What Age Should They Start Playing?

Though I’ve been gaming my whole life, I’ve only been gaming with my family since 2011. Then I started buying designer board games, and it opened my eyes to a new genre of gaming. They’ve hooked me ever since.

In 2011, my oldest child was 6 and the youngest was 1. My 6-year old was just beginning to wonder about games. We started to include her in different games, as a bystander or a helper. As her interest grew, I bought a few games that I thought she might like. We tried Zooloretto and Ticket to Ride at first. Both worked well. With Ticket to Ride, I even had her watch a how-to video then teach us the game. She was, and still is a game.

Along the way, we’ve learned a few things. Below are games that should help any gaming family welcome their new gamers.

Ages 0-3

There isn’t much to do here. A game like Qwirkle is great because the pieces are nigh-indestructible. The game is about matching shapes and colors. These are skills a toddler should be learning and wanting to do. Another great game for this age would be Animal Upon Animal. Again, great pieces for kids and stacking is a great developmental skill.

Ages 4-6

For this age, ask them to help you in your games. They can assist in counting pieces and be the “banker.” These are great jobs for them, as they’ll be paying attention (maybe?) to the game and learning it as you go. Zooloretto and Ticket to Ride were both great introductions for this age. Remember, when they are young, just learning the mechanics is important. Learning how to win is something different. (A topic coming to this blog soon)

Ages 7-9

Starting at this age, you can begin to introduce some social games into the fray. Settlers of Catan is a great game for this level with the increased strategy and social aspects. Our kids started playing Small World at this age as well. They even played with each other, without us. It was hard letting them play my games without me, but I bought them for us to play. Another idea is King of Tokyo, if they can withstand the combative aspects.

Ages 10-12

More complex games like Stone Age and Dominion work well for this age. Dixit is another one that children can play younger than this, but at this age, they’ll start to “get it.” At this age, depending on the child, the sky’s the limit. One child will grasp a game that another will not. It depends on their learning style and how they best process information.

If you’re beginning this process with older children, start out on a lower rung of the ladder. Every game mentioned remains fun at any age. Have them start with the easier to learn games. Then move to the more strategic types as interested, and ability allows.

Board gaming is a great hobby for any family. I hope this guide gives you a path forward in starting this hobby with your family.

2 thoughts on “What Age Should They Start Playing?”

  1. Good article Mike. It’s funny how different your recommendations are than what I would have put. You don’t have a single co-op game listed and that is mostly what we play. 2 things I’ve noted when playing with my kids…

    First, game “levels” or difficulty is more about the kid than the game. My youngest plays a much wider variety of games than my oldest. She is not more intelligent, just more interested.

    Second, we use change to keep score in a lot of games. The coin counting skills are useful, the girls love playing with the money as much as the game, and I can bribe a game of Quirkle for the whole family for less than $3.

    1. We play coop too. I thought about doing a whole article on that since it introduces a new element – letting them make bad decisions vs. the parent steering the group. That is a common problem when any group sits to play coop.

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