-inspired game. Battleships introduces your child to grid systems, whilst careful thought, reasoning, and deduction are needed to first find and then sink your opponent’s fleet before they sink yours!

Age: 8+

Players: 2 (more in teams)

HowTo: Place your ships on the bottom grid and, using the grid system, take it in turns to call out coordinates where you think your opponents ships might be at anchor. If you score a Hit, mark the location of your opponents ship on the top grid with a red marker. And if you Miss, mark the location with a blue marker. The winner is first to sink all their opponent’s ships!

Mods: Using fewer ships (and submarines) reduces the chance of your opponent scoring a ‘Hit’ whilst increasing the difficulty of the game. But be warned, it may also increase its duration!

4) Monopoly

7 Brain-Boosting Board Games for Young Kids and Tweens | Habyts

More family activity (it can last several hours) than board game, this family classic is also available in a variety of special additions! Monopoly teaches your kids values such as saving, budgeting, paying bills as well as dealing with the unexpected (Go To Jail, Chance cards etc). Highly addictive and frustrating in equal measure!

Age: 8+

Players: 2-8 (depending on version)

HowTo: Sweep around the board buying property as you go!  The aim is to buy as many properties as you can, cram them with houses and hotels, charge unbelievable rent and avoid jail time. The winner is the player with the most $$$ at the end of the game.

Mod: Monopoly is quite complex, so a quick refresh of the rules is always recommended. Once you’ve mastered those, up your game with some of these fun mods.

5) Sorry!

Get all your pieces from start to the finish (home) in as few a moves as possible. What could possibly go wrong? Sorry! is a great introduction to sportsmanship, as landing on the same tile as an opponent knocks their piece back to the Start. Sorry! (not sorry).

Age: 4+

Players: 2-4

HowTo: Take it in turns to move your pieces around the board until you get them all to the safety of home! The movement of pieces is governed by drawing cards from a pile and following their instructions. You can only move one piece at a time! But watch out for your opponents who can knock you back to the start or overtake you at any point.

Mod: Add your own cards with forfeits or activities. Do them right and move a tile forward. Get them wrong and move two tiles backwards or go back to the beginning. The choice is yours.

6) Scrabble

7 Brain-Boosting Board Games for Young Kids and Tweens | Habyts

The teachers favourite – and for good reason – Scrabble teaches kids the 3R’s and a whole lot more, in one fun family board game. Scrabble strengthens your child’s reading, spelling, and vocabulary as well as problem-solving, strategic thinking and math (adding up points).

Age: 6+

Players: 2-4

HowTo: Players get 7 letter tiles and take it in turns to build words on the scrabble board, with each letter worth a certain number of points. Skip a go if you don’t have a suitable letter tile. At the end of the game, the player with the most points is crowned the winner.

Mod: Whenever a child opponent completes a word, have a rhyming contest and award an additional point to the child with the most complex rhyming word.

7) Chess

Undoubtedly one of the most played games worldwide and one of the oldest too, chess earned its place in the games cupboard centuries ago. And of all the brain-boosting board games listed here, it demands the most skill and concentration. Here’s why.

Age: 6+

Players: 2

HowTo: Contrary to popular belief, the rules of chess are actually quite simple. Players take it in turns to move their chess pieces – 6 different types each with its own special moves yet similar traits – across a chequered board. Only once chess piece can occupy a square at any time, and if you land on a square occupied by your opponent piece, you’ve captured it! The aim is to capture your opponents pieces and checkmate their King. For more rules and gameplay tips, check out this handy chess guide by The Spruce.

Mods: Master the basics first before giving these creative takes on the classic board game a try.

So that’s our wrap of our favourite brain-boosting board games for kids. For more on board games, check out The New Era of Table Top Gaming by Shanan Winters.

What are your favourite brain-boosting board games you enjoy playing as a family?  Why not share them with the Habyts community in the comments section below.

RELATED: Seeking screen-free activities to keep the kids entertained?

Beat the boredom and build good habits with games, crafts, rewards, and activities for kids of all ages.
Search the Habyts activity finder!
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