cooperative board games for children

Cooperative games are board games or card games in which all the players win or lose together rather than competing against each other. We love this approach to play. Eric and I want to encourage cooperation rather than competition, particularly within a family unit — and as an added bonus, nobody has to lose, feel inadequate, not play as well as he/she could due to being the grownup, etc.!

Orchard (by Haba): Gorgeous game with little wooden fruits and eensy real baskets. It’s almost entirely a game of luck, but it’s quick, not boring, a sensory pleasure. Unfortunately, as with so many games, the pieces are appealing chokables: we haven’t played it since Simon was born.

Richary Scarry’s Busytown: Eye Found It: A satisfyingly huge board and great fun. We all like that there’s a skill component (if the spinner stops on Goldbug, everybody tries to find some particular object in the pictures on the board — all the mailboxes, for instance — and moves farther on the board if the group finds more objects). This one has gotten years of regular play.

The Yoga Garden Game: A great concept, but not really a great game. It’s extremely nonlinear (which admittedly makes sense for a yoga game, but still …) and sometimes seems to go on forever. Noah likes it, though. The fact that it involves doing yoga poses is fun; I just wish there were a greater sense of purpose or momentum as our little bee token travels ’round and ’round the circle on the board.

Stone Soup (by Peaceable Kingdom): A matching/memory game in which players work together to make soup for the community. The game’s instructions include a short version of the ‘stone soup’ folktale, and it’s easy and fun to find more at a library. Well-made, attractive, and fun … especially for me, since I’m by far the least adept member of our family when it comes to memory games. Except for Simon, for now.

Race to the Treasure (also by Peaceable Kingdom: check out their site, everything we’ve tried from them has been awesome): A fun, well-made, quick game built on a grid system (so, it teaches that concept). Get to the treasure before the ogre does, and the group wins!

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  1. A'Llyn
    Posted 22 February 2013 at 3:55 PM | Permalink

    Ooh, cool! Will definitely keep this post in mind as the boy gets old enough to play games. We must start the gaming habit early… :)

  2. Lara
    Posted 23 February 2013 at 8:20 AM | Permalink

    This is awecome, thank you. We often try to turn our games into a cooperative version, but it doesn’t always work. I’d love to be able to play games with both my kids without someone feeling bad (and if he’s 5, destroying the board) at the end.

    • Molly
      Posted 23 February 2013 at 9:17 AM | Permalink

      Lara, another one your family might like (given the ages) is Qwirkle played cooperatively. We keep score as a team rather than individually, and we try to beat our best-ever ‘individual play’ and ‘game’ scores. That one works well because there’s a big-picture strategy in terms of setting up the group for high-points plays. Which is possible for younger children as well when everyone can help everyone else …

      • Lara
        Posted 23 February 2013 at 8:04 PM | Permalink

        Nice idea! We even have that one. My kids already like it, since they are basically as good as the adults. And we use a semi-cooperative version — we at least avoid obstructionist strategies. But the version you suggest would be even more relaxed. I may have to get it out for tomorrow morning…

        We also like a cooperative version of Rivers, Roads and Rails. It’s nice because pretty young kids (maybe age 4?) can engage with it, but it is interesting to adults, too. It’s kind of like building a semi-free-form puzzle. Like complicated dominoes.

  3. Posted 23 February 2013 at 2:43 PM | Permalink

    We have the toddler version of the orchard game, which we love. It sounds like the pieces are much chunkier, but I’m not sure if the play is different. Anyway, Gus is 2 and thinks it’s great. We also play Memory/Matching (Gus can’t quite do it if the cards are face down yet.) We just put pairs in the box as we find them, so there’s no winner. Thanks for the other suggestions: they sound fun!

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