Games & skillbuilders

6 Great Board Games to Boost Critical Thinking in Teens and Tweens

By Amanda Morin

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Some tweens and teens may choose boredom over board games. But encourage them to keep an open mind. These games will capture your child’s attention, sense of humor and imagination while boosting critical-thinking skills.

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apples to apples
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Apples to Apples

This card game helps kids predict their friends’ preferences and build social skills and vocabularies. Each round, one person plays the judge. The other players each get seven cards. Each card has a red apple with a noun written on it.

The judge plays a green apple card with an adjective written on it. The other players choose one of their nouns to go with the adjective. The result can be serious or funny, but the goal is for players to read the judge and win the green adjective card. Players aren’t allowed to tell which card belongs to whom. There’s also a junior version of this game, which allows younger kids or teens with limited vocabulary to play.

times up
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Time’s Up

This game is played in teams of two and is similar to charades. Each team has a deck of 40 cards that name famous people. One player gives clues to get his teammate to guess the person on the card.

Here’s where critical thinking comes in: In each round of play, there are increasingly tougher restrictions on the clues players can give. In Round 1, players can say anything. In Round 2, players are only allowed to use one word to describe each person. In Round 3, players can only act out clues.

settlers of catan
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The Settlers of Catan

This award-winning game teaches your child to plan and strategize. Players are settlers in a new land and need to build the most successful society. Each player begins with two roads and two settlements.

They roll dice to gain resources—including lumber, stone, wool and brick—that can be used to build roads and homes and other things needed for the settlement. Those resources can also be traded with other players. Kids have to keep track of their resources, settlements and what other players are doing.

fact or crap
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Fact or Crap

You may not like the name, but this game is a great way for your child to learn how to figure out what’s true and what’s not. (If you want, you can always call it “Fact or Fiction.”) Once the reader picks a card and reads the statement, each player has to decide as quickly as possible whether the answer is real or not. The questions open up discussion and provide ways to research new things.

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In this game, your child’s team must come up with as many appropriate words as they can for a certain category. The catch is that the words have to start with the letter rolled on the die. There’s also a time limit.

For example, your child picks the category “vegetables” and rolls a “S.” His team now has to come up with as many appropriate words as possible before the timer runs out. Multi-word answers get more points. So “summer squash" is worth more than “spinach.”

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This is a great game for tweens and teens who aren’t always confident in their ability to figure out tone of voice and emotions. On the surface, it’s simple. Each player chooses a card with a phrase and then rolls a die to get a “mood.”

Then the player has to say the phrase in that mood. (For example, “I love chips” in a bossy way.) Other players have to guess the mood. They aren’t all easy to show and guess. The die includes tough emotions, such as “sneaky” and “dazed.”

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5 Video Games to Help Tweens and Teens Boost Reasoning Skills

You may worry that your teen or tween plays too many video games. But there are some great games for building critical-reasoning skills. Those skills help kids become good decision makers and problem solvers.

7 Board Games to Help Younger Kids Build Math Skills

Practicing math skills can be fun—and it doesn’t always have to feature numbers or equations. Some board games sneak in counting, sequencing and strategy as your child plays. Beyond classics like Hi Ho! Cherry-O, Connect Four and Yahtzee, these unique board games can help your child practice math skills.

Understood does not endorse or receive financial compensation for the sale of any of these products.

About the Author

Portrait of Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Jenn Osen Foss

Jenn Osen-Foss, M.A.T., is an instructional coach, supporting teachers in using differentiated instruction, interventions and co-planning.

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