Teaching gifted students over the years gave me the opportunity to discover the best strategy board games for kids. If the game held their interest, challenged them, and helped develop critical thinking, then it was a winner. It became apparent over the years which were the perennial favorites as students were quick to call “dibs” on certain games.
Overall, these were the best strategy board games and favorites with my students:
Othello: This game is great for new students because it really is a “minute to learn, a lifetime to master”. On each turn, players flank the discs of the opposing player between two of their own. Once captured, the double-sided discs are flipped over and become the opposite color. Our students came up with quick and interesting strategies.
Abalone: Our boy students especially loved to play this game of strategy. This game is very popular in many countries and is easy to learn. Pushing the large marbles is fun, especially when you push your opponent’s marble right off the board! This is a game where it is worth taking the time to make sure children understand the rules. Such as: Two marbles can push one marble and three marbles can push one or two of your opponent’s marbles. However, an equal number of marbles cannot push each other. This can be difficult for younger students to remember, so I made a little reminder card to refer to during play.
Ravensburger Labyrinth: Labyrinth has been around since the late 80’s and is another favorite of our gifted students. This game of mazes requires planning and the ability to think ahead. Although an older game, the theme of fantasy is current for today’s youth as it features a cast of mythical characters including a dragon, a princess, a ghost, a genie, and flying creatures like bats and owls. This is an action-packed game of mystery.
Quarto : As educators we liked this game for teaching deductive reasoning. Playing pieces have several attributes (color, shape, size, etc) which must be considered in play and this makes the game fun and challenging. The most popular game that uses deductive reasoning is, Set: The Family Game of Visual Perception, I chose not to list this as a top choice, only because most families already own this card game. However, if you don’t, it is a must have!
Blokus: The biggest arguments my students had over this game came from disagreements on how to pronounce the name (It’s Block-us). This game is very easy to learn as it really only has one rule–your piece must touch at least one corner of one of your other pieces on the board. This game has several fun variations. It promotes creative thinking, strategy, and is great for encouraging spatial thinking.
No Stress Chess: While chess is a not favorite with all students, those who take to it are passionate about the game. Chess is the most intellectual board game, so why not give children a positive start at developing love for the game with a “no stress” option?
Strategy games can help develop the brain in several ways. These games are great for helping to develop logical thinking. Anyone who has ever tried to deal with the illogical child knows this is a skill worth developing. Strategy games can also promote our ability to learn from past mistakes. Learning to think a few steps ahead is extremely important in social contexts, especially as children grow into their teens. Of course kids play these games because they’re fun and as teachers we enjoyed playing these games too!
Please take the time to comment on your favorite strategy games below.