As the old classic goes, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! But, as we all know, things are likely to be a little different in 2020. However, whilst our tables may be smaller, our need to have some fun has never been greater, especially for children who have soldiered on through a very strange year. With that in mind, four of our Bloggers (Lauren, Tora, Nathan, and John) are jumping into Santa’s sack, elf boots first, to suggest some board games that will entertain and delight the little (and big!) kids on your own good list!. Here are our top 4 gifts for children!
By Lauren Harrington
Big Potato Games never fails to deliver fun and quirky games for kids (which are equally enjoyable for adults) and Santa Banter is no exception. Santa Banter is the first of our top gifts for children. It's the festive offspring of the popular and eccentric rhyming game, Obama Llama, in which players must guess kooky rhymes like The Christmas turkey is feeling perky, or Buddy the Elf keeps slapping himself from clues acted or described by their teammates.
Santa Banter is for 4+ players and is played in teams. The aim of the game is to collect as many rhyming pairs as possible. Rhyming card pairs are placed face down on the table at the start of the game. When your team scores 3 points from the rhyming challenges, you get to flip over 2 cards. If they rhyme, you collect that pair. Collect the most pairs and you’ve won Santa Banter!
In order to flip over those rhyming cards, your team must win points through rhyming challenges, starting with ‘Describe it’ cards. Here, a team member will look at a rhyme on the card, such as The partridge in the pear tree doesn’t like brie, and will have to describe it without using any of those words. For instance, they may describe it as ‘The gift from the first day of Christmas is not a fan of cheese’. The teammates have just 30 seconds to correctly guess as many of these rhymes as possible. Once both teams have played the Describe It round, Solve It and Act It rounds follow. These rounds require you to give clues in different methods, while your teammates attempt to guess the rhyme.
Santa Banter is A LOT of fun for kids and adults alike, though I do think kids have the advantage. Kids are often are more creative in imagining some of these rhymes, whereas adults can think too long and hard about them!
Recommended age: 14+
Play time: 15-20 mins
By Tora Leslie
No Christmas list would pass Santa’s approval without at least something educational, but that definitely doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun at the same time! Published by Orchard Toys, Magic Maths is one title from their great collection of games for younger players. These games are great gifts for children because they help reinforce learning in ways that are engaging and colourful without feeling like homework!
In Magic Maths, up to four wizards use their number skills to solve a range of sums (addition, subtraction, and multiplication) to gain gruesome ingredients which they can place on their cauldron boards. Players begin with 6 randomly selected square number tiles (with charmingly grim images on the back!) and then take it in turns to try to match their answers to the sums they select from a shared pool of rectangular sum tiles. The first player to successfully solve their sums and fill all six empty spots on their cauldron board completes their potion and is declared the winning wizard!
In a magical twist, each sum tile has a heat reactive panel on the back which can be rubbed to check the answer. Combine this neat trick with the chance to shout abracadabra every time one player steals a sum from another (especially fun when that player is a grown-up!), and Magic Maths is guaranteed to bewitch your budding wizards not only over Christmas but also for the rest of the year!
Recommended age: 5-7
Play time: 15-20 mins
By Nathan Coombs
I’m often asked by friends or colleagues to recommend family-friendly games as gifts for children or grandchildren. What is a good game for those who aren't used to the mechanics or nuances of some modern games? A game with excellent production values which is easy to teach? A game that does not outstay its welcome and is suitable for those with a short attention span? What is something that has hidden depths – a game that children can play yet adults can enjoy?
Kingdomino by Coiled Spring Games is a game that has all of these qualities. It is said to be suitable for ages 8 and up but, in my opinion, even five-year-olds will enjoy the vibrant colour matching and soon get to grips with the tile placement. This is a game about making a choice from a small selection of domino-style tiles. Each turn, you'll place one tile to build your kingdom and at least one half of that tile must match with previously placed pieces.
The twelve tiles are used to make a 5x5 grid around a central castle. As their kingdom grows, each player tries to ensure their playing area has large areas of matching colours. Points are scored for adjacent areas of woodland, lakes, pasture, crops etc. Extra bonuses are available with multipliers if special tiles containing crowns are selected.
This game teaches simple mathematics. You can also adapt the scoring system according to the ability of the children playing. There is a variable turn order and, for those wanting a little more, a 7x7 grid with two players and 24 Kingdomino tiles is certain to keep adults entertained.
Kingdomino is definitely a game for life, not just for Christmas!
Recommended age: 8+
Play time: 20 mins
By John Hunt
Like good kids’ movies, the best kids’ games work to accommodate everyone around the table, from young children to older siblings and adults. This is one of the best games we have had. The simple, tactile joy of pulling a brightly coloured chit out of a bag and the anticipation of what might emerge seem to ring everyone’s bell. The idea that in Quacks, if you are unlucky (or foolhardy), you trigger an explosion by pulling the wrong chit is too good to be true. After all, who doesn’t like shouting, ‘Bang!’ That alone kept my twins enraptured throughout the game – though I am not sure they were playing to win!
And then as kids get older, they can get more involved with tactical choices about how to spend money and what specials to fill their bag with. This makes the game even more enjoyable. If you want some education in your kids’ game, the whole potion track is a number line. If you fancy teaching probability as they get older, I can’t think of many better options than Quacks of Quedlinburg.
For a kids’ game, the element of chance is a useful one to mitigate consistent winners. I think the run time is pretty spot on but easy to hack a shorter game. There's loads of replayability as the different ingredients can be given different powers from game to game. And it has a very reasonably priced expansion. Game build and design are strong on both counts and it’s grand with any player count – Quacks is essentially a solo puzzle; no ‘take that’ with plenty of light-hearted interaction guffawing at your own and others' misfortune.
Publisher recommended age: 10+
Play time: 45 mins