Rudey's Room

7 Favorite Games for Elementary Kids



“The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.”

-Erik H. Erikson



Stephen cuts off her naming calling with a gesture.

He sticks out his hand to shake mine to demonstrate how a good sport loses a game and says, “Well played.”

Stella reaches for my hand and responds, “Well played.”

She pauses before adding, “Cheater.”

Clearly we’ve got some work to do on how to accept defeat gracefully.

She’s six so I’m fairly confident we’ve still got some time.

We continue to play Spot It! and within the quarter hour, Veronica loses. Being the older sister of three years, she’s had a few rounds of losing and experience accepting defeat. She seizes the chance chance to join forces with her sister  – against my husband and I.

“Let’s be a team,” she says to her younger sister.

Stella’s face lights up. “Okay,” she says and eagerly teams up with her sister.

Veronica continues, “We can be Team Bob.”

With that, they connected and became Team Bob.

We play hours of boardgames at our house. It’s one of our favorite things to do as a family.

Here’s why, followed by seven of our go-to games.

Socialize. Games are just plain funWe don’t have an official game night, but playing games is an activity we do at least once a week. Game time is intentional, uninterrupted time for us to connect as a family. It’s a challenge to scroll through your FB feed when you’re trying to find fire in Spot It! For now, we do afternoon games on our deck, games while waiting for a table, games at the kitchen table on a rainy or snowy day, games on the pool deck when the girls need a break from the sun. Perhaps a Game Night is in our future.

Learn How to Win and How to Lose. Playing games as a family is an optimal time to demonstrate and experience fairness, playing by the rules, taking turns, and sportsmanship. It’s low-stakes competition – in theory (you know what I mean if you knew my grandma).  The apple doesn’t fall far, so it’s also the time to redirect as necessary. I witnessed Stella’s competitive streak first hand when she directed me to “turn your head, mama.” I played along and out of the corner of my eye I caught her moving a piece and putting herself in a position to win. Who’s the cheater now? (Ha!).




As stated in this article,”These brief moments present an opportunity: You will observe how your child attempts to cope with frustration, and you can talk with him about it.”

Experience Grit. Dig in. Try your best. Work harder for what you want. I do think we can learn from the grit Rudy demonstrates. Remember this clip
Practice Skills. As Mr. Rogers said, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” Through playing games en famille the girls work on developing critical thinking skills, such as memory, strategy, patterns, and patience.

Slow Your Role. There’s a middle ground between letting them win and taking them to the cleaners, n’est-ce pas?  Should you let you five-year-old win, well, the answer seems to be sometimes. Check out this article.

 7 Favorite Games for Elementary Kids

Games for 2 players

1. Jumbo checkers. We love this checkers board. This is an afternoon favorite and every summer we stop at for a game or two at the Edge of the Park in Peninsula State Park in Door County.

If you don’t own the rug checkers, I do highly recommend the purchase.




2. Mancala. Ours is this one.  It’s a simple design – a rectangular, foldable playing board with holes carved out to hold the “gemstones.” This game is centuries old, played around the world, and it’s Stella’s fav. (Maybe because she truly wins almost every time). The object of the game is to move all of your gems out of your small holes and into your Mancala (or large pocket) before your opponent fills his/her Mancala. It sounds simple, but it requires a watchful eye on counting strategy and planning to win.

Games for 2 to 4 players.

1. Spot it. This game is mind bending. It’s our current family favorite. There are six variations of the game to play within the game. It’s fun for the whole family, and if you’re into a match off with sig other, it’s playful and heats up the competition. I keep this game in my bag for on-the-go-fun.

2.  Stratego. This game of strategy was my childhood favorite to play against my dad. My husband grew up playing it as well, so we introduced it to our crew. You arrange pieces à la chess. Each piece is assigned a value. The bombs and the flag cannot be moved and when you capture the flag of your opponent, you’ve won.

3. Mille Bornes. – This French card game is a classic. My students LOVE it. Watch this French commercial and you’ll catch a glimpse. You can get the English-language version here on Amazon.

4. Jenga. Is your hand steady enough? This game always ends with a squeal when the teetering towel of blocks crashes to the floor. We have the classic version at home, but my favorite is the oversized blocks at Gibraltar Grill in Door County. The restaurant’s lawn games are the best. And if you fall in love, well, you can get the big dogs on Amazon too!


IMG_0079 (1)

My youngest and my niece play Jenga on the patio lawn at Gibraltar. I took a break to enjoy an IPA on an adorandack chair.

5. Sushi Go! This game is my 9-year-olds favorite. The game is a pick and pass card game that reminds me of the cooler, older sister version of Go Fish! The winner is calculated on not one, but three rounds. It’s the constant companion of the Spot It! in my beach bag.

These are our go-to games.  What are your favorite games for school agers?



P.S. Does this clip make you want to have play Pictionary à la from When Harry Met Sally? I’m nerding out here, but I actually do!


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