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Top educational board games

By Atom | Sep 7, 2023, 1:00 PM

Father and two children sitting at a table and playing a board game together

Board games are a perfect activity for the holidays. On top of being a way to make happy memories, many of them have fantastic educational value.

We know that games help children to develop behaviours that will serve them well for life: teamwork, turn-taking, and time management, to name a few. There are lots of modern and traditional board games – many of which we remember from our own childhood – which can nurture specific skills that will be useful in the classroom, in exams, and beyond.

So for your next family games night, here's a rundown of our favourite educational board games. Our top picks encourage children to develop STEM skills, problem-solving, creative thinking and critical analysis, all while having fun.

Non-verbal reasoning

Non-verbal reasoning involves analysing visual information and solving problems using shapes, diagrams and pictures. It's commonly part of CEM and GL 11 plus exams for grammar school entrance, as well as ISEB and other independent school exams.

These board games are useful for sharpening logical, problem-solving and pattern-spotting skills.



  • Educational objectives: Logical and strategic thinking

  • Why we love it: One of the most widely played games in the western world! This simple-to-learn game requires logical thinking, counting and strategy.



  • Educational objectives: Problem solving and strategy

  • Why we love it: The possibilities are infinite! Introducing children to chess is a gift they’ll appreciate forever. While you may or may not have a grandmaster on your hands, children will love the accomplishment of thinking ahead.

Connect 4

  • Educational objectives: Logical and strategic thinking

  • Why we love it: A classic that can be as fun for adults as children. Players have to be thoughtful and methodical to beat their opponent.

Draughts (checkers)

Draughts or checkers

  • Educational objectives: Problem solving

  • Why we love it: This game introduces children to a checkers board. Players must move their pieces diagonally, with the aim to capture all of their opponent’s pieces.


  • Educational objectives: Strategic thinking

  • Why we love it: An ancient game that is easy to learn. The objective is to capture more stones or gems than your opponent. This is a quick game that doesn’t take hours to set up and play.


  • Educational objectives: Logical thinking

  • Why we love it: So simple yet so clever! A game for two players where you have to use logic to work out what your opponent is thinking. Another quick option when you don’t have hours to spare.


  • Educational objectives: Strategic thinking

  • Why we love it: A fun game for ages 7+. The objective of the game is to secure a ‘sequence’ or five in a row. Players select a card from their hand and place a chip on the corresponding space on the board. Each card is pictured twice on the game board, so everyone must choose their space wisely!

Maths and numerical reasoning

These games will support your child to practise some of the maths skills that they'll use during Key Stage 2 and in entrance exams.


  • Educational objectives: Strategic thinking, spatial reasoning, position

  • Why we love it: A classic strategy game for two players, played on grids. Players take turns calling ‘shots’ at each others’ ships using coordinates.



  • Educational objectives: Number fluency and strategy

  • Why we love it: Starting on 501, the winner is the first person to reach exactly zero. To succeed in darts your mental subtraction and multiplication skills need to be top-notch!


  • Educational objectives: Number fluency and strategy

  • Why we love it: A classic game that makes us all feel like property magnates. This is superb for practising mental calculations and getting children thinking about budgets and spending.

Shut the Box

  • Educational objectives: Number fluency

  • Why we love it: This traditional game can be played with nothing more than a pair of dice, pen and paper. Each player rolls the dice and ‘shuts’ any combination of numbers that equal the sum of dots on the dice. Quick mental addition and subtraction are useful!


  • Educational objectives: Number fluency and strategy

  • Why we love it: A classic game that’s easy to set up. For younger players, this is a really fun way to practise quick addition. For older children, there’s a lot of strategy involved in winning!

Verbal reasoning and English

Verbal reasoning is problem-solving with written information, and it's another common part of grammar school and independent senior school 11 plus entrance exams.

These games are helpful for honing reading fluency, vocabulary knowledge and attention to detail which will benefit your child for verbal reasoning and Key Stage 2 English alike.



  • Educational objectives: Vocabulary, verbal fluency, time management

  • Why we love it: The kids’ edition of this party game is a great opportunity to boost their vocabulary. The ‘describer’ has to give clues to a word without actually saying it, and teammates have to race to guess the word. Knowledge of synonyms will be helpful!


  • Educational objectives: spelling, vocabulary, time management

  • Why we love it: Players must race to use all their letters to build a word grid. This banana-themed language game can be played with 2–8 people in as little as 10 minutes. Younger children will find this more accessible than the popular classic Scrabble.


  • Educational objectives: Vocabulary, definitions, spotting connections

  • Why we love it: Two rival spymasters must give one-word clues that link to multiple words on the board, while teammates try to guess words of the right colour. Ideal for children 10+, although there are family editions available for all ages.


  • Educational objectives: Creativity, storytelling, comprehension

  • Why we love it: A beautifully illustrated card game for ages 8+. Players take turns being the storyteller and make up a sentence or phrase that describes a card. Others must guess which card inspired their story.

Guess Who

  • Educational objectives: logical and strategic thinking, descriptive skills, antonyms, deduction

  • Why we love it: A popular classic, players take turns asking yes or no questions to try and eliminate options to name their opponent’s mystery character.

We hope you and your family enjoy playing some of these board games. Top tip: you can sometimes find second-hand board games in charity shops, and they make great gifts! We've shared more ways to get your child excited about learning here.

Make the most of online learning this holiday

Looking for more fun ways for your child to develop knowledge, skills and confidence? Atom Nucleus is the all-in-one online learning platform to help children aged 7–11 master the Key Stage 2 curriculum and prepare for exams.


  • Over 90,000 interactive questions in English, maths, science, verbal and non-verbal reasoning

  • Unlimited 11 plus mock tests mirroring the style and content of grammar and independent school entrance exams

  • Automatic marking with data insights, allowing you to stay on top of your child's progress

  • Hundreds of engaging helpsheets and video lessons

Try Atom Nucleus for free for five days and see the difference it makes to your child.

More holiday activities for your child

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