Our Favorite Cooperative, No-Tears Board Games

updated Mar 9, 2022
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Credit: Laura Hennigan

The past year, and especially the last few months, has been all.about.the.togetherness. A long stretch of cold days and early darkness has kept our family, including my 4th-grader and 1st-grader, inside and on the hunt for boredom busters. 

We’ve adopted not just family game night, but also family game afternoon, and sometimes family game morning. As an admitted win-junkie, I am always down for a cutthroat round of Monopoly or Uno. But many kids struggle with the disappointment of “losing,” often leading to frustration, outbursts, and even full-on meltdowns.

Enter our new favorite option: games that are cooperative, allowing us to play together instead of against each other. We rotate through these on repeat, as they are designed for a mixed group of ages and abilities, and guaranteed to cause zero tears.

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For the Budding Detective: Outfoxed

The prized pot pie has been stolen, and you will need to work together to figure out which tricky fox is running away with it. Players move around the board, rolling dice, collecting clues, and eliminating suspects.

Outfoxed emphasizes problem solving and teamwork, plus you get to use a cool decoder.

This game is simple to learn, requires minimal reading, and changes a little bit every time you play. 

  • Age range: It’s appropriate for kiddos age 4 and up.
  • Time to play: It can be played in 15 to 20 minutes.

For the Wiggly: Hedbanz and  Hedbanz Jr.

Secure your plastic headband, grab a card from the pile, and start the guessing game! Ask the other players “yes” or “no” questions to figure out what your picture is.

In classic Hedbanz, cards are animals, foods, or common objects. In the Jr. version, all the cards are animals only.

This game is perfect for when families prefer to move around and get some wiggles out, instead of sitting around a table.

  • Age range: It’s designed for ages 5 to adult.
  • Time to play: You can play Hedbanz anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes, depending on how long everyone stays engaged and interested.

For the Travel-Obsessed: Baggage Blunder

This travel-themed scavenger hunt game keeps players moving, checking their packing list and searching for their missing luggage cards. Baggage Blunder can be played by one child individually, or two people if they want to race. Minimal adult involvement is required — your role as the gate agent involves hiding the cards, occasionally providing hints, and cheering the passengers on.

Confine it to one or two rooms, or distribute cards throughout the entire house to encourage serious energy burning. 

  • Age range: Baggage Blunder is ideal for kids ages 4 and older.
  • Time to play: It takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to play.

For the Strategist: Race to the Treasure!

Players are racing against the Ogre to build a path to the treasure, collecting keys along the way, and trying to beat him to the End. Race to the Treasure! emphasizes shared decision making, promoting collaboration and teamwork. There is a bit of strategy involved, along with problem solving. Bonus: because one of the game pieces is an Ogre snack, we usually whip up some Monster Party Mix to munch on while playing.

  • Age range: Race to the Treasure! is recommended for ages 5 and up.
  • Time to play: It can be played in about 20 minutes.