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Written by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom
Ya’ll, I should just ‘fess up to something:
Game time isn’t always my favorite.
I know, I know. Board games can be fabulous for learning and reinforcing new concepts.
But in my house–my kids don’t always like to lose. Even when we’re playing “just for fun,” even when an incredible learning game is designed to teach them helpful skills.
It didn’t take me long to discover this several years ago, when my preschoolers became board game ready. We sure had some big “I lost” tantrums here and there.
So over the years I focused less on board games with the kids, because it wasn’t worth the drama. I would play one-on-one with a single child instead. That was an improvement, but it didn’t guarantee peace in our living room.
Eventually, though, I stumbled upon something that helped tremendously. I only wish I had found out about them earlier.
Cooperative board games
What is a cooperative board game?
Here’s a great definition I found:
“In a cooperative game, everyone plays together, no one is left out, and everyone has fun! Players work together as a team against a common obstacle, not against each other.
Cooperative games emphasize play, not competition.”
So take a peek at these five popular cooperative board games–in which everyone in the family can be on the same team.
Hoot Owl Hoot
Who is it for: Ages 4-7; 2-4 players – no reading required
Reviews: 365+ reviews, 4.8 stars overall
Game description: “An award winning color-coded cooperative matching game with two play levels so it will grow with your child, in Hoot Owl Hoot! players work together to help the owls fly back to their nest before the sun comes up; if they are successful everyone wins!”
Race to the Treasure
Who is it for? Ages 4-8; 2-4 players – no reading required
Reviews: 270+ reviews, 4.9 stars overall
Game description: “In this game, players try to beat the Ogre to the treasure. Along the way they need to collect three keys to open the treasure chest. Players strategize, cooperate and build a path together. If they do it before the Ogre gets there, they all win!”
Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game
Who is it for: Ages 6+; 2-4 players
Reviews: 110+, 4.5 stars overall
Game description: “Grandma needs huckleberries to bake a pie. You and your cousins embark on an adventure up the mountain to collect them. The only way to win is by helping each other out. Wildcraft teaches 25 important edible and medicinal plants and their uses.”
Flash Point Fire Rescue
Who is it for? Ages 10+; 2-6 players
Reviews: 180+, 4.7 stars overall
Game description: “You are the brave men and women of fire rescue–people are depending on you. Every turn is filled with the tension of having to fight the fire, rescuing victims or investigating points of interest.”
Who is it for? Ages 10+, 2-4 players
Reviews: 1,135+, 4.6 stars overall
Game description: “Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath your every step!”
Still enjoy traditional board games as well? You’re right, there are some fabulous ones–here are ten that we’ve enjoyed over the years!
What’s Your Homeschool Mom Personality? Take Jamie’s quiz now and receive a free personality report to help you organize your homeschool based on what your personality type needs most!
We have an embarrassingly large collection of games from Family Pastimes that we’ve been using for several years. We also have some “regular” (read: competitive) board games, but these are great to pull out when things are getting (or have the potential to get) a little out of control, because they get everyone working together again. (We also love Wildcraft!) xo
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Yes, Wildcraft is the first cooperative game I ever discovered!
I have one co-operative board game and we all enjoy it (age 3 to adult). Its different every time we play! Its called Secret Door and it is made by a great company that is Canadian called Family Pastimes. The games are made with eco-friendly materials. They also have other co-operative games.
I had that one on my list as well, Nola, but I ran out of time to include it. It looked like a fun concept!
We like Obstacles…tons of cooperation and imagination. Thanks for this list – we haven’t tried any of them!
I haven’t heard of that one, Amanda – thanks for the recommendation!
We love cooperative games!!:) We have Wildcraft and Forbidden Island, but we love the game Pandemic especially with the expansion pack!!:) Thanks for the other recommendations!!:)
this is a great post. we just played a LONG game of monopoly and it was all going great until the end when the kids were losing and gabe and i were both winning. and then the boys got slaughtered and they were bummed and then we said hey join my team (so we could complete the game) and so each boy joined one of us and then the game ended well…it is true that losing can be very hard sometimes but i love game boards and i’m very competitive and really love winning!!! ha ha! i will never forget the shock i felt when my dad told my fourth grade old self: “you think life is fair?” and i said “yes” and he said “no..life is not fair!” and my world was shattered! BUT i have shared that with my boys and it really helped them be better losers and to accept the times they dont win! but i love this idea of having some game boards that aren’t all winning and losing.
Oh my goodness..side note. i read the TJED book on the cruise and i have to write to you. and i’m halfway done with the other companion book. SO many questions to ask you but i know you are busy!!!!!!!!! VERY inspired.
These are wonderful co-operatives to start with. I see someone else already mentioned Pandemic which is quite popular (though not a favorite of mine). Shadows Over Camelot is one of the more interesting co-ops that I’ve ever tried.
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We love to play Busytown, Eye Found It. It’s the first cooperative game we played as a family and it still works when we need to refocus and come back together.