Kids Hospital Suggestions

Off the top of my head:

Gulo Gulo - the only problem is the pieces may get lost easily

Villa Paletti

Blokus/Blokus Trigon



several lists combined into 1.   I admit I don't have a ton of actual game experience.. But I will match my immaturaty against anybody any time...

So in a vaguely sorted format here is my list (I tried to get to 25  but could not.  (well maybe with my rejects))


before I start, I have to ask who you envision playing these games with.  I only ask because  this whole contest brought me back to my childhood.  And back then games were taught by word of mouth.  (an adult playst a game/teaches it to a child....child enjoys & passes on to friend, etc.)  similar to the shampoo commercial (2 friends)  except there is a salient point here.  If we want to even pretend to offer good games. somebody is going to have to explain them.  This is where your distirbution method matters.  are you giving pristine unopened games to nurses to distribute to favorite friends.  there is more.   comes down to dispersal.   My 1st suggestiong is leaving a manilla folder wtih each game that has quick start & imprtant play material.  Because honeslty it would suck to donate 18 games to a hospital and have them sit forlorn because they nobody knows how to play.  (other option is opening & punching games & putting player aids in the box.


wow.  I apologize for my extreme lack of ablity to make a point in less thatn one sentance.

Rats...I have mondo justification for each & ever game.  but I have taken way too much time already.  I apologize.  here is my helpful hints


Extremely young kids:

there aren't many, but what about vey young kids.  I have 2 reccomendations specificly for pre-preschool children.

1) Theres a moose in your hous 

honestly it's a very simple card game.  the cards are rooms, doors, moose, & moose traps.  You don't even have to count, only recognize rooms.  And from experience I now k-2 (roughly) kids love screaming "you have a moose in your house".  

  I don't know.  it doesn't prepare a person for bigger & better games.  But I also believe it's a true pre-kindergarten gateway game.

2) The Ladybug Game

this boild down to a candyland ripoff.  You draw a card & move your cheerful & friendly ladybugs across the lawn to the good pasture.   In my review I enjoyed this game immensly, but only because my daughter can make anythign funny.  This is a tough one.  It's perfect for games the cards are easy to shuffle with small hands,  The moves are exactly on the card.  (even if you don't know the numers there are icons on the bottom of each card which tell exactly what moves are next.  it's great for teaching younger kids gaming. that's my youngest group,.   The next series are games for all levels.  they are mostly distinguished for (roughly 2nd grade)  kids who can grasp concepts if not words. so basicall games that take less than  5 minutes to explain &  which are engaging.


The tile laying game.  You don't have to read, or count, just place your tile.  There is some debate (especially towards endgame) as to certain posiblities.  But they don't matter.  this is a perfect multi-age, multi skill game, because there is no reading, just being able to follow a path (and keep themselves on a path. ) 


this is totally a classic.  And you don't have to read much (just the citie cards)  I have seen ages 6-40 play  in the same game.  It's incredibly simple, yet challenging when you are in the game.  I have played with a 6 year old, so I can verify to that age (with help though)


another fantastic game.  this time involves counting.  still open to many people, cards, which are simple.  and pirate theme, always a plus.    I personallly cringe every time I add this to anything.   because of the horrible color combinations.  But if you are openeing the games to add player handouts, marking one of the matching blue colors for the color blind kids isn't an onerous it?


    Some call it pirate candyland.  I say....maybe.  what I do know is that it's a simple mechanic, and you can adapt it as you see fit.  at any level it requires little to no reading.  I



Simple disk flicking.  but fingers get in the way.  It get frustrating, but with tiny track, we make it work.


rats I had more for that list.  I am sorry.  please add cribbage (very warm place from my heart)  and stone (my heart get it)


anyway next list is games you must buy unless they have them


classic game from my childhood.  I remember playing this for hours.  another one is Aggrevation.  if I recall corectly both are afailable.


admitedly it's iffy from the surroundings.  But it's good for camaflouging also the game is good for heartening family members through an exploratory.

okay sorry everything went whac-a-ding-hoy so finighing qick


games I know nothing about but think might work & why.

Gulo-Gulo-  I have heard tons about how good this game is, and especialyy as an abstract for balance.  Sot it's all good, & I hope I don't disrupt the balance from my posts.


Gipf series.  I have seen 1 game  zerts?   the point is, I remember 2nd-4th grade as my introduction to chess & backgammon & othello & al.   We are past reading comprehension & school grades, but I have seen those who appear to enjoy (and others who appear to be good at)  anyway, wwill continue on this end.  thank you.

Another thing to think about is the longevity of the rules.  You may want to consider seeing if the games have a nice summary on BGG and then getting them laminated.

I have been to enough hospitals to find that the only game I CAN play are the ones that have the rules actually printed on the box lid because if they were separate... they are LONG gone.

Having a bunch of games isn't going to do much good if nobody knows how to play them.

Laminating also allows for them to last for a LONG time.

 I've got a couple of games to recommend:

1) The aMAZEing Labyrinth - This is a really fun little game that plays well with 2, 3, and 4 players and is super easy to learn. Best of all it's so much fun just to play and manipulate the maze that winning and losing don't feel so important.

2) Top Secret Spies - Simple and fun, but a touch more strategic than most children's fare.

3) Loco - Really quick to teach and requires very little table space, plays fast even with several players, and throws in some math skills. Might be a bit too much screwage factor for oyunger players though...

That's all I've got for now.

great start! Woo hoo! Thanks to everyone who is submitting suggestions. I really appreciate the help.

You bring up some great points to consider about how we are "bundling" the games when we donate them. I am not sure how Dave is imagining things, but I was envisioning haveing the games ready to play (punched and bagged and ready to go) AND including a quick start guide with the basic rules if there is not one already included with the game.

Now I have to start assembling my list for the next show!

    Stephen, sorry it took so long, but here is (I think) a good mix of possible games for the Children's Hospitals (keeping in mind that the age ranges vary of course).

Settlers of Catan

Gulo Gulo


Ticket To Ride



Stone Age

10 Days In the USA

Saint Petersburg



Mille Bornes


Airships (sounded cool from your last show)

Carcassonne (base game)

Lost Cities

To Court The King



LOTR The Confrontation

Hey That's My Fish




Incan Gold

Race for the Galaxy

Thurn & Taxis


Fairy Tale


     Hope this adds or make your list easier to compile. Later, Jason.

Some great suggestions already - I would add that a key criteria should be that it does not matter if some of the bits get lost. It is hard enough keeping track of components in your own house, with kids around, so who knows what it might be like in a busy hospital.

So, to my thought, the Steerpike 2c:

Apples to Apples Kids - this one always seems to go down a treat with my sons friends

Incan Gold - another game that seems to hit the mark straight away. This one has spread like wild fire amongst Steerpike Jrs friends (around the 10-11 year age range)

Carcassonne - I'd go for "Hunters and Gatherers" as the rules are a little simpler and the board/theme is more attractive to children.

Fluxx and Zombie Fluxx - still well loved in my household and easy to pick up and join in.

Snorta - a recent purchase of mine and proving to be a lot of fun

Upwords - recently mentioned on the Spiel and good because you can play it without bothering to score.

Risk Express - a good one for those who like dice but can't be bothered with the fiddly risk bits

Tigris and Euphrates. only kidding. 

A couple of general considerations:

Having spent time in children's hospitals with my son, 2 player games are probably what you need most of the time since it's usually one child and one parent around.  Also, you might want to take into consideration having games that can easily be played from a bed where you can't set up a board or a lot of pieces.  Now, on to the list...

I'll definitely second Incan Gold, Apples to Apples, Snorta, and Trans-America.

I would add just about any Haba Game, in particular Knapp Daneben (Just Missed).  It's an incredibly cheap, simple, fun, and fast game.  You can learn in 1 minute and play in 5.  It plays anywhere.  I've played it with 6 year olds, college students, and adults.  Everyone laughs themeselves silly playing.  The basic idea is that someone flips over a card and then you have to be the first to grab the "correct" wooden figure.  This differs depending on the pictures/colors on the card.  Incredibly fun.

I would also add Hey, That's my Fish for sure, and possibly Zooleretto.  Kids and adults alike love those! 

Pandemic might be fun for theme as well for the older crowd, and it's cooperative. 

Any version of Blokus would be great.  Perhaps Travel Blokus is best b/c it's small and good for 2 players.  On a similar note, Ingenious and Ubongo work work well too, and they are for 2-4 players.

10 Days in USA/Asia/Africa and Bohnanza should be great as well.

OK, that's it for now.  Have fun!

I'll double post my list here. Have at it! Let me know what works and what doesn't.

Games for Ages 4 and Up  
Hare & Tortoise

Viva Topo

Gulo Gulo
Animal on Animal

Go Away Monster

Pitch Car  
Cookin' Cookies  
 Games for Ages 8 and Up  
 10 Days in... Series  
 Hey! That's My Fish  
 Duck Duck Go
 6 Nimmt  
 A to Z Junior  
 Games for Ages 12 & Up  
 Formula D  
 Ticket to Ride  
 Winner's Circle  
 El Grande  

Great list that you're building here.

One game that also sprung to mind, after you mentioned the 10 Days series, was "Wildlife Adventure". I find this works well with kids in the 8+ age range. It's educational but with some really interesting game mechanics (at least enough to keep me engaged).


My gut feel is that El Grande and Kingsburg are a little too meaty. Without someone there showing the kids the games I'm not sure if they would really get an airing. Although, my experience with this age group is limited - give me another couple of years as I continue with my  own "grow your own gamer" experiment.

I'm a "hard-core" hobby gamers, and I still think that El Grande is just no fun.  I respect it and all, but it's just too long and boring for me or a group of sick kids.

If you want to stick with a similar game that is a lot more fun and appealing, I'd go with Mission: Red Planet from Asmodee.  It'll still introduce the area-majority mechanic, but also includes a cool role-selection piece and has great artwork and theme.  

And while a 4-year-old might could play Pitch Car at some level, there's no way that they'd be able to set it up or really understand the rules.  A way more kid-friendly race game is Giro Galoppo, which was recently picked up by Rio Grande. 

If you weren't aware, there's a really great site named Kid Game Ratings, where people rate how good games are for kids.  You might could get some additional suggestions there. 

Really? "Hare & Tortoise" for kids aged 4? You Americans must be way smarter then we are here in old Europe. These four year olds around here have no understanding of number bigger than 50 or arithmetic progression.

Maybe "Klondike" from Haba as a replacement?

yes, a bit of a stretch. My eldest son did not realise that the progression of carrot cards was

n(n+1)/2 until he turned six. I guess he is just slow....

Comments on your Sommelier list:

Hare and Tortoise is definitely too tough for the younger kids.  I'm thinking they need to be at least 8, maybe 10 to get any grasp of strategy in that one.

10 Days in the USA would be your best bet by far for that series.  Most kids will have fun with the states but won't have the foggiest idea where Lesotho is.  You'd be better off buying different games than a bunch of similar games.

Animal Upon Animal (Tier Auf Tier) is an excellent suggestion.  My 2 and 6 year olds both like it.  In fact, the 6 year old taught it to the 2 year old.

Gulo Gulo is also excellent for all ages, even little kids.  My two-year old plays it.

Zooloretto would cover a broad age range.  My 6yo plays it.

Hey That's My Fish would be excellent.  I think you mentioned that one.


Some of my picks.

Smarty Party Jr.  Advantage: can be played in bed, and with any number of players.  Disadvantage: I think you'd have to buy regular SP plus the expansion.

Blokus or Travel Blokus is very appealing for a broad age range but you'd probably lose pieces.

Under the Ground/Mole in the Hole is a great game that my 6yo and I both enjoy.  Race your moles into the holes and then lift off the top layer of the board to reveal the next one (Goober!).  Good mix of strategy and luck.  No tiny pieces.  Not sure if it's in print, though.

My kids like Frank's Zoo (the younger one needs a little help).  Cards would get worn out but it's cheap.


that mole game is cute. love the moles!

It looks like a re-theming of Inner Circle a nice abstract strategy game on my shelf from Milton Bradley. Hmmm!

Blokus is an excellent suggestion that many have also made. I'm thinking something may need to get bumped and replaced with Blokus. The question is, which game to bump. Decisions, decisions!

I suggest the travel version of Hungry Hungry Hippos for very young kids 4 and under

Yes, I know... Not much to this game, but my kids play it all the time.  The travel version has a plastic dome keeping all the marbles inside, so no mess or pieces to lose.

Ok, I really thought about whether I should post this for quite some time because I didn't want to sound heartless.  Stephen and Dave's motivation is obviously coming from a wonderful, compassionate, and loving place.  However, I do think 'we' need a bit of a sanity check here. 

Has anyone ever seen what happens to games when they're just 'dropped off' for general consumption?  Ever looked at a game closet  at a school or church?  They get thrashed really quick.  When I think of Ticket to Ride being dropped off in such a place, I imagine those bits getting lost the first time some kid opens the box and sees 'toy trains'.

Also, what are the chances of some kid in a hospital actually getting a game together?  Getting more than theirself interested, reading the rules, understanding the rules, setting the game up, etc. 

I could absolutely be full of crap here.  I'm wondering though, has anyone gone to a hospital and showed them the type of games you're thinking of bringing?  Has anyone talked to them about the expectations as to what's going on in a children's ward?  Perhaps, are we all thinking of a children's ward from all those 50s movies, kids just sitting around, bored, in their robes, waiting for Joe Dimagio to visit?  Are kids that must stay in a hospital up to playing a game?  I gotta imagine that there are people that know nurses in children's wards out there that could shine some light on this.

This email is a downer, I fully realize that.  As a Sunday school teacher and parent of three, I have deep love of children.  In that my wife and I spent weeks at a a time in the hospital with her cancer, I have a deep compassion for anyone that must have an in-house stay.  Nothing about my message is questioning the worthiness of looking to ease their boredom and pain. 

Perhaps my post can be limited to this: are we putting more emphasis on being game evangelists than we are caring for sick children?  Are we putting our enthusiasm for the hobby above what these children may really need?  To that end, my list would be games that most children already know, or could learn easily:  Hungry Hungry Hippos, Tier Auf Tier, Kerplunk, Monopoly, Sorry, cases of decks of cards (how frustrating it must be to want to play cards, and they can't find a complete deck), Yahtzee, Uno, Harry's Grand Slam Baseball, etc.  Perhaps they would really do better with a bunch of those cheap, hand-held video games?

You raise some interesting points, for sure, davebo. No offense taken at all.

We've been thinking and planning this concept since January or February, so we have put a lot of time and thought into some of the issues that you're raising. I don't think our efforts are masking a misguided attempt at game evangelism.

I can speak for Dave when I say we think there is merit in attempting to vary the play experience of kids who are stuck in painful and often boring situations at the hospital. What better way to use share our skills and knowledge of different ways to have fun?

True, games and their components may get lost or shredded. In fact, if the Foundation keeps rolling, we'd like nothing more than to be able to replace that torn up, well-loved copy of Ticket to Ride in a few year's time. The fact of the matter is there are already board games in hospital play rooms. Our thesis is simply there's plenty of room on those shelves for a greater variety of games. I see this as the main point of the whole Foundation. I don't see our effort as an attempt to replace decks of cards or hand held electronics as ways for kids to entertain themselves. Instead, we're just expanding the possible range of choices 4 or 5 games at a time.

The premise behind the Spiel Foundatoin is that we hope our knowledge and love of games can help others. Games are a great escape from other worldy concerns for an hour or two (or even 15 minutes if that's what you need). Our goal is simply to provide kids with more options to lose themselves in a game, to interact with others, and to use their brains in new and different ways to have fun. Providing more outlets for enjoyment is an end in itself, namely, fun. The chance to learn about the wider world of games is a great side benefit, but in our minds, that's ok, since it's not the primary motivation behind the group.

As for our sanity... Well, sanity is highly overrated!

P.S. I'm sure we'll learn a lot in the coming months from our dealings more directly with individual hospitals, especially if there are concerns about size of pieces and the ages they'd like us to tailor our bundles toward. But we go into the process understanding that we have a solid list to work from and we can adjust the list each year as we learn.

I don't know about cancer wards, or other long term stays at hospitals, but all three of my boys have had routine surgeries, and I can tell you that there usually is a long, stressful waiting period after getting to the hospital where anything to take minds off of what is about to happen is good.

We found a copy of Guess Who in the waiting room on one trip, and it got played a lot (not one I would add to the list though). I know lots of the games mentioned would work well in that setting at least. After surgery the kids are out of it, and since the surgeries are outpatient tons of the time now it is just a wait until released and leave situation. Again, I don't know about long term care.

Depending on the children's hospital, it's not just the children undergoing the surgery/therapies who might benefit from the opportunity to play these games, but their siblings and other family members as well.  My wife and I both have siblings who had childhood cancer (luckily both recovered), and there was a lot of time spent in visiting, waiting and recovery rooms.  As other posters have mentioned the opportunity to have a distracting activity to participate in with friends and family can be a big stress reliever morale boost for both the patients and those who care about them - a chance to make some positive memories associated with a place that cures kids, but can make them very uncomforatble along the way.

Board games are a great activity for children's hospitals because they allow kids whose diseases and treatments leave them fatigued, hooked up to IVs or confined to beds and wheelchairs the opportunity to play with their brothers, sisters and friends.  Board games also provide more social interaction than a lot of other sedentary pastimes, like television and many videogames.  Of course there will have to be some kind of supervision so younger kids aren't wrecking complex games and throwing pieces around (or choking on them), but the children's hospitals I've been to already have that for far more important reasons than preventing game abuse.

It's undeniable that lots of hospitalized kids might not be up for playing more complex games, and their non-gamer families might not be up for thumbing through longer rulebooks.  Hand-held video games, the classic mass-market board games, decks of cards and dvd libraries would probably get more overall use in both children's hospitals and senior centers.  However there are plenty of other charitable organizations and independant, caring volunteers who can and do provide those amenities - and many hospitals are well stocked in that regard.  What the Spiel Foundation can do, that those other kind Samaritans can't, is use their 'ludic expertise', if you will, to give those kids, seniors, and their families who are either budding gamers themselves, or would be interested in trying out designer games, the opportunity to explore the pastime we find fun and rewarding.


One suggestion for the more complex games on the list would be to include some of the great rules summaries and cheat sheets that gamers have made and uploaded to BGG or other sites.  For senior centers even just large-type versions of the rulebooks could help (lots of kids in children's hospitals have impared vision for one reason or another too).  Don't forget that many (most) senior centers and children's hospitals have internet access these days.  Even if none of the games in a particular bundle happen to click with them, just pointing kids and seniors in the directions of sites like and BGG can give people of all ages a chance to find more games that might interest them.  Sites offering video or audio explanations, like Board Games With Scott, Obsessed Gamers, and Bookshelf Games (not to mention the in-depth podcasts like The Spiel, esp. the enhanced versions) can make learning and teaching games a lot easier.

While I love the attempt to get euro games out there, and I know your goal is to pick games we as gamers can get behind, I'm not sure that it is necessarily wise to completely ignore classics.  I think there is certainly merit in supplying games that kids and/or parents may already be familiar with.  That level of comfort could also count as something for the kids and families staying in a strange place.  It is easy to discount games like Clue, Battleship, Sorry, Risk, Pictionary, Guess Who (as another posted mentioned) as "less than" the Euros and designer games we've come to love, but I have many fond memories of playing these games as a child.  BGG may claim that The Game of Life is one of the worst games out there, but you know what?  I loved that game when I was a kid.

I think it might be worth putting one or two "classics" in each category.  Perhaps the hospital already has a well-loved copy that needs replacing and some of the donation could go towards replacing it.

Just a thought.  The argument might be that the hospital already gets those style of games from other sources, and that's fine.  I just think that it's easy for us as adults to forget how much fun a really simple game can be for a child.

For the 12 and up category, I would ditch Kingsburg.  While I haven't played it with any children I'm not sure it would really hold their interest for very long, especially given the relatively short amount of time it'll get played by any single group of people in a hospital style setting.  I'd suggest Nexus Ops instead.  The bright plastic pieces instantly attract kids, the rules are pretty simple and one good beat-'em-up game would be nice to see ;)  You could even probably count this for the 8 and up group.