Co-operative games are a great way to "team build". They provide a scenario in which the group must work together to achieve a group objective. In general, while there is usually an element of chance involved, the better the group co-operaties, the greater the chance they will be successful and complete the objective.
Co-operative games have the advantage of bringing a group together regardless of any age or ability disparities. They also allow players who have difficulty coping with competition to enjoy a game together. There is a message that reaches beyond these games into life in general--that when we work together we can accomplish great things.
For co-operative board games, try Family Pastimes for a variety of games, mostly aimed at the 12 and under set, and also:
Pandemic by Z-Man Games in which players try and contain and control the spread of contagious diseases
Vanished Planet Note: although it comes highly recommended, we have not yet tried this game
Or try these more physical games:
Untangle (best as a larger group game)
Co-operative musical chairs variation: use hula hoops instead of chairs, and each time the music stops a hoop is removed. All remaining players must squeeze into the remaining hoops. No one is "out", but it gets pretty squishy! We often call this "sinking islands".
Co-operative variation to tag: frozen tag/partner tag where those not yet caught may unfreeze the caught person or pair by crawling under their legs (or joined hands).
Several of these parachute games are co-operative, or can be played as such.
These are ideal for young children and also multi-age groups. Try the variation on the Popcorn game for some true co-operative spirit!
We have been known to adapt conventional board games to make them co-operative. For example, in the Settlers of Catan games, we give ourselves a time limit and together as a group we set a total points goal to reach within that time limit. This encourages friendly trading of commodities as well, and gives the game a whole new flavour.
Hot Potato--players sit in a circle and when the music plays, pass the potato (or other appropriate item) around the circle. When the music stops, the player with the potato is "out". Variation: wrap a small toy in several layers of wrap and use it for the potato. When the music stops, the person with it unwraps a single layer of paper.
Also good for parties:
Games by Theme:
Wizarding / Harry Potter-Themed Games
Nutcracker/Christmas Themed Games
Games For Medieval Princesses
Games for Medieval Knights Jousting, saving the princess, running the gauntlet and storming the castle
Light and Sound Themed Games (you will need to scroll down)
Valentine's Day/Friendship Games
Halloween Themed Games
Christmas and Winter Themed Games
Also see the Party Page for more games and activities by theme
Mancala is one of our favourites. You can make your own Mancala game.
Tangrams and pentominoes can also be easily made at home, and offer many variations for play.
Bao is another African bean game often mistaken for Mancala, but with a strategy all its own Rules and further details here
Quadrago is a version of 3-D tic-tac-tow, but with a 4 x 4 x 4 grid made up of 16 posts on which wooden beads are placed, AND the centre 4 posts rotate at the end of each turn
Other recommended math skills games:
Monopoly, Payday, and other conventional "money counting" games
Card games (using standard playing cards) including rummy, go fish, crazy 8's and some of our own card game variations
Mastermind (you can make your own paper and pencil version of this one using coloured pencils)
For more paper and pencil games, see: "Paper and Pencil Games" website for more ideas and Wild About Math
Story / Language / Dramatic Play Games
Pictionary--make your own versions using drawing, charades, modelling clay, etc.
Headbandz / transformation dilemma (see the sidebar on the wizard page)
Complete the Story Games: each person contributes either a single word or sentence (decide ahead) to a group story, which continues around the circle of players.
Rory's Story Cubes: these versatile dice can be used for complete the story, your own version of charades, as a writing prompt, for dramatic improvisation--the only limit is your own creativity.
What is this stick? Each player must invent a new use for the stick by acting out its use. Example: player 1 digs with it, making it a shovel; player 2 uses it as a violin bow, player 3 uses it like cutlery, etc. The play progresses around the circle until new ideas run out.
Darling If You Love Me One person is "it" and the others sit in a circle. "It" tries to force another player to smile or laugh by choosing a person and repeating to them, "Darling, if you love me won't you please, please smile?" in whatever accent/role etc. they wish, to which the chosen person must reply "Darling, you know I love you, but I just can't smile" without smiling or laughing. "It" repeats this with different players until someone smiles or laughs. They then trade places and the play continues.
20 questions: aka "Animal, vegetable, mineral"
Boggle--Make your own game by placing alphabet stickers on the sides of dice--be sure to add lots of vowels!
Just plain good games!
Nine Men's Morris
Snakes and Ladders
Settlers of Catan (classic version, card game, and various game expansions)
Laser Khet 2.0 Laser maze game
Labyrinth Card Game
Blockus (we prefer the squares to the triangles)
Set Excellent for visual processing; also see the online daily Set puzzle here
And for the conquerors out there:
Risk Not recommended for the highly competitive!
Physical /Active Games
Hullaballoo by Cranium
Musical Chairs--play music, and when it stops the players must race to occupy a chir (or mat, etc.). Each time the music starts again, a chair is eliminated and those without a seat are "out". See co-operative games for an inclusive version of this game.
Parachute Games Including: Cat and Mouse, Mushroom, Popcorn, Colours, Shark Attack and Twirl
Also see Co-operative Games
Hide and Seek
Kick the Can
Capture the Flag
Tag (and variations)
Manhunt A variation of tag; Wikipedia rules for it can be found here
Pool Quidditch (sidebar of Wizard page)
Relay Races--Get creative with dress-up versions, strange walks/runs/hops, obstacle courses, etc. Try incorporating a puzzle (or other multi-step task) into a relay race too. Find or make a simple puzzle with the same number of pieces as team members. Each racer retrieves a puzzle piece and adds it to complete the puzzle.
Other variations: spoon / bucket brigade (racers retrieve water to add to a larger team bucket), or the egg and spoon race.
Snow Play: Snow Snakes
Also, adapting summer games to the snow: frisbee, touch football, field quidditch
Not strictly games as such, but fun nonetheless:
snow angels, painting snow,
building: forts, snow people, walls (use recycling bins to make giant bricks), castles, etc.
animal tracking, snowshoeing, skiing (cross-country or downhill)
These games allow players of varying ages to play without any age-related advantage or disadvantage.
Hide & Seek