Non-Traditional Games for Toddlers to Teens

Many children and adults live In a very technology driven, video game playing, and screen filled world. Our societal norms have shifted in the past decades from spending time together as families to participating in more individualized activities. As a Certified Child Life Specialist, I have seen children whose social skills are underdeveloped, aggression levels are heightened, and awareness of the environment around them is foggy. Researchers agree that children and families need more time together to connect, grow their relationships with one another, and communicate together more regularly. These are all reasons that I wanted to share ideas of unique games that families can play together from toddlers to teens. My goal in this blog is to encourage families to spend more time together through games that do not involve screens. I hope this helps your family to connect, have fun, and enjoy each other’s presence in a positive way. 

Growing up, my family always played games. I remember many evenings and weekends spent playing Candyland, Go Fish, Yahtzee, UNO, Monopoly, and more. As a matter of fact, my brother who is 4 years older than me, said that the whole reason I was born was so that I could be his game buddy. In other words, his test dummy for all the weird, as I would call them, unique, as he would call them, games. We still gather together to play games as a family and with friends. I am never lacking in game options as my brother is great at finding ones that we have never even heard of. Although there are many traditional and non-traditional games out there, I only recommended one game per age group. I hope you enjoy these recommendations and let me know how it goes when you play them as a family. 


Melissa & Doug’s “Monster Bowling” is geared towards ages 2 and up. My brother gave this to our son Thompson for Christmas as his very first game. He loved it and still plays with it all the time and is nearly 3 years old. It comes with a neat carry case that all the monsters and monster ball fit snugly inside. The monsters are fun looking, have designs that make them very tactile for sensory interest, and the concept of the game is easily understood. The child takes the monster ball and throws or rolls it at the monster bowling pins. This game can be played solo or with multiple players and can be played for as long as the child or family are interested. This game promotes movement and exercise, hand eye coordination, and fine motor development. 


“Farm Rescue” is best suited for children ages 4 and up, lasts about 15 minutes and is for 1-5 players. This cooperative game for younger children is similar to Memory in that the cards are initially face up and gradually are placed face down. Children and families are to remember the locations of different animals as they roll dice and flip corresponding tiles accordingly. The goal of the game is to save the animals from the wolf by helping the farmer rescue the animals. This game teaches children teamwork, memory, and matching. Adults will enjoy this one as they play together with their children. Brain Games created this game and it has won both theImagination Gaming Young Einstein and Player’s Choice Awards in 2019.


The game “No Thank You, Evil!” sounds funky at first. However, when you dig deeper into the game, it has some great qualities to help children harness their creativity. This game is for children ages 5 and up, lasts about 30 minutes, and is for 2-5 players. What I love most about this game is that it is suitable for younger children as well as older children. This provides a bridge for siblings of different ages to play a game together without getting bored because the game is too easy and not at their level or frustrated because it is too hard and over their head. The game comes with rules that are easily adapted to the abilities of the players. To play, an adult or older child is “The Guide.” They start the story using an adventure provided in the game or one they make up themself. The other children playing the game then create a character based on descriptive, imaginative traits and then they take an action. The Guide decides how hard the action is on a scale of 0 to 8 and these are called “The Goal.” Actions succeed or fail based on a roll of the dice. What drew me to this game was that it is unique and does not tell children what to do and how to think. It actually allows them to envision the story, use their creativity to design characters and how the story unfolds, and encourages their imagination, which is what it has won awards for. It also helps them to learn about overcoming obstacles and working together which are essential life skills. 


“Wingspan” is a fun, educational game for ages 10 and up, lasts between 40-70 minutes and is for 1-5 players. It is currently BoardGameGeek’s #1 Family Game. It has won multiple awards and I can see why. When my brother introduced me to this game, as usual, I was like…what is this mess?!?! Haha. The beautifully illustrated bird cards, colorful, wooden eggs I could touch, and 3-D bird feeder where dice are rolled, all drew my attention. The game is simple in that you are bird enthusiasts and are seeking to discover and attract a diverse array of birds to your wildlife reserve. By taking different actions and having strategy, you gain victory points and the player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins. This game is educational in that it has over 170 bird cards with interesting facts, nest types, wingspan, and geographic habitats. Another benefit of Wingspan is that it is a game that is able to be played many times with various outcomes and has expansion packs for those who want to dig even deeper into the world of birds.

To dive deeper into any of these games, click the links provided to find them on Amazon. I hope these games can serve as a bridge for your family to have some much needed screenless fun! So, gather up your crew, grab some snacks, and enjoy!

2 Comments on “Non-Traditional Games for Toddlers to Teens

  1. My two oldest daughters (5 and 9) love “No Thank You, Evil!” They love using their imagination so much during the day when they play together, and NTYE now allows them to take the characters they’ve made in the games and continue stories even when I’m not guiding the games! We’ll have to check out Wingspan once they get a bit older. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Thanks for your comment Will! I am so happy to hear that your daughters loved that game and for sure Wingspan should be next on your list! You’re very welcome for the recommendations and thanks for following along with Glory Be! That’s Me.

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