5 cool games for kids

Today’s games and puzzles are so well-designed — and in tune with kids’ and parents’ needs — they seem to play more like toys!

And that’s making more and more of our playtime downright educational. Check out these awesome games (including a local favorite) for stocking stuffers and more!



Cat Stax

Why we love it: This game’s cute, colorful little game pieces — kitties of all sizes! — will draw your kid into the game. But the game itself, which involves interlocking the cats and their tails in strategic formations, is addictive.

Downside: It’s a one-player game, though we could certainly see this played as a team.

Cost: $14.99

Ages: 8 and up

Where to find it locally: Hub Hobby, hubhobby.com and Kiddywampus and Marbles: The Brain Store


Laser Maze Junior

Why we love it: Kids get to play with a laser and learn logic at the same time with this popular game. “Satellite” mirrors shoot the red light of the laser beam all around the game board. “Space rocks” get in the way. Kids are challenged to avoid the obstacles and “ignite” the rocket to complete each mission. There are 40 missions in all, ranging from easy to “super hard.” 

Downside: It’s a single-player game.

Cost: $29.99

Ages: 6 and up

Where to find it locally: Hub Hobby, hubhobby.com and amazon.com


Play on Words

Why we love it: This award-winning card game has been the No. 1 seller in the word-games area at the Games by James location at the Mall of America for the past two holiday seasons. Created by the store’s owner, David James, this is like a card-game version of Scrabble, but with a twist: Words aren’t connected and you can change and rearrange already-played words — both yours and your opponents’ — to create words. It’s sort of like rummy meets Banagrams meets UpWords. And some of the cards feature helpful letter combos such as ST, SH, TH, CH, CK and QU. 

Downside: According to the rules, “when pluralizing,” the letter S can be used only in rearranged words — so you can’t just tack an S onto a word for your turn like you can in Words With Friends. 

Cost: $13.99

Ages: 8 and up

Where to find it locally: Games by James, Bibelot, Patina, Air Traffic, Minnetonka General Store, Ficus & Fig, Hub Hobby and playonwordsgame.net


Brain Builders 

Why we love it: These toy blocks were utterly ignored during our toy test last year. How much fun could 20 little KEVA planks be? Well, the answer is — tons! We tested these toy blocks at home during the past year and found that kids who like to build will find fun challenges on every card of this game — available in regular and junior versions. Kids set the planks up to create iconic structures, including a bed, a picnic bench and a goal post. Kids learn balance, proportion, composition and geometry — even if they peek at the solutions on the backs of the cards. 

Downside: Parents may have a hard time completing some of the expert-level cards.

Cost: $14.99

Ages: 7 and up

Where to find it locally: Creative Kidstuff and creativekidstuff.com


Sight Word Seashell Game

Why we love it: This game contains 108 sturdy cardboard pieces that tackle the first 100 sight words. Kids can build hands-on vocabulary skills as they read and “collect” these seashells. If you read a seashell correctly, you get to keep it. Otherwise, it goes into a discard pile. Sight words are listed on the side of the box.

Downside: If you draw a crab, you have to return all your seashells to the box.

Cost: $9.99

Ages: 4 and up

Where to find it: Lakeshore Learning and lakeshorelearning.com