The 4 Best Cooperative Board Games For Kids
Family game night can be a relaxed and fun way to connect, especially if you skip the typical competitive board game that results with only one winner. Cooperative games are perfect for families looking to team up rather than take down the competition. The best cooperative board games for kids will be suited for your child's age and accommodate the number of players you plan on gaming with so that you can start having fun straight out of the box.
You're probably already aware of some of the benefits of a cooperative board game, but they extend beyond just building unity and improving social skills. A 2019 study found that cooperative board games can encourage kids to be more generous and can teach them how to build trust with their fellow players. As they play, kids learn how to solve problems and strategize.
Most cooperative board games support a game with two to four players, though some games can also sometimes be played independently by a child, which is great if you're looking for a screen-free alternative for solo play.
Board games should be age appropriate for your kids so they can have fun playing without getting frustrated by a game that’s too complex for them. Play time will vary depending on the intended age range for the game; a toddler game usually takes 10 to 15 minutes while a board game for preteens or teens has a longer play time of about a half hour.
I go into more detail about how to play each of the non-competitive board games below. With all this in mind, below are the best cooperative board games for kids.
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1. The Best Board Game For Toddlers
This cooperative board game for toddlers has made a name for itself as a family favorite for over 30 years. First Orchard is designed for one to four players, ages 2 and up. The goal is to work together to pick fruit from trees before the raven arrives at the end of the path.
The approximate 10-minute play time is well-timed for a toddler's attention span, and it's an excellent first board game to teach little ones how to follow the rules of a game. Plus, they'll enjoy recognizing colors and practicing counting while developing social skills. One reviewer commented this highly rated game is "perfect for 2 year olds."
A helpful review: “My children are 6 years, 3 years and 20 months. This game is perfect: easy to learn, inclusive of all family members (no matter the age) and all about teamwork. What is not to love?! I worried that this would be too simplistic for my 6 year old but was happy to discover even my husband enjoyed playing. I love how it is all about teamwork. Our family against the raven! [...]This game is wonderful for going over colors, waiting your turn and promoting sibling camaraderie [...]"
2. The Best For Preschoolers
For preschoolers, this non-competitive board game is a fun way to practice decision-making and creative problem solving with a team, boost self esteem and emotional development, and recognize a sense of community.
Peaceable Kingdom is known for their cooperative games, and in this pick the goal is simple: together, spin and move along the path to gather all the wandering baby chicks and bring them back to their mother hen. This highly rated game needs two to four players, and it's intended for ages 3 and up. Play time is about 15 minutes and little ones practice counting and taking turns during the game.
A helpful review: “Our preschool recommended integrating a weekly family game night for our only son who was having some trouble with sharing & taking turns. He LOVES this game, and it is really helping us to reinforce teamwork and taking turns. Definitely recommend.”
3. The Best Board Game For 5-6 Year Olds
This cooperative board game requires its players to solve a "whodunit" mystery that will remind parents of playing the classic game of Clue. Kids ages 5 and up must pay careful attention to details and will practice estimating probability while trying to figure out who took Mrs. Plumpert's prized pot pie. As a team of two to four, players gather clues while moving across the board to find the culprit before the likely suspect — the fox — makes his exit.
Play time for this highly rated game, which comes backed by more than 1,200 reviews, is about 20 to 30 minutes, and several reviewers commented it's a great game for captivating siblings a few years apart.
A helpful review: “Today this arrived and we played it already and loved it! Board games are one of the best ways I have found to bond with my two young sons. [...] It is the perfect middle ground of difficulty level for both my 7 year old and 4.5 year old. It has that collaborative factor that brings us together. [...] There are 16 suspect cards and the decoder cards are a sequence of dots — hard to explain without showing it but let me say you will not memorize those 16 decoder cards no matter how many times you play the game. So, it will never get old."
4. The Best For Preteens
Preteens and even older kids will appreciate the excitement of the best adventure board game, and parents will love knowing it was a 2010 Mensa Favorite Brainy Games Winner. Forbidden Island is a cooperative game for two to four players ages 10 and up.
Here's how to play: the team must recover four hidden treasures before the island sinks. Cards are dealt to each player, assigning each one certain strengths relevant to the game; as players determine how to best use those to win the game, your kids develop problem-solving and strategy skills.
Families love this non-competitive game — it has a 4.7 rating and nearly 4,000 reviews. And when your kids want more? This 30-minute game has sequels: Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky. Each of these games is designed by Matt Leacock, who is known for his cooperative board games, especially the cult favorite, Pandemic.
An added bonus, as one reviewer who loves the game commented, is that it’s portable and “quick to both set up and clean up” anywhere.
A helpful review: “Great game for families with preteen-to-teen age kids. This was the first cooperative game we played as a family and I can see a big shift in the mindset of my 10 year old (otherwise very competitive) son since then. If your kids like board games, but you are looking for something new to bring you closer as a family, you will definitely find it in this game. Instructions seem a little complicated at first, so I recommend you spend some time beforehand to play a sample game without the presence of the short-attention-span members. Once you do that, you will be able to explain the rules to them as you go.”