The Top 5 Board Games to Play With a 5-Year-Old
One of my favorite hobbies is playing board games. Although I have scores of them, most Americans could look through my collection and not recognize a single title. Instead of games like Risk, Monopoly, and Sorry, I collect what are often described as "designer board games," with names like Agricola, Hansa Teutonica, and Finca. (They get the name "designer" because the designer's name is usually featured on the box.)
I feel that these games offer more fun and playability than many of the traditional games played in the states, but now that I have children, I wanted to test these games out on new eyes and see what worked. Keep in mind, I bought all of these games for myself and usually play them with adults. In other words, these games are not necessarily designed for children. My guinea pig so far has mainly been my daughter Naomi (my 3-year-old son Elijah "plays," but doesn't always understand). Without further ado here's what she liked.
What it is: PitchCar is basically a modular shuffleboard game that has a rail around it. Pretty simple eh? You flick little wooden disks along the track, over jumps and whatever other obstacles you put in the way, as you race to the finish line. My kids probably have as much fun designing the track as racing on it. Elijah (age 3) can compete and occasionally win at this game. It is easily the most requested game in my collection.
2. King of Tokyo
What it is: Playing King of Tokyo is a little bit like playing Yahtzee... with monsters. The big difference is in how you win. In Yahtzee, players basically play a solitaire game, while others watch. In King of Tokyo, you can win be either being the first to get 20 points (much simpler scoring than Yahtzee), or by beating up all the other monsters and being the last monster standing. I taught this game to Naomi when she was four and we often play it with grandparents and other young children. The only big barrier for a five year old is that there is some reading involved with the cards that give your monster powers. I just told my daughter what the cards did before she could read.
3. The Adventurers
What it is: The Adventurers is a quick, Indiana Jones themed race game where players collect treasure and try to make it out of the Temple of Chac (the game's subtitle) alive. Most players die, either by being trapped in the waterfall, run over by a bolder, or splashing into the lava by stepping on the wrong hieroglyph. As the explorers solve puzzles and gather treasure they become slower, which means they are more likely to not make it out of the temple before the boulder clogs the exit. At the end of the race, all surviving players add up their treasure and the player with the most treasure wins. It's pretty simple, and most of the puzzle solving involves memory (which kids are very good at). The balance between collecting treasure and running for your life is great, and the whole game is over in a bout 30 minutes.
What it is: Aquaretto is a great game, not just a great game to play with a five-year-old. The game features a unique, but simple mechanic: players draw tiles from a blue bag and place them out on carts in the center of the table. Eventually the carts fill up and players then choose which cart of animals they want to take to add to their aquarium. This can be tricky, because each player can only get points from three types of animals, any extra animals will give players negative points. Watching my daughter deduce which animals to place together so other players wouldn't take the ones she wanted is one of my favorite gaming moments. As an added bonus, some of the animals can have babies if placed in the same pool, the cute babies are easily my daughters favorite part of the game.
What it is: In Carcassonne, players build a countryside dotted with roads, monasteries and castles. On each player's turn they draw a random tile and then place it on board. Carcassonne can feel a bit like building a puzzle. Each player also has little workers that can score points when roads or cities are completed. When my daughter was three we would play this game without the points and just build a world, but now that she understands the game it's a lot more fun. Carcassonne has won scores of awards and, of the games on this list, is probably the easiest one to find in local stores.
My children often request to play a few games that did not make this list, so I will list their names here if you are interested in checking them out. They are Niagara, Fluch der Mumie, Hive, and Blokus.