These small but mighty gifts will delight and amaze parents and kids alike. Promise.Schylling Snow Ball $3.99 • 3 and upWhy we love it: Squeeze...
Games for kids (and adults)!
Revolt against screen time and learn something new as a family — as you spend quality time together — with these game-night gems.
$29.99 • 5 and up
Why we love it: Ready to graduate from Candy Land? This is a best bet, thanks to magnetic snails and an innovative game path that goes up and over a metal storage tin. Players draw a race card to determine which snail colors they’ll move along the board. Then they roll a set of color-coded dice to help their snails crawl up and over each other to the three winner’s podiums.
$24.99 • 5 and up
Why we love it: This miniature hockey rink includes not one, but 10 pucks. The goal is to get all the pucks on the other side before your opponent can, using springy little strings and a tiny hole in the middle. Good luck, hockey fans!
Where to buy: Legacy Toys
$24.95 • 5 and up
Why we love it: Two families took this game home for testing and they each gave it two thumbs up. It’s basically a picture-based version of Apples to Apples: Everyone gets hand of photo cards, and when a word/phrase card is played (such as “cuddly” or “let’s be friends”), players (ideally 4 or more) have to play the picture in their hand that best suits the word/phrase. Then hilarity — and debate — ensues!
Parents said: “The kids wanted to play it every night over the weekend with my husband and me. We had to slightly adjust the rules to accommodate our 3-year-old, but it was really easy to pick up and we had so many laughs.” “One of the best parts about that game is the wide variety of photos — and the number you get. Amazing!”
Dinosaurs: Mystic Islands
$19.99 • 6 and up
Why we love it: This shape-matching game challenges players to separate the plant-eating dinosaurs from the carnivores. Kids can complete each of the 80 challenges by placing the islands as shown, but they have to make sure the three friendly dinosaurs are separated from their T-rex counterparts.
Parents said: “So fun! I even love it. It’s like a puzzle.”
$20 • 6 and up
Why we love it: The makers of dice-driven Tenzi have taken things to the next level by mixing double-sided cards and six sets of dice in this exciting, pair-grabbing game. Our players loved the adorable little monsters and the option of an easy set (with three colors) and a hard set (all yellow).
$25 • 6 and up
Why we love it: Our kids were drawn to the cool creatures — and the awesome interlocking game board with movable parts. Game play kept them engaged, including “wind flip” cards and storm cloud covers, that completely changed the board, sometimes sending creatures back to the start. But unlike a big long slog after a down chute in Chutes & Ladders, recovery is collaborative: Everyone works throughout the game together to get all the creatures to their final destinations — before the magic-spell cards run out. Win!
$24.99 • 7 and up
Why we love it: Also called “The Video Game Board Game,” this awesome invention for one to four players takes place inside the box with help from four levers that move the game board up and down to help the players collaboratively slide little figures through obstacle courses. Twenty different boards — all featuring holes that the characters fall through when you make a mistake — keep the game increasingly challenging, like levels in a video game.
Good to know: To keep the game functioning well, you’ll need to protect the box from getting squished.
$47.99 • 8 and up
Why we love it: This is tic-tac-toe on steroids — an awesome reinvention of a tired old game with an attractive wooden play board. It starts out seeming too simple, but get ready: It’s not so easy once you get three sizes of pieces going — and four ways for every player to win. We loved it with two players, but four would be even more interesting.
$19.99 • 7 and up
Why we love it: This compact game, a sort of real-world Tetris meets Connect 4, requires spacial reasoning and logic skills. Kids liked that it could be a solo or two-player game. Parents liked that it closes up for easy storage and travel.
$34.99 • 8 and up
Why we love it: Mixing in elements of chess, checkers and Chinese checkers, this pretty wooden game requires strategic thinking. The object is to be the first player to make a trip across the board — and back — with four of your five pieces. You’ll have to sacrifice a piece along the way to get it done. But which one?
Good to know: FYI: The board is black/brown, not white as pictured on the box.
Bonus: This is one of many abstract strategy games — with the same handmade look — from Gigamic Games.
Trekking the National Parks
$49.99 • 10 and up
Why we love it: If you like Ticket to Ride, you’ll enjoy this beautifully designed and well-made game, now in its second edition. It’s fun to play, educational (thanks to fun facts printed on the park cards) and challenging enough to encourage repeat play. (We were surprised how few national parks we knew well!) Up to six players can visit the country’s majestic parks by gathering “trek” cards that allow players to move across the map to claim valuable park cards. If a player is the first to visit a national park, he or she collects that park’s stone, which awards bonus points at the end of the game. To win, players must jockey for position and make tactical decisions, too.
Good to know: We recommend watching the video tutorial before playing in addition to reading the rule book.
$44.99 • 12 and up
Why we love it: This gorgeous new game — from Golden Valley-based Floodgate Games, the makers of Sagrada and Legacy: Gears of Time — goes like this: Players “grow” their trees in the “spring” (the first phase of the game) and score points for having the most majestic trees along each trail in the game’s virtual summer. In the autumn, the wind blows and players cover the ground in leaves. When the metaphorical winter comes, players score points for having the most coverage in each region. The highest-scoring player at the end of the year is the winner. Our 11-year-old home tester loved it all — the extremely complex rules, the elaborate scoring system, the many 3D trees and leaf tiles, the little wooden leaf tokens, the squirrels and the special side board that controls the wind. If you love high-concept games, this one is for you!
Good to know: Before buying, check out a video on how to play at tinyurl.com/bosk-game.
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