Playing one of these tabletop board games will reward you with hours of fun. Whether it’s a classic or a new game, taking the time to switch off from screens and sit together playing a game really does bond your family closer with laughter and (hopefully good-humoured) competitiveness.
And by introducing your children to board games from a young age, you’re demonstrating first hand the importance of valuable life skills like being a good winner and loser (so don’t gloat too much when you beat your six-year-old).
Board games can also be a great way to build closeness in a relaxed way, without intense question and answers, so they’re ideal as an in for grandparents and children who might be feeling a bit unfamiliar with each other and for older children who may be drifting towards their peers more than family life.
Here are 16 family games that really are worth switching the TV off to play together.
Classic board games
1. Tummy Ache
Guaranteed to be loved by young kids who like gross things. You compete to collect cards to make a meal - but beware of the tummy ache cards. Tummy Ache is a great game for little children aged 3+, teaching them how to take turns and with the laughs of creepy crawlies.
Another firm family favourite where players draw cards instructing them to remove different funny body parts with tweezers from Patient Sam. You need a steady hand to avoid touching the sides and getting buzzed off. Suitable for ages 4+.
3. Mouse Trap
This family favourite has never lost its popularity and we’ll bet you’ll love racing to avoid the traps with your own children. For ages 6+.
The game that ties you all in knots. Perfect for larger groups and kids who need a chance to let off steam. Give the spinner a whirl and get in a twist on the mat with right foot green, left foot red and so on - until you collapse. Warning: bendy kids are miles better at Twister than stiff, achy adults, even if it does bring out the big kid in you. For age 6+.
We couldn’t really do a round-up of board games without Monopoly. But be warned, while buying and selling properties and bankrupting members of your family can be strangely fun, it can also bring out the nastiest side of people - and the ones knocked out have to twiddle their thumbs for a very long time. That said, it’s still one of the most popular family board games and there are lots of franchise versions to suit your children’s interests, including Peppa Pig Junior Monopoly (for 4+) and Pokemon Monopoly (8+), and different cities - Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and even Milton Keynes (all 8+).
This is a great game for a bit of one-on-one time with each child. As chess is a game based on skill rather than luck, it’s a game you never grow out of and as your children get older, you can set up increasingly ambitious family tournaments. Children aged 6+ can start learning the pieces and moves.
The exact opposite of quiet, reflective chess, Uno is a game designed for boisterous family fun as you each compete to get rid of your cards, while remembering to shout Uno gleefully when you have just one card left. It’s very simple, but fast-paced and luck can turn very quickly - one minute you’re on the point of winning, the next you’re having to pick up a handful of cards. This suits children aged 7+.
Combining luck and strategy, this dice game is a deserved family favourite - and easy to pack if you’re heading off on holiday. It’s also a great way for children to practise their maths without even realising. You can introduce your children to this game from 8 upwards.
Each player starts with seven dominoes and the person with the highest double begins the game. The aim is to match a domino from your hand with a domino on the end of the dominoes lined up on the table. The first person to use all their dominoes wins. It’s an oldie, but still a goodie and you can play with two players up to eight. Children from 4+ will enjoy this.
Divide into teams and articulate what’s written on the card, with no miming allowed. With only 30 seconds for each round of guessing, it’s a game perfect for loud, family get togethers. With a bit of help, kids from 6+ can play this happily.
This is THE game to while away a rainy afternoon with each person competing to take over the world (mwah ha ha). You can play different versions of global domination depending on the number of players; from two head-to-head up to five. Risk is suitable for children aged 10+ and hugely addictive for adults too.
And some newer games
Named after the game’s banana-shaped yellow pouch (making it another easily portable holiday game), Banagrams can be played again and again and again. The first player to use all their letters wins. There are a host of rules about changing letters (and even doing back to front words, my daughter insists) but you can adapt them to suit the vocabulary, age and confidence of the children. It’s faster than Scrabble - no waiting for people to spell DOG or hoarding their Qs waiting for a U.
13. Pass the Bomb
This fast-paced word association game encourages you to think fast - with the ticking bomb adding extra fun. Pass the Bomb Junior has been created especially for children from 5+.
Like Pictionary but with putty dough. If your team fails to model and guess the object, then the other team can chop off a chunk of your dough. Trying to make an intricate figure with a piece of dough the size of a marble is when it gets really hilarious. This newer twist on an old favourite board game is a great way to combine adults and children on teams. From 8+.
Unusually, this is a collaborative strategy game where you all win or all lose. Four diseases have broken out in different parts of the world and it’s up to you, a team of specialists, to find cures for these diseases before mankind is wiped out. For ages 10+.
You’re each competing to move the walls of the maze and block your opponents while allowing you to collect your treasures, using treasure cards and maze cards. This addictive game suits children aged 7+.