9 Games Worth Playing

Games with rules offer valuable learning opportunities for children; turn taking, playing fairly, winning and losing, cooperating, using strategy and building resilience.

But go into any toy shop and you’ll be overwhelmed by the number of board and card games for sale. It can be really overwhelming to know what to choose, especially once you see the price tags!

Here I’ll be sharing nine games worth playing. Each of these are portable, engaging, suitable for playing with children of mixed ages and most can be purchased for $20 or less. Look out for them next time you’re in that toy aisle!

1. Spot it!

Thanks to my lovely friend Robyn for introducing me to this game, it’s well and truly a keeper! As well as being versatile, it is great for visual discrimination and vocabulary building.

How to Play:

●       Two of the circular cards are turned over for everyone to see. With any combination of cards, there is always just one image that matches, though the size of it may vary.

●       To make a match, the name of the item can be said aloud or both images pointed to. This person keeps both cards.

For a slower paced game, allow one person to find a match and then give the next person a turn


2. Skip Bo

This is a favourite game from my childhood. I’d play it every morning in Before School Care and I must say, I was the (almost) undefeated champion. Now my children can beat me in a heartbeat, how times change!

How to Play:

●       Each player has a pile of number cards. The mission of the game is to use up this pile and to be the first to do so.

●       Four shared piles are positioned in the centre of all players. Cards are placed here in a number sequence from 1-12. The best cards to use are the ones from your personal pile but each turn also begins with five additional cards in your hand.

●       This game cannot as easily be simplified for younger players. Five years of age is the youngest my children have been able to play independently.


3. Uno

Everyone’s heard of Uno haven’t they? It is the game that sometimes feels like it’s never going to end. As soon as you’re down to your final card (“uno”), someone sends a ‘Draw Four’ card in your direction and you’re back up to a full hand again!

While recommended for players age seven years and up, my three year old has got a great grasp on the game and even some strategy up her sleeve! Don’t let the recommended age limit your decision as many children will be ready for this one earlier.

How to Play:

●       Cards vary between coloured number cards and others that keep things interesting; Draw two, Draw four, Wild (change the colour), Reverse and Skip.

●       With each turn, you can put down a card in the current colour or of the same number (which changes the colour). When you’re down to one card, you say Uno . Forgetting to do so holds a penalty but we don’t follow this part of the game at my house so I can’t tell you what it is!

●       The first person to run out of cards is the winner.


4. Guess Who

Another timeless favourite. It’s now also available in a deck of cards, packaged in a durable plastic case. Whichever format you have though, this game is great for developing questioning, as well as describing a person’s features (glasses, eye colour hair colour, beard, mustache etc).

How to Play:

●       Spread out the people cards, one set for you and one set for me.

●       Secretly select a person card from a 3rd pile.

●       The mission is for you to guess who my person is and vice versa.

●       Take turns asking questions like “is your person wearing a hat?”, eliminating those who don’t fit the evolving description.


5. Jenga

Agreed, this one is not as portable and is also a bit over $20 to buy brand new, however it is fun for adults and children alike and when it’s not being played, you can use the pieces for block play!

How to Play:

●       The tower is built prior to the game starting, with 3 blocks positioned vertically and then the three blocks in the next layer placed horizontally.

●       Take turns removing one block at a time from the tower and placing it on the top.

●       As the game continues, the tower gets weakened and top heavy. The games ends when it finally falls down.


6. Memory

An oldie but a goodie. You can buy memory games commercially in various themes, however you can also make your own using words, colours (paint sample cards from a hardware shop work well), photos of animals or people. Snap cards can also be utilised for this game.

How to Play:

●       Place the images face down. It is easier to remember positions when placed in rows.

●       Each player turns over two cards and if they are a match, the pair is kept. Chance may help you to find a match but success will come to those who remember!

●       Continue until there are no cards left.

●       The winner? The person with the most cards (or matches) at the end.


7. Fair Addition

This is a game that has served me well in my time as a relief teacher. It was shared by a friend and I believe that it originally came from ‘Box Car Maths’. You will need a standard deck of cards for this, taking out the jokers prior to playing, as well as a dice.

How to Play:

●       Each player turns over 2 cards and adds up the number. Jack, Queen and Kings have a value of 10, while the ace has a value of 1. For example, if I turned over a 6 and a Jack, my total would be 16. If my partner turned over an ace and a 2, there total would be 3.

●       Then the dice is rolled. If it lands on an even number (2, 4, 6), the person with the lowest number scores a point. If it lands on an odd number (1, 3, 5) the person with the highest number scores a point.

●       Gamers can use a piece of paper and pencil to record the winning point for each round in a tally. Or if this is a little too complex, have a pile of counters or gems, with the winner adding one to their collection.

●       Have as many rounds as time and interest allows. It’s not unusual for this game to continue through a whole maths lesson.


8. Fair Subtraction

This game follows the exact same format as Fair Addition, described above. The only difference is that instead of adding the 2 cards turned over, the lower card number is subtracted from the highest card number. This is a more advanced version of the game but a great extension for older children.


9. Build a Tower

I first read about this super simple game on the Planning with Kids blog.  It is a great game for younger children who are exploring the concepts of number, more than/less than, and 1:1 counting. You’ll need a dice and some duplo or lego blocks.

How to Play:

●       Each person takes a turn to roll the dice, count the dots, and add that many blocks to their tower.

●       The person with the highest tower after 10 turns (or however many turns predetermined) is the winner.

Did I miss any? What games are you having fun with at your house or in your classroom?

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