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Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

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Games we can bear to play with children

Categories: Crafts and activities, Gifts, Keepsakes, Learning activities, Toddler gear


I am breathing carefully and calmly through my nose as I think of playing board games with children: Monopoly, which goes on forever and makes children cry; CandyLand, which seems like it’s about to end and then someone gets sent back to the beginning.

I do have a few, a very select few, that I am willing to play. I look for a game that is fun for me as well as for the kids, and that doesn’t require me to hold way back in order to avoid trouncing my opponents.

Wits & Wagers Family (photo from I prefer the grown-up version, which I first encountered at my brother and sister-in-law’s house, but the kid-friendly game is nearly as good. I am timid and suspicious of games, but this one won me over: it’s like Trivial Pursuit except you’re NOT SUPPOSED TO know the answers. The idea is that everyone will be guessing. The guesses are laid out in a row, and then everyone can bet on the likelihood that the guesses are correct; in this way, you can win points even if you didn’t know the population of Vatican City, or how many points an athlete scored in his best game. It ends up being a lot of fun and a lot of laughing, and as soon as I got home from that game night I ordered the family version to play with the kids.

Set (photo from This game was recommended to us by one of the kids’ teachers, who had the kids make their own small decks to practice with. The point of the game is to find three cards that make up a “set”: the three cards can be different colors but the same shapes, or different shapes but the same colors, or all different colors/shapes. It took me a little while to catch on, but after that it was simple and addictive.

Double Solitaire (photo from I consider solitaire an excellent game for anyone to have in their repertoire of skills, and double solitaire is a nice way to teach it to a child. You buy two decks of cards, with different backs to make sorting-out easier afterward (I get a set of one blue and one red deck from Target, but this robot deck was more fun to use as the photo), and you and the child start playing solitaire across from each other on a table. The only difference between regular and double is that you can play cards on the other person’s aces as well as your own. It usually starts out in silent solitaire-like play, and by the end it’s teamwork: “Wait, don’t do your three of hearts—if I do mine, then we can get at these cards underneath it!”

Scrambled States (photo from I bought this game this summer to help a child struggling with geography—and it turned out to be a genuinely fun game. There’s a lot of table-slapping and yelling out state names. It isn’t entirely educational: some of the rounds are about the color of the state, or about whether the cartoon of a state is wearing a hat.

Rat-a-Tat-Cat (photo from This is a Grandma’s House game, so I haven’t played it myself—but my mom has played it with the kids hundreds of times and tells me it’s surprisingly bearable and even fun.

Rummikub (photo from This is one Paul is willing to play often with the kids, and I remember liking it as a child—but if some other adult is willing to play the game, I’m off to another room in a flash.

I always think I don’t want to play Memory (photo from, but I don’t mind it much once I’m playing it. I like that it can so easily be adjusted for different skill levels by using fewer pairs of cards. And I’m so grateful to customers who post photos of what the cards look like, because I find that crucial to my enjoyment of the game. (I like the look of this set, too.)

(If you don’t know if you’d like to play Memory or not, it’s a fun kid-craft project to make a small set. Cut a little pile of index cards in half, and have the kids either draw matching pictures or use pairs of stickers.)


Games make such good gifts, and I like to buy a new one each Christmas. Do you have suggestions of other games that are fun for children AND grown-ups?

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20 comments so far...

  • We have Set and Rat-a-Tat-Cat. Another good card game from the makers of the latter game is Sleeping Queens. It says 8 and up on the box but a younger child could play if s/he is good at math. My daughter adores it. The rules are whimsical but once you get them down it’s fun until you’ve played it TOO MANY TIMES, but that can happen with any game. It’s bearable initially is my point.

    StephLove  |  November 14th, 2012 at 12:42 pm

  • Rummikub has been huge in our house and circle of friends and family for years. There’s a kid version which I do not recommend.

    Amanda  |  November 14th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

  • I love playing games but not the silly kid ones either, like candyland. My 5 year old can play UNO if we play face up - it’s a start! I’m going to get him rat-a-tat-cat for xmas. I grew up playing Rummikub, but I don’t think he’s ready for that yet. My mom and I are viciously strategic and competitive when we play.

    Shari  |  November 14th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

  • For older kids (I’d say 10 and up) Bananagrams is fun. This works especially well for “wordy” families. It is small and portable too.

    Uno is always a hit.

    The one game that EVERY PERSON that I have ever played it with has loved and subsequently gone out and bought is Telestrations. Seriously the very best game ever. Works for any age, as long as the kid can read, although they might need help knowing what a word means sometimes. We never play it for points, just for fun. I try to never say this but I guarantee you will like this game. :-)

    Leeann  |  November 14th, 2012 at 4:02 pm

  • Another thumbs up for Rat-A-Tat-Cat. I have fond memories of playing it when I was a kid, and now my daughter (five, nearly six) is old enough to enjoy it. As a trial, look up the rules online and you can totally play it with a regular deck. But buy the game if you like it, because KITTIES!

    We also enjoy Sherlock, which is a a memory-type card game where what you’re remembering changes as you play. Oooh, and Blink! Which is like Set but played like Speed, although you can even it up between adults and kids by changing how many cards each player gets, or just taking turns instead of racing.

    BKC  |  November 14th, 2012 at 4:07 pm

  • I taught my oldest to play Uno as when he was a little over 4 just because I couldn’t bear to play Candyland or similar ever again (of course now I have a 3 YO and am suck, but let’s move on). Anyway, oldest is now 9.5 and plays Settlers of Catan and Carcasson with his dad and I and Risk with his dad (I have loathed Risk for years nearly as much as Monopoly). Still I enjoy the Settlers games.

    I’d forgotten about Rummikube. I remember loving that as a kid. Will have to check it out now.

    Maggie  |  November 14th, 2012 at 4:23 pm

  • Uno and Bananagrams are popular at our house. Uno for ages 3 and up (help required) and Bananagrams starting in 2nd or 3rd grade. Oh, and we have a colored ball version of Sudoku (Coloroku or something like that) - my older kids (8 and 10) love it. And their friends love it.

    My mom has the Rush Hour game at her house and the kids love it (age ranges 4-11). It’s more of a puzzle type game.

    My vote for worst game ever was the My Pretty Pony version of Memory. Let’s see there is the pink pony with stars, the pink pony with hearts, the pink pony with sparkles… I had to do some serious cheating in that game or it never would have ended.

    Missy  |  November 14th, 2012 at 6:50 pm

  • Whoops, in that last comment I should have linked to Rush Hour Jr. But the regular rush hour is probably fun for older kids?

    Rush Hour Jr:

    Missy  |  November 14th, 2012 at 6:50 pm

  • There are surprisingly bearable kid versions of Settlers of Cataan and Carcassonne. (They’re called, I think, Kids of Cataan and Kids of Carcassonne, if I’m not mistaken.)

    My husband likes to rummage the card game rules book for simple games and teach them to the kids. So far they know how to play Stealing Bundles, King’s Corner, and German Whist (which sounds very 19th-century.) Like you, Swistle, I duck out whenever I can.

    Jenny  |  November 14th, 2012 at 7:12 pm

  • I’m glad to see Scrambled States on your list, one of the kids is getting it for Christmas.

    I’ve heard good things about Ticket To Ride, so that’s on our want list.

    We LOVE Dizios, fun for the whole family!

    Devan  |  November 14th, 2012 at 8:16 pm

  • I never played Rummicube as a kid! So I have no idea if we would like that one or not. We’re an UNO family - my 8yo and my 4yo both like to play it.

    This summer a great-uncle introduced us to Spinner ( and it was surprisingly fun for both kids, if I remember correctly. We might have had to play on teams with 1 adult per kid. I’m looking to get it for us for Xmas.

    el-e-e  |  November 14th, 2012 at 8:41 pm

  • My husband has been teaching our girls poker since they were 5. They started with simple 1 card stud. Now they’re up to 3 card stud + betting. He says he wants them to win when they play strip poker in college.

    I like playing Uno with my kids and will actually suggest it. They play Monopoly at the Y - God bless those Y workers.

    Linda  |  November 15th, 2012 at 12:52 am

  • Apples to Apples Junior is great fun.
    There’s a great new game called Spot It - if you like Set you’ll like this.
    I also recommend Zooloretto for 7 and up.

    lynn342  |  November 15th, 2012 at 2:03 am

  • We like the kids version of Apples to Apples!

    Elle  |  November 15th, 2012 at 3:18 am

  • For older kids- Apples to Apples… it’s my favorite game to play with friends myself!

    Spot It is great because there are different versions to play with the same deck of cards. So fun!

    For preschoolers I’d recommend Snails Pace Race and Diggity Dog. Both are relatively tolerable and don’t take forever to end!

    Julia  |  November 16th, 2012 at 3:30 am

  • If you don’t have Settlers of Catan, I recommend you buy it immediately. Back in college we would have Settlers tournaments, but it’s also simple enough (once you get the hang of it) that we could play with my husband’s 8 year old cousins. It’s Amazing!!

    Angela  |  November 17th, 2012 at 7:52 pm

  • Snorta is equally fun and hilarious for kids and adults. Highly recommend. I don’t know if it’s available in the US though. Also, it’s not educational at all.

    Steph  |  November 19th, 2012 at 12:16 pm

  • I recommend any of the bingo games made by Lucy Hammett (a lot of them are available on Amazon.)
    Bug Bingo, Ocean Bingo, Weather Bingo, etc. They go fast and yet if you want to learn some facts while you play, you can.

    Eli  |  November 19th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

  • The kids love (and I don’t mind) Zingo. We gave it as our standard birthday gift for a while. Better for younger kids (3 to 5).

    I also can tolerate Guess Who for quite a while, and Tumbling Monkeys is more fun than you’d think.

    We really like Skip Bo, but the kids have to be a little older (my six year old is getting pretty good at it).

    Corinne  |  November 19th, 2012 at 6:02 pm

  • My whole family loves Kinder Bunnies. We have Killer Bunnies too but I actually have never played it- we like the kid one enough that for now it does the trick. My kids are 5 and 9. We also like Sherlock.

    mamashine  |  November 19th, 2012 at 7:24 pm