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I grew up playing every kind of board game you can imagine. My family’s board game closet was nothing short of a vault filled with hours of entertainment. Even now, when I visit home from college, we find time to settle in for a couple of rounds of a family favorite.

Instead of watching hours of television, family game night ruled the house. And while it’s hard for me to look back and definitively say, “That one board game specifically expanded my critical thinking skills and made me the person I am today,” I do think that the board games that I spent hours playing benefited my development on a whole.

Board games have been lauded as being educational for children, whether it be their use in a classroom or as a supplement to education in the home. Research suggests that playing games can increase brain speed scores, expand creativity, support memory, and aid in the development of social skills like taking turns and collaboration, among other things. Games can also build executive function, which helps with school performance. And many educators are bringing play into the classroom because of its various benefits.

These benefits can be maximized through family game nights, or nights set aside specifically for playing games. And while I love my phone as much as the next person, there is something to be said for tuning out technology for a little bit and playing a tangible game with real people face-to-face.

Below are some of my favorites that I grew up with for your family to try.


The goal of Blokus is for players to fit all of their variously shaped pieces onto the board. It promotes strategic thinking and spatial awareness as you try to block out your opponents and fit in your own oddly shaped pieces.


Settlers of Catan

In this resource management game, players have to collect and trade resources, culminating in a game that requires strategic thinking, problem-solving and social skills. For younger kiddos and first-timers, consider starting with Catan Junior.



A classic party game, Scattergories requires players to brainstorm words to fit into certain categories, and skills like word recall and creative thinking are rewarded. If you’re looking to get a bit more vocal with your gameplay, consider Taboo as well.



Players race against each other to build a crossword grid and use up all their tiles. Kids get to practice spelling and vocabulary skills, plus the pace of play is much, much faster than Scrabble, keeping kids invested.


Clue (any version)

By taking good notes and making valid inferences, players can eventually deduce the correct identity of the hidden cards, strengthening deductive reasoning skills, in this classic game. If you’re wary of playing the original version, consider using one of the many adaptations of Clue, including everything from Junior to Harry Potter to Game of Thrones versions.


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