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  • 16 Screen-Free Tabletop Games That Develop Reading and Life Skills!

    Tabletop games help the whole family to unplug from devices!
    by Anna Rhea Manuel . Published Dec 2, 2018
16 Screen-Free Tabletop Games That Develop Reading and Life Skills!
  • Board games, card games, dice/tile games. Practically anything you play on a flat surface is tabletop games. If you and your family aren’t game converts yet or still thinking if it’s worth to boost your collection beyond Monopoly and Scrabble (keep them!), there are other reasons why playing tabletop games can bring you so much joy.

    How tabletop games help develop your child's development

    Tabletop games help the whole family to unplug from devices

    What usually brings kids on devices anyway? YES, GAMES! They’re accessible, varied, and entertaining. Tabletop games meet those needs in a healthier brain-pace fashion. In the public funding platform Kickstarter alone in 2016, tabletop game projects attracted six times more funding than their digital counterparts. People seem to want more face-to-face game interaction than ever! Being present to each other seems to be more and more challenging to achieve for many. Playing a game is a quick way to clock in moments together.

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    These games teach basic life skills

    Understanding and following rules (or coming up with new ones!), taking turns, planning, having integrity, collaborating, learning to play with people of different skills, experience, and enthusiasm, being a good sport, and so much more! What better way to practice (or revisit) these life skills than through play?

    Tabletop games can be informative and educational

    Plenty of board games and card games base their core concepts from history, economics, politics, business, medicine, etc. They cater to a wide range of interests, which your family can discover which ones hook you best!

    These type of games develop reading skills

    Playing tabletop games involve skills that we use when we read. We strategize, think critically, and adjust according to play. Most require some level of reading, whether it’s reading out words or recognizing symbols, words, colors, shapes.

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    Aside from those mentioned in my previous article, there are other games I encourage you to explore in your family and why they’re great:


    Games for the littlest ones

    These teach the basics of playing a game like rules and turn-taking. These also teach visual recognition and discrimination, which are two critical skills in beginning reading.

    Cat in the Hat I Can Do That Card Game

    This silly sentence-making game tells you to do silly things like “Skip to the fridge with the fridge on your head.”

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    Hoot Owl Hoot!

    Bring the owls home before the sun rises! Great to learn color matching and working together.

    My First Carcassonne

    A strategic road-building game for little hands, with sturdy tiles and large meeples (or human-shaped pato).

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    Storytelling Games

    Have you always wanted to be a better storyteller? These games are for you! They encourage players to be creative and spontaneous with words. These are designed in a way that lets you come up with different stories each time (or even different rules).

    Rory’s Story Cubes

    It's a picture dice game with different, exciting themes.

    Untold: Adventures Await

    It has more complex plot lines and for kids who like sci-fi, mystery, pop culture.

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    Visual games

    Are you a more visual player and prefer talking less? These challenge the brain spatially and allows you to recognize how people approach tasks in different ways — and get to appreciate this!

    Memory Palace


    It boosts your memory strategy with rooms of the house, animals, and monsters! Great for younger kids.


    It's a visual guessing game like Pictionary, but with pre-drawn images, players put together.



    It is similar to Imagine, but it is more abstract (and perfect for tweens). 

    Junk Art

    It's like Jenga but with different shapes and challenges.

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    Board games

    Do you enjoy following a complex set of rules involving different details and problem-solving? These require a lot of non-linear thinking, planning, strategizing, and real-life concepts, which are engaging and bring depth to our appreciation of history, progress, business, basically everything!



    It's a cooperative crisis management game. Either you all win, or you all lose. Pretty powerful stuff.

    Settlers of Catan

    If your kid likes creating something out of nothing, you’ll definitely enjoy this.

    Ticket to Ride

    This is for a family who loves to travel and planning trips (and/or sabotaging others’!)

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    Card games

    Like me, do you like easy and fun rules? These pretty easy to carry and they’re quick to finish!

    Exploding Kittens

    The aim of the game is not to explode! Note: There are children and adult card packs, which have different age-appropriate artwork.

    Sushi Go!

    A quick hand-swapping game with cuteness overload! 

    Cheating Moth

    Where the best cheat wins! 

    Monopoly Deal

    Here’s the long-awaited shortcut version of this well-loved but sometimes looong-drawn out game!For these more complex games, involve your littlest ones by giving them tasks to do like rolling the dice, picking a card, moving the markers, and choosing among options.


    What are you waiting for? Visit games cafes and have a go at different games before you commit to buying. And once you have your collection, host a games night with your friends and family. It encourages community and connection for both kids and adults. Have a fun and meaningful get-together through play!

    Born to a family of teachers, Anna Manuel is a reading advocate and a children’s book author with a degree in Language Education, with a minor in Special Education, and a Master's in Reading Education. She is the master storyteller behind Melbourne-based Heads and Tales, which offers storytelling sessions, family literacy workshops, performances, and more. Her work and latest book, Leo’s Pet Bugfocuses on empathy, which she believes keeps us connected and thriving.

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