Beat the heat: family game ideas

Dutch Blitz

Is the heat getting to you this summer?  Now that the weather around here has cooled down into the 90’s, our swamp cooler is keeping things reasonably cool.  The little girls have been doing some swimming to stay cool. Another hot-weather thing we’ve been doing, though, is to play games indoors.  I really love to play games with my kids.  Besides being a fun way to spend time together, games teach kids reasoning and strategy, and (I think) stretch their brains in a good way. This summer we’ve had games out at least every couple days. But not just any game will do. Our favorites are ones that allow lots of players while being truly interesting to all players, including mom. (Sorry, this rules out Candyland and Monopoly in my book.)

 Currently we’re on a Rummikub kick.  This was a fairly recent addition to our game collection, and it is a lot of fun.  It contains numbered tiles that you arrange in sets and runs. For additional fun, you can rearrange any set or run to form different sets and runs.  This hugely increases your playing options on any given turn, and it really lets you think creatively.  Sometimes the girls and I try to rearrange so much that we get stuck, forget how we began, and then can’t put things back the way they were before a turn.  Good fun.  This game is suggested for up to 4 players age 8 and up, but I would suspect that most 6 year old children could play with a bit of coaching.  A whole game takes half an hour or so.


Another game that has been a favorite of ours for quite a few years is Ticket To Ride.  This game is played on a US map, with the goal of building train lines from city to city.  Up to five players can play together, and the more people on the map, the more crowded things become.  Part of the fun of the game is blocking other players from reaching their goals, sometimes causing opponents ridiculously long detours to go short distances.  This game often takes an hour or more to play, and is done when one person uses up all their trains.

I’ve told you before about Dutch Blitz,  Unlike the previous two games I mentioned, there’s no turn-taking in this game.  It is a wild card-stacking free-for-all.  A standard deck allows four players to play at once.  If that’s not crazy enough for you, mark a second deck, and play with up to 8 players for utter craziness.  I have to be in the right mood to do well at this game.  It is truly lightning-fast with a big group, and if you’re a little sleepy while playing a bunch of teens, you will be left in the dust wondering what just happened.  This game can easily be learned by any child who recognizes numbers, but younger siblings sometimes get frustrated trying to complete with speedy older siblings.  We occasionally handicap speedy older kids (by giving them more cards on their Blitz pile) to give younger ones a fighting chance.  But mostly we let the cards fall how they may, and gradually the younger ones get quicker.  A game can often take 5 minutes or less, so this is a great choice for some fun when you have just a bit of game time. 

Spot It consists of 55 cards that create a free-for-all matching game. (Is it only kid-at-heart me who adores games where you don’t have to wait for your turn??)  There are four ways to play, and you can play with 2-8 players.  This is definitely a game most interesting to younger kids. The instructions put the minimum age at 7, but I’d say it is more like 4, especially once kids learn the names of the various shapes and pictures used for matching.  There are multiple pictures in varying sizes on each card, and I’ve found that my kids are often better at this game than I am– something they enjoy greatly. Each game is done quickly– usually in 5 minutes or less– perfect for young ones with short attention spans.

  No game list  would be complete in my book without a mention of Phase 10.  This game consists of ten different ‘phases’ with a different goal in each phase. It takes about an hour to run through completely, though if we have limited time we sometimes just play to phase 3 or phase 5. It works well for kids who are age 8 or older.
What games do you like to play with your kids? I’d love some more suggestions.

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  1. Love the list and may have to purchase one or two I hadn’t heard of. We love Phase 10 here- but don’t underestimate the age limit- my 5 year old can play with minimal help and my 6 year old can phase out before me! The trick for them is to have a space no one can see to lay out their cards so they can see what they have. (side note- they are the youngest of 6 so they are used to playing up on their ability levels 🙂 Love that game.

    • Yes, our youngest (8) has been playing since she was 5 or 6, I think, but it was only in the last year that she really understood the phases. For at least a year when she was just learning, we just let her do phase one over and over. 🙂

  2. One game I learned about from friends with big families is Pit — it’s loud and crazy but really fun!

  3. NinjaPrincess says:

    Dutch Blitz can be played with regular playing cards if everyone has decks that have different designs or colors on the back. It’s a fun way to use decks of cards that you picked up on vacation, etc.

  4. I just introduced my crew to Radio which I used to play as a kid – they all liked it and my youngest (just turned 7) picked it up quickly. We also like the Logo game and Apples to Apples. We play blackjack on vacation and my kids think it is great – we just collect as many chips as possible without using any real face value to keep it easy and not really “gambling “.

  5. Lost Cities is a fun game for two players. It’s a card game that involves counting. You collect cards in your hand and you have to put them down in order by color (you choose how many colors to use). But if you don’t get the cards to add up to at least 21, then they are deducted from your total.

    Carcassone is also an EXCELLENT family game. It’s a tile-laying game. You put down tiles to build cities, farms, and roads.

  6. We always liked the Mille Bornes card game. Racko was also fun, but I think it is limited to 4 players. Apples to Apples usually results in hilarity. If you include board games, Clue and Life were always favorites although Life does not really involve strategy or reasoning skills.

  7. We love Blokus, but it is only for 4 people. Gemblo is similar and allows up to 6 players. Both are great! 🙂

  8. Hot here last week in 100s or so with humidity so lots of in-house time. Love your list also we love cards, Square Up, Blind Spell, any Trivia games, rotating Scrabble, marbles, and jacks. When lots of kids are over we play Pit, spoons (I found spoons that separate which adds to the fun), and Cranium.
    Not outside much at all in summer- HATE weather over 70 or so. Prefer cold winter days.