Brian’s Top 10 Kids School Holiday Games

Well, here we go again!  The school holidays are upon us and this time they brought reinforcements in the form of lockdowns for Auckland and now parts of the Waikato as well.  But lockdown or not, keeping kids occupied during the holidays can prove to be a challenge.  So I figured I’d take a leaf out of Baxter’s book and share my own Top 10 Holiday Games for Kids! This list will try to cover a range of ages, so hopefully there’ll be something to please everyone.


10. SET Junior

2-4 Players | Ages 3+ | ~15 mins

SET Junior is a simple matching game involving colours and symbols.  The game is played on a 3x3 grid with three symbols in a line forming a set.  Players draw tiles and place them on any matching symbols. Once a player has completed a set, they claim a points chip, the player with the most point chips at the end of the game wins.  Simple, colourful fun that kids as young as 3 years old can enjoy, with a little guidance.


9. Connect 4

2 players | Ages 5+ | ~10 mins

I knew I had to include at least one old school classic on this list, and Connect 4 seemed a great choice for a few reasons, first and foremost, it’s simplicity.  I fondly remember playing this game time and again growing up, the satisfaction of watching the discs gradually fill the columns of the vertical grid and the strategy of trying to outplay your opponent meant that a win was hard earned. Even break down was fun as, once the game was over, you simply flipped open the bottom of the grid, watched all the pieces fall out and set up for the next round.  Connect 4 is painlessly easy to teach little ones and whether they play it correctly or not, the physicality of the game itself makes for some great fun.


8. Catan/Catan Junior

Catan - 3-4 players | Ages 10+ | ~60-120 mins

Catan Junior - 2-4 players | Ages 6+ | ~30 mins 

Catan is the new Monopoly, there I said it.  But not in the sense that it’s a tedious, cheaply produced bore, but rather that Catan has now become ubiquitous with board gaming. In fact, Catan is likely to be many people’s first foray into the modern board gaming hobby. Young or old, Catan’s simple yet engaging gameplay appeals to a wide range of gamer types and experience levels, from green beginners to those who can play the game like a fiddle.  For the younger players, Catan Junior offers a similar, but more readily digestible version of the trading powerhouse.


7. Bananagrams

1-8 players | Ages 7+ | ~15 mins

Bananagrams is what you get when you remove the board from Scrabble and offer multiple game modes.  Players draw from a shared pool of 144 letters and compete to create their own crossword puzzle using the letters from their draw. The winner is the first to complete a word grid after all the tiles have been used. A great educational tool during the holidays to help keep young learners sharp while providing a great word challenge to those who enjoy a bit of a word teaser.  Included are rules for various games you can play with the one set of Bananagrams.   


6. Ticket to Ride/My First Journey

Ticket to Ride 2-4 players | Ages 8+ | ~30-60 mins

Along with the aforementioned Catan, Ticket to Ride is responsible for a large number of new gamers being introduced to the hobby, including my wife, for whom this game served as a gateway to board gaming. Ticket to Ride helped to break the old stigmas of Monopoly and Snakes & Ladders being the first games people uttered when you mentioned you enjoyed board games.  Available in more varieties than there are colours in a rainbow, the Ticket to Ride series is always a popular choice for a family game night.  The theme makes sense, the components strike just the right balance between affordability and quality and, for the young 'uns, allows for an uncomplicated introduction to board games.  


5. Tākaro

2-8 players | Ages 4+ | ~15 mins

Tākaro is a fabulous way to play together as a family and learn something while doing so.  Available in Original, Bit & Bobs and Into the Wild editions with two new versions on the way in the near future, Tākaro encourages players to stretch their language skills by matching pictures on their cards with the central card, the first player to speak aloud their matching image in te reo wins the central card.  At the end of the game, the player with the most cards in their hand wins.  Reference sheets are provided for each player to aid players and an app assists with pronunciation.  A homegrown game created by our very own here at Game Kings with a special connection to Aotearoa!


4. Sequence/Sequence for Kids

Sequence - 2-12 players | Ages 7+ | ~10-30 mins

Sequence for Kids - 2-4 players | Ages 3+ | ~20 mins

Sequence, a combined card and board game, supports two or three even teams competing to complete sequences of 5 chips on a board depicting the equivalent of two decks standard playing cards.  Each team is dealt a hand of cards and when a card is played they place their chip on the corresponding card face on the board. Sequences can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal.  The first team to achieve their sequence wins. For younger players, Sequence for Kids provides a similar experience, only this time animals are depicted on the board instead of playing cards and sequences are 4 rather than 5  Sequence can be played in about 15 minutes so it won’t out stay its welcome. A great, fast game for the whole family and because teams are supported, even the little ones can be involved.


3. Fort

2-4 players | ages 10+ | ~20-40 mins

A game about building forts and making friends, Fort is a delightfully quirky deck building game for 2-4 players. The cards represent kids who players are attempting to befriend in an effort to build the coolest fort in their neighbourhood.  Competing players can entice kids to come and play in their yard, effectively “stealing” cards from another player unless those cards have been used that round. Featuring playful art work, great production values and highly enjoyable game play, Fort is the sort of game that kids can connect with and adults can revert to childhoods of their own. The game comes with clear instructions and excellent player aids to help everyone stay on task!


2. Dragomino

2-4 players | ages 5+ | ~15 mins

Dragomino is a tile laying game in the style of the larger Kingdomino and Queendomino games also by publisher Blue Orange Games.  While those games are simple enough to appeal to kids as they are, Dragomino offers us an even more approachable game, suitable for even younger players.  Players draft domino style tiles depicting two different terrain types and try to form connections to matching terrain in their play space.  When a match is made the player draws a dragon egg token and flips it over, placing it on the line between the connections. If it’s a dragon, that’s one point, if it’s a broken egg shell, no point is awarded, but the mother dragon meeple is held by that player until the next broken shell is revealed in which case the mother dragon may change hands. At the end of the game mother dragon is worth a point to the player who holds her. Easy to learn and play with a range of ages, Dragomino is a cute, colourful game that can be enjoyed by kids and parents alike!

1. King of Tokyo

2-6 players | ages 8+ | ~30 mins

King of Tokyo is a fantastic choice for kids who may be housebound during the holidays.  This dice rolling game sees players battling for control of Tokyo in the form of giant monsters akin to King Kong and Godzilla.  The rules are simple, each player rolls the six dice up to three times, re-rolling any undesirable results and pushing their luck, after three rolls, they must keep the results.  Players can win by either being the first to gain 20 victory points or by being the last monster standing in the ruins of what was once Tokyo. Players can also attain power tokens which can be used to purchase special powers, resulting in all manner of crazy shenanigans.  An ideal family game or one to leave to the kids while the adults of the household invest in some sanity-replenishing quiet time!

So those are my picks for some of the best games to keep kids occupying over the next couple of weeks.  Do you have any favourites of your own?  If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below, or share them with our awesome community on our Game Kings Gamers page. Thanks for reading and if it all gets a bit too much at times, remember to breathe!

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