Does your kid get frustrated while playing competitive board games? I’ve been there. You want to have a fun afternoon playing a couple games with your family, but it’s not so fun when there are tears or sibling squabbles.
My children were pretty young when we began playing board games with them. It didn’t always go well, but once we discovered cooperative games (aka co-op) our family game time was more enjoyable for everyone.
Co-op games are perfect for kids because players are working together to defeat the game. It takes time for kids to learn how to win and lose gracefully, and cooperative games help teach good sportsmanship.
Rather than focusing on who won or lost, they can focus on playing and having fun.
One of the most important aspects of co-op games is teamwork. Everyone needs to work together or it’s harder to complete the game objectives. This helps them practice communication skills, which gives them the confidence to speak up and share their ideas. They also learn how to speak respectfully to each other, even when they disagree.
Since we’re all on the same team, it’s easier for me to teach my kids different game mechanics and strategy. I will ask questions such as, What should we do next? What happens if we move this piece here? By talking through what everyone is doing on their turn, they learn how to think a few steps ahead.
Now that you know the benefits of playing cooperative games with your kids, here are seven co-op games I recommend for your next family game night.
Peaceable Kingdom has an amazing line of co-op games for kids, but Cauldron Quest was one of the first we ever owned. You work together to find the three ingredients needed to break the wizard’s spell. Once found, you must move them into the cauldron, but watch out for the wizard! He will try to block your path.
What makes this game cooperative is that players discuss and decide together what actions to take on their turn – such as which potion bottles to flip over when looking for the secret ingredients and how to move them toward the cauldron. If all the ingredients are in the cauldron before the wizard can block the paths, all players win! If all the paths are blocked, then the wizard wins.
Cauldron Quest helps children learn shared decision making, communication, cooperation, deduction, strategy, and practice identifying even and odd numbers.
Monster Chase is a cooperative memory game by Iello. This is a great option for kids because players work together to find the matching toy to scare each monster back into the closet. There is also a competitive variant so you can make the game more challenging if you want.
What makes this game cooperative is that all players are trying to find the right toy from the facedown tiles to scare away the monsters around the bed. Each player takes a turn flipping over a tile. If a match isn’t found in three turns, another monster is placed next to the bed (up to a maximum of four). Players can help each other remember which toys are placed where. If all of the monsters are sent to the closet, all players win! If four monsters are around the bed, then the monsters win.
Monster Chase helps children practice memory skills, cooperation, matching, deduction, and teamwork.
Outfoxed by Gamewright is a fun deduction game. Players work together to figure out which fox stole the pot pie before the fox escapes. The way the fox moves is like a built in game timer. The kids like when one of them gets to be in charge of the clue decoder.
What makes this game cooperative is that everyone helps find clues and suspects depending on their dice rolls. Using the clue decoder, you eliminate the fox suspects that don’t match the clues. All players discuss who they think it is and agree on a guess. If the guess is correct, all players win! If you guess the wrong suspect or the fox reaches the end of the board, the fox gets away and wins.
Outfoxed helps children learn deductive reasoning, probability, shared decision making, cooperation, communication, and teamwork.
Space Escape is another game by Peaceable Kingdom. Players work together to help the mole rats collect their equipment and get to the escape pod before getting attacked by the snakes on board. What you can do on your turn is determined by the card you draw. You may be able to move your own mole rat, another player’s mole rat, or everyone’s mole rats. You may also need to move or add more snacks to the spaceship. Since you can see the card everyone has for their next turn, it’s important to discuss how and where you’ll move the game pieces.
What makes this game cooperative is that everyone must work together in order to win – no one can be left behind on the spaceship! All players help figure out how to collect the equipment pieces and it is fine if someone picks up more than one. There are even times you must move someone else instead of yourself. Everybody wins if all of the mole rats escape. If one player gets bitten twice by snakes or slides down an air shaft, everyone loses.
Space Escape helps teach children strategy, problem solving, communication, and teamwork.
5 Minute Dungeon
5-Minute Dungeon by Spin Master Games is a unique cooperative card game that is played in real-time. That means there is no turn taking because everyone plays their cards at the same time. Communicating about what cards you have and working as a team are a must to defeat the dungeon bosses. My kids love playing this one. You can watch us play through it here.
What makes this game cooperative is all players help defeat the dungeon doors and bosses by playing cards cards with the matching symbols or using special abilities. Everyone either wins or loses together.
5 Minute Dungeon helps kids practice quick decision making while also working on communication and teamwork.
Zombie Kidz Evolution
Zombie Kidz Evolution is a new cooperative family game by Iello that evolves as you play it (also known as a legacy game). Players must work together to stop the zombies from invading their school. You’ll need to communicate and coordinate how and where you move in order to remove zombies and get all four entrances locked. There is a progress chart where you keep track of your wins and achievements. The game also comes with 13 sealed envelopes. As you progress, you will be instructed to open them. The envelopes contain items you will add to the game and increase the challenge.
What makes this game cooperative is that everyone needs to talk about what moves they plan to make and coordinate how to eliminate zombies and lock all of the entrances.
Zombie Kidz Evolution helps kids learn strategic thinking, shared decision making, communication, cooperation, and problem-solving. The mystery envelopes also give them goals to work towards while also increasing their characters powers and the game difficult over time.
Forbidden Island by Gamewright is a great cooperative family game. It is not specifically designed for kids, which makes it fun to play with all adult players or with a mix of adults and kids. I highly recommend this game, especially with older kids. Players work together to collect treasures and make it back to the helicopter launch pad before the island sinks.
What makes this game cooperative is that every player has a role with a special ability, but they must all work as a team in order to win. Each player only has four actions on their turn, so everyone discusses and coordinates where to move, which land tiles to sandbag, trading cards, and collecting the treasures. There are many ways to lose against the game, but the only way to win is for all players and all four treasures to leave on the helicopter together.
Forbidden Island teaches kids strategic thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and shared decision making.
Playing cooperative games with your kids can teach them important skills they can use in life beyond gaming. The best part is, children don’t even realize they are learning these things because they are having so much fun playing the game with you!