Here are the games I’ve tried with children, and my thoughts on what age range is best (keep in mind, Benny has been playing Magic the Gathering since he was 4, so some of these age ranges might be a few years ahead of kids from a non-gaming house):
Animal Upon Animal (4-7) – Simple stacking game with wooden animals. Pretty easy to avoid knocking the stack down, so a little tough to play with kids without purposely throwing the game, but it’s still usually a hit.
Aquanemo (2-7) – Draw a card and then find the matching fish to catch with your magnetic pole. Really one of the better options for very young kids (though the magnetic fishing poles are tricky to catch a fish with, so age 2 might be pushing it) as it is a fun, full-fledged game that is easy to grasp and looks great.
Beasts of Balance (5+) – Kids will love this overpriced stacking game, especially as it offers hundreds of cool beast hybrids to discover as you mix the various animals together. The stacking element is fun for children too (and fairly easy to keep them from getting frustrated), but the evolving world you see on the app is the real draw here. Warning, they might want to game the system and just keep restarting the game after each new beast discovery.
Bugs in the Kitchen (4+) – Great game with a motorized bug that moves randomly as you constantly rotate the walls of a kitchen maze. Great fun for all ages, but, warning, the bug is prone to wearing out and just getting stuck in the corners constantly.
Carole (4+) – A very simple game that challenges kids to translate numerically coded taps for four different foods into pictures of the foods on cards. Surprisingly hard for kids, though, if you give them time, they might just take to it before they get bored with it. Adults, however, should avoid this.
Catan Junior (5+) – This takes out enough of the more complicated elements to make a great game for kids (though the 2d6 bell curve is definitely missed). Presentation wise it is a knockout, but as for the gameplay, there are plenty of better options for kids.
Chateau Roquefort (6+) – Maybe a little complicated for very young kids who aren’t ready to wrap their heads around the combination of simple action points, memory, and manipulating a shifting maze, but it looks amazing, it’s very fun, and kids will LOVE trapping you in the dungeon.
Cockroach Poker (4+) – A bluffing game distilled down to the basics, this is a great way to teach your kids to lie (and, more acceptably, to teach them to identify falsehoods). There can be a bit of trickiness for very young kids in understanding the basic concept of “I tell you this is a certain bug, you tell me if you think it is or isn’t. If you can tell if I’m lying, I have to take the card, if I manage to trick you, you take it.” Otherwise, this is a hit that is just as fun for adults as it is children (and can be played competitively with a mixed group).
Don’t Be Greedy (4+) – A simple push your luck game of drawing cool gems out of a bag for your treasure chest, most of which are blank, but some of which have sad faces. Young kids might have trouble grasping the rule that a sad face on your opening draw won’t end your turn, but otherwise, this is a hit with most age levels.
Electronic Labyrinth (6+) – A bit more complicated than vanilla labyrinth, but the talking book is worth it. Brilliant implementation of the electronic book and a classic game, this one is great fun for adults too.
Enchanted Tower (4+) – Odd game where one person hides a key and then gives the other player a head start in a race to find it. Sometimes it’s over right away, but sometimes there is even a bit of good bluffing gameplay to be had–overall a great looking hit, and it’s fun for adults too.
Enuk (4+) – A great combination of memory and push your luck, this is a huge hit with kids (even makes for a reasonably good game for adults). The food-chain themed luck pushing (if you turn over an animal directly above or below one of your other animals on the pictured food chain, it runs away) is nicely balanced so that no one every loses their entire turn for risking. My only complaint is that the end game really doesn’t work as written (most revealed animals get taken over the course of the game) and always feels like an arbitrary afterthought to an otherwise great game.
Go Away Monster (2-3) – Barely a game, but very young children can grasp and enjoy the act of drawing tiles out of a bag and hoping not to get the monster. This will be quickly outgrown, but right around the age of two, there will be a time that this might just be a favorite.
Guess Who (4+) – Classic 20 Questions style game that has cool player “boards” with windows you can shut when you rule out suspects to elevate things a few notches. The visuals in front of you can lead to inspired questions, and kids of all ages can have fun with this one as long as they are careful when they eliminate suspects.
Gulo Gulo (4-7) – Simple dexterity game of pulling small colored eggs out of a bowl and trying not to knock over a stick standing up in the middle. The amount to which some reviews have claimed small fingers can balance the game against adults is overblown, but it’s still a reasonably fun (if a bit overrated) kids game.
Knusperhexe (4+) – The box and cards form a cute gingerbread house and roof from which you slowly draw cards while hoping not to collapse the whole thing. There is very little in the way of actual decision making in the card aspect of this, but the dexterity game of keeping the roof intact is fun enough, and the whole thing is quite visually pleasing.
The Little Prince: Rising to the Stars (5+) – Very good race game (following the new, only vaguely related, movie rather than the original book) that uses the Thebes-style “last place goes until someone else is in last” mechanic. It can be a little unintuitive for children to understand the value of slow play (hell, the overall strategy on this one is even fairly opaque even for adults), but otherwise this is a winner: short, beautiful, not toooo complex, and, above all, fun.
The Magic Labyrinth (4+) – Very cool hidden maze game that uses walls under the board and magnets to let the players find out where the walls are through trial and error. Surprisingly hard to remember everything, and the placement of the stuff you are trying to find can be swingy, but overall it’s a lot of fun.
Minuscule (5+) – A line game where you play cards that move insects in a line up or down, trying to get the two secret insects you drew to the front. Works very well for what it is, even if it feels a little random. I’d probably recommend not using the ants variant even though it seems like it would be a good addition for adults.
My First Carcassonne (3-4) – This is really a bit of a disappointment as the only strategic choice to be made is the fairly obvious act of leaving opponent’s roads open. Otherwise you just draw and close as many of your own roads as possible until you hopefully run out of meeples. Good for the very young, but full Carcassonne (or a variant) would probably be a better choice for the 5+ crowd.
No Thank You Evil (4+) – Children’s role playing game that uses all the same elements modern adult role playing games use (dice based skill checks with “assist” tokens if you can think of a way to use your skills to lower the difficulty of a check). The mechanics are nothing special, but the world building and cards are actually pretty great. Everything has a charming cartoonish quality and kids will love exploring the map of Storia with the included cards for them to encounter along the way.
Octo (3+) – Pretty random dice rolling game where you are trying to get three good rolls in a row. It doesn’t seem like a lot of play-testing went in to this one as it can be super easy to bust turn after turn with even average luck. There is promise here (especially with the potential for making a song with your final set of cards), but the game as written is not the best.
Rhino Hero (5+) – Stacking game that uses bent playing cards to make a tower. Very cute, but in games against children the “empty your hand” win condition rarely seems to work as well as you would think it would as the game is usually over before you can use up your cards.
Santa’s Bag (5+) – Christmas themed kid’s game of drawing/trading cards to collect sets of materials to build toys (worth varying amounts of points) for kids (worth varying amounts of points depending on their naughty level). It’s pretty decent as a kid’s game, although, the timing of trading (combined with the option to trade with the top of the deck) can be confusing (or at least takes some patience to learn the proper order) even for older kids. Almost there, honestly I think I might recommend doing a few rules tweaks on this one to make it a bit more kid friendly.
Sequence for Kids (3+) – This is still just Sequence, and as such, is VERY dependent on card draws. That said, the smaller board size and victory conditions actually makes for a much better game as it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Still very little actual choice to be had, but at least it’s good for very young children.
Skunk Bingo (3-5) – Very simple game where you put tiles in a line in a log so they can slowly get pushed out the other side in order to give a bit of a memory element to the bingo game it is built around. Perfect for early gamers as there are even a few decent decisions to be made and the whole game is very quickly grasped.
Slamwich (5+) – This is just Slapjack with a cute theme and a few extra bells and whistles–kids like it, and I suppose I don’t mind it. I’d advise playing without the “munchers”…they add almost nothing to the game for a bunch of unnecessary rules complexity.
Spot it! (3+) – Even though this is just a clever mathematical trick to create a deck of cards that each shares exactly one item with all other cards, there’s a decent game here as the common item is often surprisingly hard to find. And, like all “find x” games, it’s easy to throw the game to keep younger players competitive. I should point out my favorite way to play is to just draw two cards and race to find the common item…a variant that doesn’t seem to be printed in the rules.
Sumo Ham Slam (5+) – You could probably play this game of slamming magnet-controlled sumo-hamsters into each other with younger children, but two things make it hard to do. One, the magnets are a little touchy, especially if you are trying to make fast, jerky motions (as one would do when trying slam their “hams”), and two, it takes a mature kid to be able to have their ham ruthlessly sumo-slammed into the dirt and still remain a good sport. Otherwise, this will definitely be a hit, especially when the hamsters accidentally “throw up” their food after an especially hard slam.
Ugah Ugah (5+) – This is just another Yahtzee/King of Tokyo/etc game where you get three rerolls and all that to get a final array of dice for points. Honestly, there are enough twists (moving cavemen with some dice, bones which autolock as nothing) that this is actually a pretty good variation on the style. I like this one quite a lot, and it works great for kids too.