Low-Tech Family Games Perfect for Learning and a much needed Screen Break

By Lauren, Homework Help Center Coordinator  

Whether your family has opted to learn using the hybrid model or all-online schooling this year, your kids are probably spending a lot more time at home. These tabletop games are a great low-tech way to keep academic skills sharp while having fun together. Tabletop games can be reserved and checked out from the library. 

If you are using games as a break from school, also check out our online and in-person Homework Help resources. In-person Homework Help is available at both library locations Monday-Thursday, 2:30-6:00 p.m., during safety advisory yellow and orange. 

Word Games 

Bananagrams:  Age 7+, 2-4 players, or create your own solo challenge!
A fast-paced variation on Scrabble, players compete to create separate crosswords using letter tiles. The game moves quickly, with each player trying to be the first to use up all their tiles. This game is a favorite in the Homework Help Center for elementary through high school students, and the competition is fierce! 

You Guessed It:  Age 7+, 2-6 players
A card game variation on 20 Questions. Use “yes-or-no” questions to identify words within categories like Who, What, Where, and Wild. It’s a great way to build deductive reasoning skills while also flexing your verbal brain muscles. 

Boggle: Age 8+, 2+ players
For this anagram game, letters are randomized on a 4×4 grid. The player who can make the most unique words from connecting letters in less than three minutes wins. I love how this game encourages players to come up with unusual words that other players won’t think of! For an easier variation, players can simply choose a letter at random, set a timer, and see who can write the most unique words beginning with that letter before time runs out. Variations on the same word (for example, swim, swimming, swam) each count separately. For more fun word-building games, try Fishing for Words and Quiddler

In a Pickle:  Age 10+, 2-6 players
This creative word game will have you defending why “DNA” is in a “Turkey” is in a “Purse” is in a “School”! Players take turns connecting cards that fit within each other, and out-of-the-box explanations are encouraged. Great for Apples to Apples and Apples to Apples Junior fans who like a mix of logical and hilarious responses. 

Codenames: Age 10+, 4-8 players
Team up to identify your spymaster’s secret operatives before the other team finds theirs! Each team’s spymaster takes turns linking words on the board using single-word clues. For example, “travel” could be a clue for “Paris,” “train,” and “fly.” It helps to know your teammates well so you can guess their reasoning for each clue. Also check out Codenames: Harry Potter and Codenames: Disney

Balderdash: Age 12+, 2+ players, but I recommend at least 3-4
Who can make up the most convincing definitions for weird and obscure words? Each turn, the judging player selects a word from categories like Peculiar People, Incredible Initials, and Marvelous Movies. Then each player makes up a definition or description for the word and the judge sneaks the correct answer into the submissions. Players must vote on what they think is the correct answer. Points are earned for fooling the most people! 


Math and Probability 

Farkle: Age 8+, 2+ players
Put probability to the test with this easy-odds variation on Yahtzee. Roll and re-roll six dice to try to get the highest-scoring combination but be careful: if you re-roll and strike out, you lose all your banked points for the turn! This is another game my Homework Help Center students get super competitive over. It’s especially great for siblings of different ages since the odds are the same whether a player is 8 or 18. The skill comes in knowing when to keep rolling or to play it safe, and older isn’t always wiser… 

Clumsy Thief: Age 8+; players should be familiar with two-digit addition, 3-6 players
Make addition and mental math fun! Players quickly lay down money cards that add up to $100, trying to swipe more cash than their opponents. But watch out for thieves: other players can steal your loot to help themselves reach multiples of $100! 

3 Up 3 Down: Age 7+, 2-6 players
Brush up on number values with this quick, simple card game! Be the first to empty your hand by playing cards of equal or greater value to the previous card played. If you get stuck, you’ll have to pick up the whole discard pile into your hand! This game is perfect for fans of Uno looking for a challenge.  Also try My First Uno: Winnie the Pooh and the card-launching Uno Attack! 

Playing Card Games and Dice Games: Age 4+, 1+ players
Keep it simple with a deck of playing cards or a set of dice. Practice arithmetic, place value, rounding, and other skills your child is learning in math class.


Logic and Reasoning 

Cat Crimes:  Age 8+, Single player
Face down kitty mischief such as tangled yarn, damaged furniture, and even a missing bird! But which cat committed the crime? Each scenario card provides clues to narrow down your suspects, and the scenario difficulty ranges from beginner to expert. This whodunnit game is great for Clue and Clue Jr. fans who like to work independently. For a simpler single-player game, try Logic Links for Age 6+. 

Outfoxed!: Age 5+, 2-4 players
Work together to catch a thieving fox! Decode clues and practice probability as you zero in on suspects. This cooperative game is a great way to practice logic and reasoning skills as well as teamwork. 

Qwirkle: Age 6+, 2-4 players
Play tiles to match up colors and shapes in crossword-style layout. Build off other players combinations and aim for the highest score.  For an additional challenge, try Set. Players must match 3 similar tiles and keep track of a third variable when linking cards. 

Carcassone: Age 7+. 2-5 players
Place tiles to create a gameboard connecting cities and other landmarks by winding roads. Then populate your gameboard with characters to earn points while blocking other players’ progress. This game is delightfully competitive as players cut off each other’s routes to victory. Younger players, try My First Carcassone for Age 4+. 

Tsuro: Age 8+, 2-8 players
Simpler than Carcassone, this pathbuilding game can be calmly meditative or cutthroat competitive depending on who you’re playing with. Place tiles to create a path for your token to follow. If your path leads off the gameboard, you’re out, and the last player remaining is the winnerWatch out for your opponents! A move that keeps them on the board might send you falling off! Also try Tsuro of the Seas


Honorable Mention 

FreeRice: Age 7+, Single Player
This online and app-based game is too good to skip. Practice vocabulary, basic math, and even the periodic table while providing food to real people around the worldFor each correct answer, FreeRice and the United Nations World Food Programme donate to communities in need. Track your contribution with a cute rice-bowl graphic on your screen. You can set your own difficulty level, or the game will self-adjust as you get answers right and wrong. While FreeRice is a solo game, my Homework Help students have competed with each other to see who can get the most points—and give the most foodwithin a time limit. 

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Low-Tech Family Games Perfect for Learning and a much needed Screen Break

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  COVID-19 UPDATE:  All Pickerington Public Library locations are following the color levels approved by the Library Board of Trustees. Orange level: Library is open to browse and borrow all materials. Curbside service available. By appointment or reservation: Computers, study tables and business center. Conference rooms. In-person notary and proctoring. Virtual technology trainer appointments. Virtual events and classes. What to know when you arrive: Limited restroom access. *Safety protocols in place; masks required, no food or drink allowed.
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