I'm a mom, and I've picked 10 games you'll actually want to play with your kids

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Ready to amp up that ho-hum family game night? (Photo: Getty)
Ready to amp up that ho-hum family game night? (Photo: Getty Images)

Game nights (and days) have made a massive comeback this year. Now’s a great time to upgrade your stash! But before you nostalgically plop an old familiar fave into your shopping cart, pay attention to what you’re getting.

You may be (mis)remembering Candyland as a good time. (Psst: Pure luck leads to pure boredom.) If you're considering Life for your bright young dreamer, consider this: The future looks limiting on that game board. And if it's outdoor action you seek, please note: a Slip ‘n’ Slide may mean Slip a Disk at your age.

Sure, these classics have their place — for me, it’s the basement — but I promise, there is a world of exciting games out there that you and your children will truly enjoy. On the reg. Like, even past bedtime.

So what does your fam really want in a game? A battle of wits? Goofy fun? Outdoor play? Utter annihilation? Here are 10 games that my mom friends and I like to keep within reach at home, all available and adored on Amazon.

If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping, of course. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (By the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)

Charades for Kids

Get ready for giggles! (Photo: Amazon)
Get ready for giggles! (Photo: Amazon)

Charades is good for the soul, pure and simple. It gets us into our bodies, spurs creativity and connects us with others as we act out words. We love that this family card version lets nonreaders in on the fun, with simple illustrations they can act out.

The portable five-inch package, includes a card deck, timer and die to keep the game rolling. One thrilled five-star Amazon reviewer vowed: “It will travel with us on all our vacations together.”

Another fan adds: "There was much laughter and giggles. Perfect for many ages; all of the adults certainly had a good time!!!"

Right now Charades for Kids is just $9 (that's 40 percent off). A true value considering that it has 450 charade options, guaranteed to last you a good long while.

Ages: 4+

3+ players

Shop it: Charades for Kids, $9 (was $15), amazon.com

Apples to Apples Junior

Be judged by your loved ones. (Photo: Amazon)
Be judged by your loved ones. (Photo: Amazon)

A kid-relevant spin-off of the wildly popular original red-box (which we also adore), this is a simple game of wacky combinations. Everyone gets a shot to be the all-mighty judge, who presents the adjective card. Players then consider the five cards in their hand, psychoanalyze the judge a bit, and throw down their best match. Will the decider choose a match that's funny, serious, or unexpected but spot-on? Hilarity ensues, verdict is made, next judge, next case and so on. 

Some 3,700 five-star reviewers agree that this Junior edition is great. One fan wrote: "We've played it in a big group with ages ranging from 4-70. ... Makes our stomachs hurt from laughing."

The 378 red apple cards (person, place or thing, event) and126 green apple cards (adjectives) lead to so many possibilities. Let's play a round: Say you are the judge and you flip the card "Smelly." The other players respond with "Flip Flops," "Pickles," "Discos," "Noses." What noun would you choose?

Ages: 9+

4 to 8 players

Shop it: Apples to Apples Junior, $13 (was $15) amazon.com

Hedbanz

 Figure out who the heck you are. (Photo: Amazon)
Figure out who the heck you are. (Photo: Amazon)

This super-simple, rapid-fire guessing game will have you desperately shouting yes or no questions to figure out what animal, food or object you are, which is on the card strapped to your head. Seeing my baffled husband with “I’m a nut” on his forehead hooked me and our daughter immediately. Plus, it’s a great way to build for kids and adults to build communication skills. There is a point system, but you won't even care, honestly. 

With over 6,000 five-star ratings, it’s popular with parents, including a skeptical mom who wrote, “Surprisingly fun—even to a parent who hates games.”

Hedbanz includes 74 cards, 24 scoring badges, six gorgeous blue adjustable plastic headbands and a sand timer. The box says ages 7 and up, but I believe it can go a year or two younger. 

Ages: 7+

2 to 6 players

Shop it: Hedbanz, $14 (was $16), amazon.com

Exploding Kittens

Can haz blast! (Photo: Amazon)
Can haz blast! (Photo: Amazon)

The first time my family played the Exploding Kittens Family-Friendly card game, our super-sensitive seven-year-old actually belly-laughed about losing and began chanting “Again! Again!” Never in the history of ever have we seen her react to losing this way.

It's kind of like Russian Roulette ... but way more fun. Basically, this game blows up in your face with an Exploding Kitten card … unless you peek ahead at the deck and re-shuffle (there are cards for that!) or whip out a Defuse card. 

Don’t like someone’s move? Simply shut them down with a Nope card. How great is that? 

Nearly 40,000 Amazon reviewers have rated this game five stars, including one sold parent who said: “The kids ... ruled the table like the merciless sociopaths kids are. They will throw you into the path of an exploding kitten card without thinking twice. ... Kids can play on the same level as adults and they love that.”

It's so over-the-top wacky that you'll hardly notice it's brutal. Just be careful not to accidentally purchase the Adult (NSFW) edition for the family.

Ages: 7+

2 to 5 players

Shop it: Exploding Kittens, Family-Friendly, $18 (was $20), amazon.com

Wicked Big Kickball

Get your kicks. (Photo: Amazon)
Get your kicks. (Photo: Amazon)

We all want to show our kids how it's really done on the kickball field. While you're at it, kick the game up a notch or three with this mega-sized kickball. 

One five-star reviewer proclaimed it to be the "most fun ever!!! We bought this for a huge family party and this was the hit of the party! We played adults vs. the kids. The ball is huge, so if a kid got hit with it, it was OK. But it was heavy enough that you could really kick it pretty far."

This set includes a 25-inch (triple-sized!) ball, three bases, a home plate, a pump, three ball plugs and a plug remover. So step into those gym shorts and knee socks and prepare to kick some ball. Big time.

Ages: All

2+ players

Shop it: Wicked Big Kickball, $15, amazon.com

Catan Jr.

Play me, matey!  (Photo: Amazon)
Play me, matey! (Photo: Amazon)

Ahoy me hearties, my family loves this game. And we aren’t even into pirates. 

Based on the original Settlers of Catan, this energetic family version pulls on tactical and strategic skills (and a wee bit of luck) as players trade resources to launch ships and gain ground. To build out a lair, for example, you’ll need to collect a cutlass, molasses, a goat and wood. 

Over 1,800 reviewers have given Catan Junior five stars, with one player raving: “My two kids (6 and 3.5) love games. They picked up this game fairly easily ... and love it. Straightforward ... but not so simple as to be boring. We don't have any other game that is so universally loved by the kids and adults.”

Ages: 6+

2 to 4 players

Shop it: Catan Jr., $22 (was $30), amazon.com

Blokus

Corner your kin. (Photo: Amazon)
Corner your kin. (Photo: Amazon)

Blokus (pronounced "block us”) is an abstract strategy game invented by a French mathematician. Players select a color and take turns placing each of their 21 pieces (of various configurations) on the board until there's no playable space left. The catch is that their colored pieces must connect each other at least at the corner. The player with the fewest pieces remaining is victorious. 

Visually appealing, satisfying and somewhat addictive, it's a great intro to strategy games that has earned 4,500 five-star reviews:

"Where has this game been all my life," wrote one hooked mom reviewer who plays Blokus (a lot) with her kids, 9 and 15, and husband. "It gets used at least five days a week currently, and we can play for up to two hours in a sitting. The games are pretty quick, so in that two-hour time span, we can average four to seven games."

Ages: 5+

2 to 4 players

Shop it: Blokus, $25, amazon.com

Richard Scarry's Busytown, Eye Found It!

I spy something cute. (Photo: Amazon)
I spy something cute. (Photo: Amazon)

As a mom and (in a former life) a preschool teacher, I've found that the best games for the youngest players are engaging, cooperative and story-based. Just like Richard Scarry's books and this spinoff game. It's special being down on the ground with your young one, immersed in a six-foot game board, solving mysteries and saving an island picnic from ravenous pigs — together. (Meltdowns not included.) 

Over 7,000 reviewers given Busytown a five-star rating. “Every family with children should own this!” insisted one such fan. “As design professionals in urban planning and architecture, we value activities that heighten a child's understanding of place and movement through sequences of space, of maps and cities, as well as their awareness of their own connection to these experiences. This game does it! … We purchased this for our 4-year-old granddaughter and it quickly became a daily event. In warmer months ... we enjoyed the game on the blanket, often followed by our own picnic.” 

It's as fun as they come for this sweet age group.


Ages: 3+

2 to 4 players

Shop it: Richard Scarry's Busytown, Eye Found It!, $28, amazon.com

Slammo Game Set

It's slam o'clock! (Photo: Amazon)
It's slam o'clock! (Photo: Amazon)

Look around. They're everywhere! On beaches, in yards, in parks ... small crews of sweaty, smiley people circled around a round net swatting a ball. Wasn't this a thing in the 90s? I call it weird volleyball.

There are several makers, but with 3,300 glowing five-star reviews and a bargain price, we believe Slammo serves up the best bang for the buck. 

The more ball-savvy you are, the more creative you can get with the game, but really it’s for everyone: "You don't have to be super athletic to play,” as one self-proclaimed Slammo lover reported: “Brought this on a family reunion, instant hit. We ended up playing it almost every day. I think we had up to 8 [players] at one point."

While the maker recommends ages 12 and up, younger children will absolutely enjoy this too, so long as you loosen the rules and play to their level. The outdoor game set includes a round net, three balls (one is larger for young players) and a carrying case. 

Ages: 12+

4 players

Shop it: Slammo Game Set, $34, amazon.com

Scrabble Deluxe Edition (Amazon Exclusive)

Word to your mother. (Photo: Amazon)
Word to your mother. (Photo: Amazon)

What a game changer this Scrabble upgrade is! For generations, Scrabble has been the go-to word game in my family. This is my dream edition. 

The game sits atop a lazy Susan (no more trying to read the words upside-down!) and features two drawers below for storage, curved trays to better hide your letters, and (our household's favorite) recessed game spaces! (In the past, Scrabble games have ended abruptly when our maniac cat pounced and swept the board clean.) 

It even comes cloaked in a sleek travel case on wheels — to Grandmother's house we go. 

The nearly 5,000 perfect five-star reviews ensure us that it's superbly giftable. We think it would be a happy surprise on Mother's Day. One five-star reviewer complimented the "excellent quality," calling it "the perfect version of Scrabble. Worth every penny."

Ages: 7+

2 to 6 players

Shop it: Scrabble Deluxe Edition, Amazon Exclusive, $43, amazon.com

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.

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