Best Board Games for Autistic Children

By sandra.caplesc…, 6 December, 2022
Catan board game.

Children with autism spectrum disorder play differently than neurotypical kids. This might result in fewer interactions with other children, and they are less likely to have the opportunity to practice social skills.

Play is vital for childhood because it’s the period where they can make friendships, learn social skills, and understand how to take turns and cooperate with others. Children with ASD can reap the same benefits through play, but you need to explicitly teach, support, and make adaptations for them to succeed.

Structured play, like board, card, and tabletop games, allows children with autism to interact with peers in fun ways and help develop motor skills. This article explores the best board games for children with an autism spectrum disorder.

Why Board Games?

One characteristic of autism is avoiding social interaction and eye contact. In addition, many children with autism have short attention spans for some things, while they can endlessly repeat a specific action.

That’s why board games are a perfect option for autistic children. The reason why it attracts children with autism is that board games have a predictable set of rules and repeated actions that motivate the child. Since the focus is more on the board rather than the people your child is playing with, children learn to wait for their turn and pay attention to other people’s actions without making eye contact. This way, the child interacts with other players while still staying in their comfort zone.

Furthermore, board games are visual, and many children with autism are visual learners. They are very good at remembering graphic details, so children with autism can use this strength to win the game.

In short, a cooperative game encourages the following skills:

  • Turn Taking: If your child is confused by his turn, have an object, such as a small ball, the players can pass around when it’s their turn. This will help your child understand what it means to take turns better.
  • Sharing: Some children with autism have difficulty sharing toys. Board games will allow them to share the game with peers. Remember to use a lot of praise to let the child know they are doing a good job.
  • Teamwork: Many board games encourage teamwork and collaboration to win. Find games that promote cooperation rather than an individual loser or winner. In addition, your child should learn how to be a good sport if he loses. Show them how to behave and talk about what it means.

Rules for Adapting Games

The type of adaptations used for a game varies according to your child’s individual needs. You might need general guidelines to ensure a successful outcome, such as preparing your child as much as possible for what they might experience in a game.

Before you start, the autistic child should clearly understand what they are being asked to do. In addition, the child should be able to express worries and ask questions about the game's rules ahead of time. Before playing with other children, you should practice the game until your child understands the objective of the game.

Best Board Games for Autistic Children


Candyland is a relatively simple game: you move the pawn on the squares, encountering all kinds of challenges until you reach the end goal. It's a classic game, but it can be frustrating for your child if they don't understand how to take turns, which game piece is theirs, and when to move forward or backward.

To avoid unpleasant situations, you can familiarize the child with the path of the game by putting stickers on the board with directions. You can also set a photo of the child on their game marker, so they know which piece is theirs. If you want to help the child keep track of their turn, have a physical object you can pass around.

Sushi Go!

Sushi Go! is a super-fast sushi card game where you are trying to grab the best combination of sushi dishes—and win! You score points by collecting the most sushi rolls or making a complete set of sashimi.

It's a twenty-minute game that anyone can play and is easy to understand. Children with autism also learn to interact with others by passing their cards to other players. You must quickly assess your hand and decide which type of sushi you want to go for—and plan accordingly in order to win.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride usually involves intense strategic and tactical decisions at every turn. It's an excellent idea for children who love trains. The board game involves players collecting various types of colored cards they can use to claim railways across multiple continents. You earn points the more extended the route is.

Children with ASD can get satisfaction from this game by completing each route. While the game requires interaction between players, it does not require eye contact. If needed, you can adjust the rules at the beginning, but in time, your child can play without restrictions.

Social Skills Board Games

This set of six games is designed for elementary school children and helps with social skills. It's different from other games in this list, but this visually stimulating board game targets behavior and social skills. There are six games included: Manners, Morals, Friendship, Empathy, Showing Emotions, and Managing Emotions.

The board game has simple directions to follow: the player rolls the dice, answers a question on the spot, then moves forward. It's a great game for teaching a child how to express their emotions and enhances social and verbal interaction. It might not be suitable for non-verbal autistic children.

Chutes and Ladders

At first glance, Chutes and Ladders can be confusing to look at. Like Candyland, it might be challenging to follow the direction in which to move the pieces and understand when to move up a ladder or down a chute. Your autistic child might also find it hard to grasp that you win this game by chance, depending on the spinner and the position of the ladders and chutes.

If your child is frustrated or angry throughout the game, if they are not in the lead, try encouraging them with phrases such as "Oh no, you got a slide!" which will help the child process their path better.

Hi-Ho Cherry-O

Hi-Ho Cherry-O helps children with their counting skills, such as basic subtraction and addition. The goal of the game is to fill their bucket with ten cherries. A spinner decides whether you put cherries in the bucket or back in the tree.

Animal Upon Animal

This game is for older children and two players. Each player places one or two animals on the stack and passes one animal to the next player or puts it on the table. If pieces fall while placing it, you take two animals back. The winner of the game is the first player who uses all of their pieces.


With this game, your child will be transported to an old, medieval town. Suitable for 2-5 players, you play by selecting a face-down tile from the pile and placing it to continue the landscape of already-placed tiles. Then players must face a critical decision: do you put a meeple on the available features or wait for another opportunity to win more points?

Catan Junior

This game might not work for all autistic children, but Catan is a beloved board game by many players. Catan Junior introduces a modified playstyle of the classic game and gives the younger audience a chance to explore the wonderful world of Catan.

In Explore the Seas! Catan Junior, players build hideouts around Spooky Island. The more shelters you build, the more resources you receive. You win the game if you are the first player to control seven pirate hideouts.