Forbidden Island is currently our family’s favorite game. My kids range in age from 4 to 10. It is important to me that despite this wide difference in ages, we find ways to all have fun together. There are two aspects of Forbidden Island that make it perfect for kids of disparate ages. First, it is a cooperative game. That means the older kids are motivated to help the younger kids rather than crush them. Second, this particular game does not require reading. While there are words printed on the cards, the images are enough to understand how to play the game so even my four year old knows what’s going on.
Forbidden Island Game Details
Product: Forbidden Island
Recommended Age Range: 8 and up, kids as young as 4 can play, but they will benefit from guidance
Price Range: ~$20
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This game says it is intended for kids aged 10 and up, so I have waited a long time to purchase it despite recommendations. I wish I hadn’t waited so long. This game makes kids feel like they are in the middle of an adventure. The backstory is enchanting and exciting. The game play is both tense and fun.
However, what I love most about this game is that it is cooperative. My kids are attempting to capture four ancient and mysterious treasures before the island sinks. They need to work together to retrieve these magical objects, because if any one of them dies, they all lose. What this means is that even the 4 and 6 year olds who maybe wouldn’t make the wisest choices on their own are helped and advised by the 8 and 10 year olds. Instead of having one of my kids running away from the table crying, they are all working together.
The other wonderful aspect of this game is that it is very pre-reader friendly. The locations have awesome names such as Dunes of Deception and Phantom Rock. However, when determine locations are flooded and sinking, even the youngest children can do this step simply by matching the images. The majority of the treasure cards do not have any words at all. The cards with words each have an image that easily describes its meaning. For example, the helicopter card lets you fly to another location and the sandbags lets you shore up a flooded area. While it is helpful if one player can read, it is not necessary for game play.
Another aspect of this game that makes it appropriate for young children is that all the cards are laid out for other players to see. My younger kids are often at a disadvantage in games in which they need to hold their cards in their hand. Thankfully, that is not a concern for this game.
While we have been playing at the Novice level and find that our odds of winning are about 50/50, this game can grow with your family. It is easy to make the game more challenging by starting the water level at the Normal, Elite, or Legendary levels.
The one downside to this game for our large family is that it is only meant for up to four players. Since I have four kids, my husband and I can’t play. However, I find that it’s best if at least one of us stays to supervise. This allows us to calm disputes before they arise. Thankfully, since it is a cooperative game, it still feels as if we are playing.
Another downside is that there is no clear educational benefit to this game. It does not require reading. There is not any math or history. If you are optimizing your game closet space by only choosing games that have clear educational value, this game is probably not for you. However, if you are looking to build your kids’ cooperative skills and have fun as a family, this game fits the bill perfectly.
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