If you just have a few minutes to squeeze in a quick round of competition between dinner and bed, or you're staring down a rainy day full of indoor activities, there's never a bad time to break out a good board game and invite the family to play.
There are actually plenty of benefits to gathering around the table this way. Playing family games can help your kids build social and cognitive skills, like patience and turn-taking. Games also “teach children to work as a team, negotiate, follow rules and use spatial reasoning and logic,” says Ellie Dix, a former school behavior specialist and author of The Board Game Family: Reclaim Your Children From the Screen.
Board games also improve kids’ response to delayed gratification. Many video games or kid apps provide a quick hit of the “happy chemicals” dopamine and oxytocin, which is why they’re so addictive, says Hanna Bogen Novak, M.S., a director at the Center for Connection family therapy practice. Board games are a slower burn, and regular play can re-train brains to get the same buzz from a delayed release of chemicals. That helps kids focus on long-term projects like schoolwork too.
But which games to choose? Good Housekeeping Institute logged hundreds of data points and had nearly 100 testers (kids ages 1 to 14 and their parents) help us rate dozens of games on ease of use, skill development and kids' interest in playing again and again to come find the best board games. We added to their list of favorites, some of which are Good Housekeeping Best Toy Award winners, with editor's picks and bestsellers to come up with this list of the best family games for 2022.
1Best Party Board GameDouble Ditto Inspiration Play Read More
22022 Good Housekeeping Best Game Award WinnerT.A.P.E.S! Hog Wild Read More
32022 Good Housekeeping Best Game Award WinnerWordle The Party Game Hasbro Gaming Read More
4Silent GameThe Mind Pandasaurus Games Read More
5For Music FansSpontuneous: The Song Game Spontuneous Read More
This year, casual party games are extremely popular — owe it to families gathering again after distancing because of the pandemic. Cooperative games are also huge for the little ones, since everyone wins or loses together and there's fewer sore feelings. There are also strategy games, fast games and even a few that can be played solo. There's bound to be one that'll be the star of your next family game night.
Before including our favorite picks in an article, the Good Housekeeping Institute does rigorous toy testing to ensure we're recommending only the best. Many of our choices come from our yearly Toy Awards, where we test each item based on the following criteria:
✔️Safety: Our engineers and analysts make sure that each toy reaches all safety standards. They also assess things like pinch points and make sure toys won’t shatter into small pieces to pose a potential choking hazard.
✔️Ease of Use: We look at each toy to evaluate how simple it is to assemble, how well it’s constructed and how durable it is during play.
✔️Kid Approval: Aside from testing each toy for skill-building attributes, like how well it develops social-emotional skills, all our final decisions come from more than 100 children, ages 1 to 15, who assess the fun factor!
Much of the toy testing for this article was overseen by Rachel Rothman, the Good Housekeeping Institute's chief technologist and director of engineering, with the help of Marisa LaScala, Good Housekeeping's senior parenting and relationships editor. For more than 15 years, Rachel has put her training in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics to work by researching, testing and writing about parenting products. Plus, as a mom to three kids under 5, she has plenty of first-hand experience.
Marisa has covered all aspects of the world of parenting, from the postpartum years through the empty nests, since 2015, and she's pitched in with Good Housekeeping's toy coverage since 2018. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, who are both avid toy collectors.