My family loves playing games. Now that my kids are getting older, the variety of games we can play has quickly expanded to include games that build thinking skills. Here are some of our favorite logic, strategy, and critical thinking games. A few of these games could easily be adapted for classroom use, too!
We have purchased most of these games on Amazon, or in stores like Target or Walmart. You can click on any of the games below to learn more or find all of these games on my Amazon page.
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Why Play Games That Build Thinking Skills?
When kids play logic or strategy games, they are developing critical thinking skills. Kids find patterns during game play and learn to make moves based on what they think their opponent may do next. During the game, kids must think about several different outcomes before choosing their best possible move. Then players must make on-the-spot decisions and adjust their strategy as the game continues. In other words, logic and strategy games help kids exercise their brain like a muscle.
Games That Build Thinking Skills
The traditional game has two players competing to be the first to get 4 in a row to win (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally). Not only are players working on their own row of 4, but they also have to keep their opponent from winning, too.
The card game is one we added to our collection recently. This one has a similar concept of getting 4 in a row, but you can have more than 2 players join in at one time. Each player has a challenge card that they are trying to create on the board. It might be a straight line of 4, a square, or an L-shape. There are also cards that allow players to rotate, cover, or remove tiles during the game. It definitely adds another level of complexity to the traditional game.
We found this game a few months ago. It’s a lot like Connect 4, but there can be up to 4 players, each with their own unique color. Each player also receives a special white square that can be played once during the game as an extra move to block another player from winning. This one is fast-paced, but also fun!
This game really gets my kids thinking! This is an independent game. There are 40 different challenges included (beginner to expert). For each challenge, the player sets up the cars on the grid to match the card. Then the player slides the cars vertically or horizontally while trying to free the red car from the board. Some puzzles are definitely more challenging than others!
The classic game of whodunit! A murder has been committed in the mansion, and each player must follow the clues to discover the person, place, and weapon used. The latest board game version has added some snoop cards to help reveal the mystery a little more quickly, but these cards are optional.
The card game is actually a little easier for beginning players. There are not as many people, weapons, or rooms to track, nor is there a board. Once a player makes a suggestion, they move cards into a different pile rather than crossing them off a piece of paper. This one is a much quicker version of the game to play!
Dog Crimes and Cat Crimes
These two games focus on logic. Students draw a card and use the clues to place each animal around the crime scene. Once students are sure everything is in place, they can turn the card over to verify the solution. The cards are labeled by difficulty, which allows students to progress through at their own pace.
I love that these games take up very little space. They combine reading with critical thinking in a fun way.
This is probably one of our favorite new finds this year and another independent game. There are 40 challenges that build in difficulty level as you play. This game has 9 magnetic pieces to be moved: 3 objects in each of 3 colors. Kids follow the logic clues to place all 9 pieces onto the grid. There is only one correct solution for each puzzle.
This traditional guessing game gets kids thinking critically about asking the right questions. At the start of the game, each player chooses a mystery character. Then players take turns asking yes or no questions to help narrow down that character. The first person to correctly guess the other player’s character wins!
The card game is very similar to the traditional game, but doesn’t have the tabletop display. Instead, each player receives a set of cards to lay in front of them. As a player narrows down the mystery character, he or she can remove the cards in front of them. This would be a much easier game to travel with.
no stress chess
I will be the first to admit that Chess is not my game. I have never been able to keep track of the different moves that each piece makes. However, my daughter really wanted to learn to play. My husband quickly taught her how to play with this version. She is now much more confident!
This is a great 2-player game that requires patience and thinking ahead. Each player moves their pieces towards their opponent’s side of the board while also trying not to have their own pieces jumped and captured. Once a piece reaches the far side of the board, it becomes a King and can move forwards and backwards. The object of this game is to be the last player standing by jumping, or capturing, all of your opponent’s pieces.
This is a game for 2-6 players. The object of the game is to be the first to move your 10 pegs from your side of the board into the triangular space on the other side. Each peg, or marble, can move one space forward. However, it can also jump, or hop, over other pieces on the board as long as there is an empty space on the other side. When pieces are staggered correctly, it makes moving from one side of the board to the other much easier. When my family plays, we choose two colors on opposite sides and we have to get those two colors to switch places.
This is a speed logic game for 2-3 players. When the game starts, a challenge card is flipped over. Each player races to move their marbles from one tube to another until all three of their tubes match the challenge card. If the marbles spill out or if a player touches them with their hands, that player is out for that round. The first player to complete the challenge correctly takes the challenge card. When a player has collected 5 challenge cards, the game is over.
This game is very similar to the Clue Master game I mentioned above. There is a little booklet with 60 challenges and a grid with 9 chocolate pieces (3 shapes in each of the 3 colors). Kids use the clues given to determine the placement of each chocolate piece.
shape by shape
If you love Tangrams, this is a great game. There are 14 different puzzle pieces in various shapes that fit into the grid to create 60 different pictures. The puzzle cards do not show the outline of the pieces, just the overall picture of a red object against a yellow background. Kids must determine how to arrange the pieces to recreate the picture.
This is a game that combines counting and strategy. On a player’s turn, he picks up all of the pieces from one pit on his side of the board and begins moving in a counter-clockwise motion, dropping them one at a time into the other pits around the board. There are several different ways to get more turns and to steal pieces from your opponent. The game is over when one person doesn’t have any stones left on his side of the board. The player with the most stones in his bowl wins the game.
This game involves strategy with a little bit of luck. Each player places their 5 ships on the grid. On a player’s turn, he guesses a location on the coordinate grid. There are two different colored pegs to track whether each guess is a hit or a miss. The player who sinks all 5 of their opponents ships first wins the game!
This game combines logic and deductive reasoning. The Codemaker creates a secret code using 4 pegs (there are 6 colors). The Codebreaker tries to match the code using logic, deduction, and often luck. After each guess, the Codemaker uses red and white pegs to tell the Codebreaker whether the pegs are the right color and/or in the right position.
This is a game for 2-4 players. Players lay down tiles that match either the shape or color of the tile next to it. As players lay down tiles, they score points. When there are 6 tiles in a line, that makes a Qwirkle, and the player scores bonus points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Do you have a favorite thinking game that builds thinking skills? I’d love to try it with my own kids.
You can find some of our favorite dice and card games for kids here.