4 Best Family Games

by Ivory Soap on 05/12/2011

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photo by MaryMerry

Games are our main form of indoor entertainment. In it’s most unhealthy form, we’d all be on our own digital screens, but thankfully, board games are king in our house.

The kids would rather play a board game with us or each other than watch TV alone. Don’t get me wrong, they’re total screen addicts, but nothing turns their heads like opening the game cabinet, conveniently located in our kitchen. (I don’t keep the vacuum in the house, but the dominoes are in easy reach. Tells you something about my priorities.)

The following four games are consistent hits at our house, ages 5+.  And each of them can be purchased at any big box store.

1. Shut the Box – This game works for anyone who can count. A player rolls the dice and “shuts” the tiles that add up to the total on the dice. He keeps rolling and shutting until he gets stuck. The remaining tiles are his score. Little people need some help with their options when they roll a 10 and that tile is already used (6&4, 7&3, 8&2). Lowest score wins the round. Lowest score over all wins the night. Play an online variation here.


2. Liar’s Dice – This game appeared on the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Basically, every player has five dice in a cup, shakes them up, and flips the cup on the table. You look at your own dice and start bidding. “I think there are 4 two’s on the table.” Next person has to go up one (5 two’s, or 4 three’s) or call you out. If they call, everyone lifts their cups and counts the number on the table. One’s are wild. So if the bid was 7 five’s, all fives and wilds are counted. Whoever is wrong, loses a die. The winner is the one with all the dice at the end. Try it out here.


3. Mancala – We’ve found that we need several of these boards around because inevitably more than two people want to play. This game is my favorite since there are no proprietary pieces to lose. Any thing small that you can find 48 of will work: seeds, marbles, peanuts etc. The board consists of 12 indentions, 6 on each side and two larger stores for the points. There are four seeds in each indention. A player picks up all of the seeds in any cup on his side of the board and deposits them one at a time each of the next cups, going counter clockwise around the board. If the last seed ends up in his store, he gets another turn. If the last seed ends up in an empty indention on the player’s side, he gets all of the seeds directly across from it. Game ends when one side is empty. Try out a digital version here.

4. Mexican Train – My five-year-old beats the pants off me at this game. It uses a set of double 12 dominos, but you can use less for a shorter game. Players match ends of their dominos to form a train. They can play dominos that won’t fit in their train on the “Mexican Train” or each other’s when the owner couldn’t. The winner is the one who goes out first. Try it online here.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jin6655321 May 12, 2011 at 7:52 am

Oooh, Mancala! I loved that game! Now I want to go out and pick up that game.

pumpkinsx3 May 13, 2011 at 7:51 am

Monopoly Deal – card game spin on board game but played in a fraction of the time. Connect Four, Master Mind, Scrabble

Lisa May 14, 2011 at 7:11 am

Huge fans of Zingo and Stare here.

Kathy M May 16, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Game night is a favorite at my house, and we’re grown! I pick up games at thrift stores (checking for all the parts) and post an “event” on Facebook. I whip up some snacks, and we have the best time and the most laughs. My circle of friends is always asking “When’s the next game night?” My 2 favorites are Fact or Crap, and You know you’re a red neck if….. People start asking questions in a southern red neck voice, so funny!

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