DIY Board Games for You and Your Family

If your family loves board games the way that mine does, you’re probably always looking for a new way to play that’s affordable, enjoyable, and fun for all ages. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to DIY (do-it-yourself) board games. 

These projects are easy to put together, even with children kindergarten-aged or younger. Plus, DIY board games are both a craft and an activity, so they provide hours of entertainment!

I compiled the following list by drawing on my experiences as a teacher and a dad. With plenty of experience in educating and entertaining kids, I know what games work and what don’t! 

Many of these activities are great for all ages, so I hope you find something your whole family likes. Whether your kids need help learning math, you want to give them a productive craft project, or you’re just looking for a fun new way to come together with those you love, DIY board games are a great way to make it happen. 

Lego Chess Set

This one is perfect if you’ve got a lot of spare legos laying around already – I know my family does! A great way to foster your children’s natural creativity is to show them how to make board games out of the pieces, specifically a chess set

Heap of color plastic toy bricks

The grid of the chess set is easy. They’ll have to use a lego grid, but finding enough square pieces in two different colors should be a breeze. The more challenging part will be making the intricate playing pieces. Younger children could work on the board construction, but the pieces might be best for older kids. 

You will need:

  • Square legos in at least two colors
  • A 16-by-16 lego baseplate
  • An assortment of small interlocking pieces in the same color as the square legos

How to Make It

Unless you’re looking to put together a massive chess set, they’ll have to use some of the smaller, fiddly pieces to create unique figures. 

First, put together the board using a baseplate and the little 2X2 cubes.  Each cube is a square, so you will need 32 of each color.  The baseplate needs to be 16 X 16 lego dots in height and width.  Obviously, the 2 X 2 cubes should be placed in alternating colors.

Each of the two chess colors will need a King, a Queen, two Knights, two Rooks, and two Bishops. They’ll also each need eight pawns each. 

The most important thing is to be consistent with the pieces.  So pick something simple and common for the pawns (like those small round pieces).

You can probably be a bit more creative for the Kings and Queens, as you only need one of each color.

This is not a job for very young children, who could swallow the small pieces. However, this makes a great group project for any family members over the age of five, and you might find that you have fun rummaging through the lego sets together to find just the right legos. 

Keep in mind, though, that every child is different. Some younger elementary-aged kids may get frustrated with the small pieces. You know your child best!

Part of the fun is actually building the chess set.  It’s ideal if you have a lot of lego lying around the house or are prepared to buy some.

It will take a while to find all the pieces.

How to Play

Once you’ve finished, you can all learn to play chess together, adults included! Chess is an excellent tool for teaching children to think tactically, and they’ll have to be smart and plan ahead to win. 

Plus, it is a pastime designed to be different every time you play, so you might discover you have a new hobby for life. 

Cereal Box Board Game

Like all board games, this one is a great way to teach young children patience, counting, and colors. On top of all that, it is also an art project, so it quickly became a favorite in my house. 

Illustration of a cereal on a white background

This project is genius because it’s universal. Every home has markers, pens, newspapers, and old cardboard boxes in it. It’s so easy to put together the materials that your family can make Cereal Box Games a regular staple of craft time.

You will need:

  • Cereal boxes, collapsed and cut, so they lie flat
  • Markers or washable paint
  • Newspapers or a plastic sheet, to protect the table
  • Dice
  • Figures, such as legos, army men, or small toys

How to Make It

First, you’ll need to draw a path similar to what you’d find in games like Candyland. Just mark a meandering trail made up of blocks, and add drawings of fun obstacles or shortcuts that the players can take. 

Then you can leave the rest up to your children. 

Encourage them to make up a story for the game, using the obstacles and the game pieces as inspiration. 

Help them learn to color within the lines by asking them to make each of the blocks a different color, and reinforce their counting skills by asking them to number the blocks as well. 

How to Play

To play, roll the dice and move the figures that number of spaces. The children will be delighted that they get to play a game they created, so don’t be surprised if this becomes the game they ask for every night! 

DIY Memory Game

Photo by cdorobek. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

I’m sure you’re already familiar with the concept of a memory game. Players take turns trying to create matching pairs of items, using their memory of what they’ve seen on previous turns. It’s a timeless game for all ages, but there’s also an easy way to keep it fresh. 

You will need:

  • A copier machine or blank playing cards
  • Family photos or drawings

How to Make It

Instead of buying memory games, you could use images that are more familiar to your family. 

This is actually excellent for very young children as it starts to teach them to become familiar with certain people.  As you make it with them and play it, you can reinforce this by telling who the person is.

If you keep all your photos on your phone like me, sit down with your child and choose the images they like.  Then send them to print!  (Remember: 2 of each)

If you are more old-fashioned and keep your photos in albums, no problem.  Choose, with your child, your favorite images, pull them out, and copy them.  

Either way, your family will love how personal the game is, and they’ll be excited to play it all over again. 

Alternatively, you could ask your family members to draw something, like their favorite animal or food, and then use the copier once again to make two copies each.

Anyway, they’ll be happy to be included, and there’s something very special about working together to make something that can’t be found in the store. 

How to Play

Come on–you know how to play the memory game, right?  Each turn, a player turns over two cards, and if they match, they keep them.  The player with the most cards at the end wins.

With young children only use a small number of cards.

DIY Math Game

This is another take on the Candyland-esque format of the cereal box games, but for older children. In fact, by changing the difficulty of the math problems, this DIY math game can be enjoyed by children as old as eight. 

I learned this myself when some of my kids were having trouble with their multiplication tables. It was so hard to get them to focus. But I just needed to make the rote memorization of these tables fun for them, so they would pay attention to the task at hand. This game was my secret weapon. 

You will need:

  • Heavy construction paper or cardboard
  • Markers
  • Small figures or tokens

How to Make It

To make the game board, draw a meandering line of squares, the kind you see a lot in children’s board games. Then, fill in the squares with math problems; in my case, they were multiplication tables, but they could be any kind of math problems. 

How to Play

Then, have the players roll dice to see how many squares they progress. You can use standard dice, or if you want, you can use dice with smaller numbers, such as a four-sided dice. 

Photo by Veikk0.ma. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Using four-sided dice, or “d4’s,” will ensure that the players will have to do more math problems to reach the end of the game and win. You can find them at tabletop hobbyist shops or online. Just be sure to clean them up once the game is done- you don’t want to step on that pointed edge by accident!

Every time a player rolls the dice and progresses, have them solve the problem they land on. If they get it right, they get to move one more square ahead. 

Monopoly

Who would have thought you could create a DIY Monopoly game?

You will need:

  • 2 sheets of cardboard (A4 sized)
  • 3 sheets of A4 paper
  • Glue
  • Coloring pens
  • Rulers
  • Sheets of different colored thin card
  • 2 Dice
  • Something to use as Counters

How to Make It

Stick a sheet of paper on top of each piece of cardboard, then join them together underneath using the third sheet of A4 paper.  You now have a board.

Draw a Monopoly-style layout on the board.  It doesn’t have to be precisely the same, but you can certainly use Monopoly as your inspiration.  Go to town when naming places.

Add some color.  Remember to have the properties in color groups.

Now use the thin sheets of colored card to create:

  • Money
  • Chance and Community Chest Cards
  • Property cards

So this bit can be a bit boring!  For the money, you might be better off printing some toy money.  This site has some great options!  

Most printers will print on thin card, check the weight of your card, and refer to your printer’s instructions to be safe.  If you print on thin card, try to use a different color for each note.

The Chance and Community Cards you probably will need to draw yourself, but at least each one is different.

Check out how this guy does it:

Very Cool!

How to Play

Roll the dice.  Move the number of squares, buy the properties.  Charge rent, and go bust when you don’t have enough money.

That’s the general idea, but since you are DIYing then you can make up some rules.

Here’s my suggestion: try to make things a bit harder, so the game ends quickly:

  • Higher property prices
  • Higher rents
  • Less Money Chance / Community Chest cards

Monopoly can be a long game if you’re not careful!

Chalk Art Games

I’m going to go slightly off-piste here.  Yes, chalk art games aren’t board games, but they seemed to fit the DIY / fun part and are so easy to do that I thought they at least deserved a mention.

We all remember chalk art games from our own childhoods. Hopscotch has been played for hundreds of years. But the sheer wealth of games you can play with nothing but a box of chalk is astounding, so much so that these simple games have endured for centuries. 

Tic-Tac-Toe

This one is so simple that my oldest had mastered it by the time he could pour himself a cup of water. 

Tic Tac Toe on chalkboard

Draw a 3 by 3 grid with chalk, and choose one player to be “x,” and one to be “o.” Take turns drawing your symbol in the grid until one of you has three of their marks in a row, either diagonally, vertically, or horizontally. 

Hopscotch

Hopscotch is very customizable, so your family might almost have more fun drawing the route than they do hopping over it! Take turns drawing paths made of sets of one square and then two side by side.

Hopscotch game being drawn with a chalk on the asphalt ground as seen from above

Then, hop through it, placing two feet on the squares in pairs and one on the single squares. It’s an exercise in coordination and jumping, but it’s also a joyfully nostalgic way to play. 

Four Square

This one is more athletic than the rest, so it’s great for breaking a sweat on a hot summer’s day. 

First, draw a square with chalk big enough for four people to stand in, and mark off four distinct zones on the inside of it. One of you will stand in each corner. Next, you’ll need a bouncy ball, like a basketball or a beach ball. Take turns bouncing the ball into each other’s squares. 

Every time the ball bounces more than once in a row in one person’s square, they’re eliminated and have to leave the game. They also must leave if they try to bounce it to someone else and miss.  

Closing Thoughts

People of all ages can benefit from board games. They’re the perfect pastime for people who love to use their brains and have a mind for strategy, but they’re also a great way to have a friendly competition. Games are uniquely stimulating to the brain without ever sacrificing the fun of playing a game together as a family. 

No matter what your family or classroom looks like, a little creativity can be the perfect element to boost your activity time to new heights. Board games are the ideal tool to turn learning into entertainment, so I hope this guide to DIY board games gives you an idea of what you can create for some quality time and fun.