Holiday Gift Guide: Puzzler/Gamer Edition
One of our favorite things to do here at Play Eat Grow is to equip parents with great resources. We know that families are busy and the last thing many parents want to do is spend a hundred hours scouring the internet for the perfect gift.
Weirdly, we LOVE it.
Each year we do gift guides a little bit differently, and so this year, we’re creating 4 guides based on interests:
The Puzzler/Gamer Edition
We are a family who loves to play games. And it really doesn’t matter what kind: card, logic, puzzle, cooperative, strategy– we’ll play them all :). We find that games and puzzles are an easy way to spend time together, especially when it gets colder and we’re stuck inside. We believe that the most important shelf in a family’s house is a bookshelf… but a close second is the game shelf :). Here are a few of our newest favorite games. If you have any questions about any of them, feel free to leave a comment below.
Please note: I’m only recommending games that I haven’t yet mentioned here on Play Eat Grow. To learn about some of our other family favorites, visit the Cooperative Games Guide as well as the Family Game Guide.
For the Littles
Smart Games has a whole line of problem-solving games for kids ages 4-7 and we are HUGE FANS. These puzzles are engaging, sturdy, and the perfect level for young to mid-elementary kids. What makes them extra fun is that they are based on classic stories!
Their newest puzzle is based on Sleeping Beauty… but with a twist. Kids get to decide who they want to be in the story. Perhaps they want to take the traditional route and help the prince reach Sleeping Beauty in the castle? Or maybe they want to be Sleeping Beauty…who can totally rescue herself. 🙂 Kids can also choose to be the dragon and switch the object of the game– no longer do they want the prince and princess to unite, but instead, kids want to keep them apart. This is a popular choice in our house.
We love that kids get to choose different ways of playing the game (depending on their mood). In our family, these games are less solitary and more cooperative– pairs of kids helping each other solve the puzzle!
In this simple, but fun board game, players circle around the board to visit and collect markers from the entire neighborhood: the bakery, music store, post office, doctor’s office, and school. We have found this to be a really great “first game” for kids– especially those who love Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood! Kids learn to take turns, count, and follow directions to get around the board. The illustrations are great, and it’s certainly a favorite amongst the youngest of our family. If you’re looking to throw another game into the Candyland, Hi-Ho-Cheerio rotation, this one would be a good option for sure!
While Pop the Pig doesn’t take a whole lot of strategy, it’s one that gets a lot of laughs 🙂 Each player takes turns rolling the die, feeding the pig… and then eventually POP! His belly explodes and everything pops out. This one is great for reinforcing counting and colors. The element of surprise keeps the kids coming back for more. It was absolutely the most popular game in my child’s 4K class.
This is our 5-year-old’s FAVORITE game. We have played endless games of UNO, and we’re okay with it! Great for strategy, kids as young as 4 or 5 can most certainly play this game, especially if they are paired up with an older sibling or parent.
Dr. Eureka needs help solving the formulas by moving the molecules from tube to tube quickly– but be careful not to spill! This logic game is fast and increases in challenge over time. This is another one that is fun to play on your own, but also fun to work on as a family. It’s deservedly won several STEM and creativity awards over the past couple of years.
Perfect for on the road or waiting in a doctor’s office, this small puzzle is perfect for helping kids pass time. It looks simple enough, right? All you have to do is put the pieces of the cube together. It’s actually not as easy as it looks! It comes with 80 challenges ranging from easy to expert, and will definitely keep your game-loving, problem-solving kid busy :). I love that it’s portable — we can bring it with us to restaurants or in the car on road trips without it taking up too much room.
This is one we like to play with our neighbors, and also with my mom and dad. Players take turns placing tiles in runs or groups (think Rummy), and the first person to go out wins that round. It’s a great multi-generational game to play at the holidays!
Our oldest just got this one for his birthday, and it’s a current pre-bedtime favorite amongst the older kids.
Game Description: “Welcome to Tiki Island, home to nine colorful carvings all competing to be the top Polynesian idol! in this fast-paced strategy game, try to maneuver your secret tikis to the top of the line by playing the right combination of cards. Use a Tiki up to move a Tiki ahead in line. Tiki topple sends opponents’ tikis tumbling to the back. And watch out for the sneaky Tiki toast cards which knock your tikis off the board! Score the most points and call yourself the Tiki master.”
This game is really fun, which is why I included it on the list. But, it may be a good idea to take the opportunity to talk with your kids about what totems are, who are the Polynesians, and what stereotypes this game is furthering about the Polynesian people.
Train Dominoes is also an extended family favorite. It’s a fun twist on traditional dominoes. This is our Christmas Eve game of choice :).
Available on the Apple Store and Nintendo Switch, this exploration game is beautiful! Our family enjoys taking turns playing these one-person games– we offer ideas and it’s just a fun way to spend a lazy afternoon together! Old Man’s Journey has won no less than a bazillion awards. The soundtrack is gorgeous and it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a relaxing but fun game.
Description from the website:
Old Man’s Journey, a soul-searching adventure, tells a story of life, loss, and hope.
Entrenched in a beautifully sun-kissed and handcrafted world, embark on a heartfelt journey interwoven with lighthearted and pressure-free puzzle solving. A visual narrative about life’s precious moments, broken dreams, and changed plans, uncover stories of the old man’s life told through beautiful vignettes of his memories.
Interact with the serene, whimsical environment as you solve playful puzzles and shape the landscape around you, growing the hills to create the old man’s path forward.
Find yourself transported to a vibrant and meditatively delightful world as you immerse yourself in a nostalgic journey, and explore the complexities of heartache, regret, and hope through the old man’s eyes.
Here’s a trailer to give you a little taste of it:
From the makers of Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert comes another fun cooperative game: Forbidden Sky. Players have to work together as a team to uncover a mystical power platform that floats in the middle of a lightning storm. Each player has special powers and it’s incredibly important that players work quickly and strategically to connect the circuit of cables before everyone gets electrocuted OR blown off the bridge.
We love Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert around our house, and Forbidden Sky did not disappoint! I will say that it’s a bit more challenging than the first two, but players will do well if they lean into cooperation and teamwork.
As for quality, it lives up to what one would expect of Gamewright- well-made, solid pieces that are made to last.
Also from Gamewright, Cahoots is a fast-moving strategy card game that families can play in 15 minutes, which is perfect for a pre-dinner or post-dinner game. Without saying too much, players work together, playing cards to one of four piles (either by matching color or number) to complete a series of goals before time runs out. Can you make all cards purple? Can you make all 4 cards add up to 15? As soon as you hit one goal, you’re immediately onto the next.
While the box says it’s made for players 10+, we found that our 7-year-old had a great time playing, and our 5-year-old could join in if partnered with someone. This is such a great game for families– we highly recommend it!
Thanks to SmartGames, University Games, and GameWright for partnering with me on this post! They provided a couple of products for me to review (at my request). It’s important to us to only recommend products we love because we know that every dollar counts!