Top 3 Cooperative Games for Families (No Tears!)

“Gameschooling” is a big part of our home learning environment. We play a LOT of games: traditional games, kids games, board games, card games, math games, invented games. At least one a day. Some days, we might play 3 different games back to back. This sheer volume of games is one big factor in how we reduced the tears or tantrums over winning and losing. Games aren’t a rare occurrence or just once a week on family game night; they’re a part of daily life so it doesn’t feel like a Big Event. Games are also great learning opportunities: cooperation, logic, predicting and guessing, counting, and more.

We don’t own Monopoly for this exact reason!

In our family, we have only a few firm family rules. One is “have fun”. Yep, really. So if tempers are flaring during a game, someone (usually this bedraggled mama) will ask “So… are we having fun?” and if everyone says “NO!” then we can all stop playing. Or, maybe we let everyone make up a new funny rule to up the silly factor.


But the BEST additions to our game library – and game playing skills – are cooperative games. These are parent-sanity-savers! Games where everyone plays together to “beat the game” without an individual winner or loser. Here are our family’s top 3, much beloved, all-time favorite, cooperative games with no tears. Ballpark age range 4-10, but we parents genuinely love these games and chronological age for kiddos isn’t always an accurate gauge.

Is there a cooperative game your family loves that we should try? Let me know in the comments.

#1: Outfoxed!

Foxy has stolen a pie. Your family has to figure out which fox dunnit! Outfoxed is a mash-up of “Guess Who” and “Clue”. Players move around the board collecting clues. Clues (top hat, pearls, cape, etc) go in a magical spy decoder to show if your fox thief is wearing that item. Narrow down the results and guess which fox is the thief before the Fox piece makes it to the end of the board! My daughter loves memory games, matching, guessing, spies and dress-up so this is RIGHT up her alley.  The instructions felt cumbersome and I couldn’t figure it out, so we just started playing before we really knew what we were doing. We played 2 rounds in a row, and were hooked! Just like life, sometimes you gotta jump in with both feet.


#2: Mermaid Island

Peaceable Kingdom are the makers of several cooperative games (many on my Amazon wishlist for the next big holiday). We have Mermaid Island which is a cooperative game where the group of mermaids try to get to Mermaid Island before the Sea Witch. The board, instructions and pieces are simple and would be easy for even toddler fingers. But it is surprisingly quite a fun game. Our family added a rule which has stuck: if the Sea Witch is closing in on a mermaid in your group, someone can choose to donate their turn or the number of spaces they rolled to help the family member in jeopardy move ahead faster! My sweet daughter made that rule up. Isn’t that the best? Team Mermaid All Day.

#3: Richard Scarry’s Busytown

I-spy and 4 foot long board. Richard Scarry’s Busytown is delightfully unique and has a great “wow factor” at play dates. Move your piece through the long board of the town. If you spin an “i-spy”, a timer is set and the whole group tries to find as many of the chosen object as possible (find all the hotdogs or traffic cones or kites, etc). Towards the end, all players have to be together to get to Picnic Island before the pigs eat the snacks. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense, but it is super cute and the best part is everyone scrambling to find little details on the huge map. We set it up on the floor with pillows; jammies optional.

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