5 Fun, Inexpensive Summer Games for Kids

Sheri Reed
Big Kid

sardines game kidstoss up game

Who knew playing board games and card games with kids could not only be enjoyable but also educational? It's true. Many games are full of fun, well-disguised math problems and more.

Well, Molly Balint of the blog MommyCoddle and homeschooling mom to four girls knew this. And so today Molly shares with us her five favorite games to play with her kids. All the games on Molly's list are inexpensive, easy to find, and can teach your kids a little something.

This post is going to have you and your kids doing math and liking it playing games like nobody's business. Read on.

Summer Games

By Molly Balint

My love for board games and card games waxes and wanes. In the past, my husband Dan and I have been known to stay up playing backgammon or speed solitaire. I went through a phase where every get-together with family ended with intense rounds of "nerts" around the table. (I may have even been known to break a hanging ceiling light in my arm-raised-in-victory enthusiasm.) 

But recently, I have discovered (or rediscovered) how much fun it is to play these kinds of games with my children. Not only is it fun, and the competition hilarious and thrilling, but there is some amazing brain energy and learning that takes place. 

A few weeks ago, I heard the girls tell their dad that they hadn't done any Math that day at all. Little did they know they'd been figuring, estimating, matching, sorting, counting, and adding in an afternoon of game-playing. 

So I thought I'd share some of my most recent best-loved games. They are all inexpensive and easy to find. And I hope in return, you'll share some of your favorites with me as well. Because I have officially declared this the summer of games. 

summer games

1. Blink

This card game was actually recommended to me by the woman who handles my homeschool reviews each year. It is a card game of speed, where you are matching cards based on their color, shape, or number. You and your partner play simultaneously and the goal is to be the first person to run out of cards. It is addictive. Thrilling. And I could feel my brain ache as I played. It is SO good for exercising your brain muscles! I tend to get tense and loud when I play. Dan is calm, cool and collected (which drives me crazy). And my daughter Emma, age 8, is mad-fast--and currently the champion. (We keep score on the chalkboard in the kitchen.) 

You can find the game at Amazon ($7.17) or at Target for under $5. But I recommend springing for the deluxe version ($6), which has it's own metal tin to hold the cards when you're not playing. 

summer games

2. Toss Up

This little game was an after-thought when I was at the store buying Blink. And I think I may have initially purchased it for the cute purple case that stores the dice. But it was still a great purchase. You roll ten dice which are sided in either red, yellow, or green. Your goal is to roll as many green-sided dice as possible in your turn. However, after your first roll, you decide if you want to take a risk, roll again and try to get more greens, or stick with your original roll. It takes logic and luck.

And my daughter Mary, age 6, apparently, has the magic touch with this game. I think I should take her to Vegas. The game suggests you play until 100 points, counting up the number of green dice. I like to play to a larger number and make the girls do different kinds of skip-counting to count their points. (10s, 5s, 2s, etc)

I also found this one at Target for under $4. It's $7.99 on Amazon.

summer games

3. Dominoes

I finally taught my girls the proper way to play dominoes (besides lining them up and knocking them down.) We play the Mexican train version. The great thing about dominoes is that it can be played at any level. My daughter Elizabeth, age 3, can match up colors. Mary can match up colors and numbers on the dominoes, and Emma is beginning to see how to strategize while she plays, trying to end with the least amount of points as possible. There are so many great learning opportunities with a fun game of dominoes.

You really need a set of double twelves, in my opinion. And the little Wooden Domino Trays ($7.99) make it feel ten times more special. I found ours at Target as well for under $10, and Amazon also has a Dominoes set ($12.99).

4. Sleeping Queens

This game was a gift to the girls from Emily. It is a great card game that Mary and Emma can easily play together without my help. Different cards have different abilities -- like the ability to "steal" a queen, save her, or put her "to sleep". But the actual game play can also involve some simple math problems, if you choose to play it that way. When Emma and I made our (second) follow-up trip to the ER a few weeks ago, we played Sleeping Queens while we waited and waited and waited and.....

Availabe at Amazon ($9.44) (and this one, Frog Juice, looks really cute, too!)

summer games

5. Kanoodle

This was one was also a gift from Emily and Emma immediately squirreled it away into her room. It is a great take-with-you game and requires great thinking skills about spatial relationships, geometry. You start at a beginning easy level and can independently work your way up to harder and harder configurations of arranging the shapes, until you are eventually building complex pyramids. It's a bit like a 3D version of Tetris. It also comes in a nifty case and would be a great thing to bring to the pool, car trip (as long as you don't drop the parts between the seats), waiting rooms, etc. 

Kanoodle is $12.99 at Target.

summer games

6. Sardines

I've had this game in the cupboard for more than a year, and with my new addiction to card games, finally decided to take it out and figure out how to play. If the cute fish aren't enough, the game is all about using your memory. Each player gets five fish cards that they place face down in front of them. Then a box of "sardines" is played in front of everyone. You study the card for a few seconds, flip it over and then looking at your own cards, decide which of those fish were in the box of sardines. (Did that make any sense?) It's really another brain-stretching game. I love that my kids have to hold the images of those fish in their heads and try to recall them. It's a bit like the follow directions game. 

I found this card game at a toy store that was going out of business, but you can also find it on Amazon ($13.98).

So now, it's your turn, what are some of your favorite family games? I'd love to hear!

Also, check out the master list of games Molly's been collecting from her readers.


Originally posted on MommyCoddle. Photos via Molly Balint.

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