Board and Family Games Gift Guide-2023

adminPosts Leave a Comment

I haven’t done a Game Gift Guide in a little while so I felt this was the year to do it, especially since I have discovered a lot of great games over the last few years. You will recognize some of these games and others will most likely be new or be similar to familiar games. I have tried to include games for children of all ages and ones that can be played as a family or with friends. As we head into the winter months and the days are shorter, colder and there is less time spent outside, parents are looking for screen-free ways to keep their children entertained. There are so many benefits to playing games with kids. First of all, the social benefits of playing games are endless….it works on turn taking, learning how to be a good winner and loser, compromising with the other players and improves self-esteem and confidence. Many of the games I have included in this years gift guide have some kind of fine or gross motor component so you can work on their therapeutic goals in a more motivating way. I have found that the more you can hide the fact that they are working on tricky things, they are much more willing to do it. Also, throw in a little bit of competition and kids are totally game to play! Many of the games I have included can be found in local toy or bookstores, so be sure to check out and support your local businesses when possible (I have actually linked a bunch of the games below to a fantastic toy store out on Long Island called Fun Stuff Toys). If you are looking for more specific game recommendations for your child or someone on your shopping list this year, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at and I would be more than happy to share some ideas. Below, you will find just a small sampling of the games that I recommend and use.

1. Things On A Hamburger Card Game-this card game is great for older kids and teens and is similar to the game the $100000 Pyramid. It’s a great game to work on improving language skills, critical thinking and focus and attentional skills. To play this word game, pick a category card and use words or phrases to describe things within that category. Your partner will give you clues until you guess the actual category. Whoever gets the most correct answers, wins! This game is a great on-the-go game and can keep kids and families entertained for a long time. It can be a great way to pass the time on long car drives, while waiting for meals at a restaurant or fun family game during the cold, dark winter months.

2. Tenzi-this has been one of my favorite games for a long time because it’s small, easy to take on the go, good for kids of all ages and a really good family game. The point of the game is quite simple….everyone playing chooses a set of 10-colored dice and start rolling. The first player to get 10 of the same number dice first is the winner. While there are a ton of different ways to play this game, I stick with the original game for work purposes. There are so many occupational therapy and developmental benefits of playing Tenzi. Playing Tenzi is great for working on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, improves visual skills such as visual scanning and visual motor skills an encourages executive functioning skills such as focus and attentional skills. If you want to find different ways to play Tenzi, be sure to check out this link.

3. Twister Junior-we are all familiar with the classic game of Twister and know it’s a great game for working on body awareness, motor planning, coordination, balance and other gross motor skills, but it’s really hard for younger kids to play because of the large playing surface. Twister Junior is a 2-in-1 game and is ideal for children 3 and older. The game includes a 2-sided mat and reversible spinner for 2 levels of play. With the Level 1 Animal Safari side of the mat, kids spin to move along the safari trail. As they take turns, each child has an opportunity to discover colors and reenact animal sounds and movements. Flip the mat over to level up to the Level 2 Animal Party game. Spin the spinner to see what color and animal players must place their foot or hand. As with the classic game of Twister, this version is a great way to work on balance, coordination and motor planning while also learning about colors, animals and animal sounds.

4. Sloth In A Hurry-this is a great game from Eeboo that encourages creativity and imagination skills. In this fast-paced improv game, kids draw a Who and What card and then spin the spinner to find out their how and then must act it out for the other players. Improv games are not only fun, but can provide a lot of developmental benefits. First of all, it gets kids up on their feet and moving which helps with improving gross motor skills such as balance, coordination and motor planning skills. Additionally, it helps kids who might be more rigid learn to think outside of the box and become more flexible thinkers. You can also use playing this game as on opportunity to work on improving social skills and having kids work in pairs and having them come up with a strategy together.

5. Perfection (with interchangeable game pieces)-another game that has been on my gift guide since the beginning of putting these together. Any pediatric occupational therapist knows and most likely has this game in their game library. Over the years, there have been different variations of the game but this most recent one is definitely my favorite. The premise of the game is the same: match the 24 shapes as quickly as possible before the timer runs out and the pieces pop out **but in this most recent upgrade of Perfection, the panels can slide in and out which means you can have a different game every single time. It also comes with 12 shapes in red and 12 in yellow so you can play with someone else adding a bit of a social element to the game. Perfection is great for working on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, improves hand-eye coordination and works on improving visual skills such as matching, shape recognition and visual scanning.
**when I play with most of the kids at the gym, it is part of an obstacle course or they are in a swing so we don’t set the timer during game play and then they are given the option of having the pieces pop out or not

6. Rollercoaster Challenge-this game has been a big hit with my school-age kids, especially those who are interested in construction and STEM based activities. In this game, kids complete challenges that get progressively harder. Kids choose a challenge card and set up the pieces on the board to match. They use the remaining pieces to build a working roller coaster that meets the build conditions on the challenge cards. Once the pieces are all in place, kids get to play with a working roller coaster. This is a great game for kids to do as a team to work on improving flexible thinking, team work and accepting suggestions from friends. It’s also great for working on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, improves hand-eye coordination and great for working on improving executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, problem solving and improving frustration tolerance.

7. MiMiQ-this fast-paced card game is similar to Go-Fish but has a social emotional component making it great for young children who are working on better understanding feelings and emotions. One of the things I love about this particular game is that it relies on facial expressions so if you have a child with speech and language delays or is shy in a group setting, they don’t have to talk in order to play the game. Like Go-Fish, kids are working to be the player with the most matches in order to win but instead of asking with words, they have to look at the card and make the same face.  Once a player has three of the same card, they have a trump. The player with the most trumps at the end of the game is the winner. Not only is this great for working on social emotional skills, it works on improving hand-eye coordination and improves grasping and manipulation skills while they are holding their cards.

8. Hurry Up Chicken Butt-I try and sneak games into this gift guide that incorporate movement and physical activity when possible because it’s proven that movement helps with improving focus and attentional skills. Hurry Up Chicken Butt is a fast-paced game that works on encouraging exercise and physical movement, improves coordination and motor planning skills, encourages creativity and encourages kids to think quickly. The game comes with a Chicken Shaker, 6 playmats, 45 activity cards and the Chicken Butt Challenge. Kids shake the shaker and whatever color comes up is the challenge they have to do as quickly as they can and pass off the shaker before the timer goes off. The Chicken Butt Challenge is a special activity that you get to invent every time you play. When you have to do the Chicken Butt Challenge, you’ll first say “Hurry Up Chicken Butt!” and then quickly leave the circle, touch the Chicken Butt, and then return to the circle. The person who has the chicken on their next when the timer goes off is the winner.

9. Pancake Monster Game-in this game for children 3 years and older, kids take turns placing a pancake card inside the monster’s mouth and then pressing the button inside depending on how many toppings are on the pancake. After a random number of times, the spring mechanism inside will be triggered and the monster will safely pop gently swallowing the player’s arm. The player who stacks all their pancakes in monster’s mouth without being bitten is the winner. This is a great game to work on counting, improves hand-eye coordination and works on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills.

10. Feed Fuzzy-this is an adorable and interactive game for toddlers and is so great for working on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills. Fuzzy the squirrel is hungry and it’s your child’s job to help feed him. Kids roll an oversized wooden color and number dice to show which color and what number of acorns they need to put in Fuzzy’s mouth. the first one to get rid of all of their acorns first is the winner. Not only is this great for fine motor skills development, it encourages bilateral coordination and hand-eye coordination, works on color recognition and matching and learning how to count.

11. 5 Second Rule Junior-in this fast paced family card game meant for children 6 and older, kids have to think quickly to name 3 items based on the prompt from the card before the 5-second timer runs out. The game comes with 400 questions/200 cards, a game board, timer and pawns. One would think that answering questions such as “Name three superheroes”, “Name three types of cereal” or “Name three types of spicy food” would be easy, but the pressure of having to name them in 5 seconds or less can lead to some pretty hilarious answers. This game is great for working on language skills such as word-finding, practicing categorizing and encourages kids to think outside of the box. If you are playing this game with children who may need extra time, adapt the game to best suit them….perhaps decide as a group that you have 10 or 15 seconds to name three things or work as a team and each person gets to name one thing. By adding group rule-making decisions, you are adding a social skills component that will work on improving flexibility, cooperation, problem solving and effective communicating.

12. Grocery Go Karts Board Game-a fun game for your preschool aged children, The Grocery Go Karts game is a building and stacking game. n this action-packed, build-and-stack game of supermarket mayhem, shoppers race their karts through the grocery store, collecting items from their shopping list and stacking them high. The first to get every item on their list and make it to Checkout wins! As they zoom their karts around the gameboard, shoppers collect adorable mini groceries from their list and carefully stack them on top of each other making sure not to let them fall over. This game is great for working on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, improves hand-eye coordination and visual motor and visual perceptual skills and is a great way to identify, match and recognize colors. Additionally, kids practice following directions, learn about turn-taking and being a good winner or loser.

13. Make That Most Magnificent Thing Game-The Most Magnificent Thing and The Most Magnificent Idea were two of my favorite books to read when I ran social skills groups. They were my go-to books to talk to kids about things not having to be perfect, working hard even when super frustrated and realizing that hard work and  working through frustration will end up making you feel really good at the end. So when I saw there was a game to go along with the books, I was really excited. The object of the game is to use the 185 game pieces to create devices from the idea card that is drawn. Once the time is up, players take turns explaining what they made, how they work and then everyone decides who gets the different ribbon awards. This is definitely more appropriate for older kids and is great for working on encouraging creativity and imagination skills, critical thinking and problem solving, work on storytelling and communication skills, improves fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills and works on improving hand-eye coordination and visual perceptual skills.

14. The Happy Marshmallow Game-if you are looking for a fun and easy game to introduce your toddlers to game playing, this game is a great choice. In this game, players grab a marshmallow roasting stick and take turns drawing cards to add matching marshmallows to their sticks. The goal is to fill up all the roasting sticks! Once all of the sticks are full, players can celebrate by “roasting” the marshmallows over a pretend campfire and singing campfire songs. Toddlers not only work on basic game playing rules such as following directions, turn taking and being a good winner/loser, they work on developing fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, practice bilateral coordination skills, work on developing hand-eye coordination and matching skills and improve focus and attention skills.

15. CandyLand Cupcakes Creations Game-a new take on the classic game of Candyland with a real hands-on experience using another classic, playdoh. In this version, players travel along the classic rainbow path which doubles as a bakery. As they travel along the path, they get to make their very own cupcake creation using the playdoh tools, starting with choosing their cupcake, adding frosting and then choosing from a variety of toppings to make. The first person to reach the end of the path to display their cupcake creation is the winner. This game is great for working on so many occupational therapy goals including following directions, turn taking, flexible thinking and improving cooperation skills. Additionally, kids are working on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills, increase grasp strength, work on color recognition and counting and work on improving bilateral coordination and hand-eye coordination skills.

16. HedBandz LightSpeed-HedBandz has really evolved over the years with a lot of varieties to choose from. In this fast-paced, electronic version, kids have to guess as many of the cards as possible before their time runs out. Kids wear a headband that changes colors during play indicating different rules for play. If the light is green, the players not wearing the headband act out a scene (like charades) based on the question they are asked; if the light is orange, the player has to answer the questions as fast as you can; if the light is blue, the player gives 3 clues. Playing any HedBandz game works on critical thinking and helps kid work on deductive reasoning skills, works on improving speech and language skills and helps with focus and attention. I like how this version has different rules making it great for older kids, especially those that need to work on improving executive functioning skills.











Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *