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5 Fun Upcycled Board Games Using Household Items

Top 5 Board Games Using Household Items

In our house, we love board games. They are a great way to get the family all together for bonding time, they help promote learning, and they are just plain fun!

Because board games can be expensive, I wanted to come up with a way to play some popular kid-friendly games using everyday items we already had around the house. For High Five Friday, I wanted to share my Top 5 DIY board game “Hot Picks” with you.

1. Basket of Hangers (Barrel of Monkeys)-This is a game that is a lot of fun for all ages but we tend to lose the little monkeys from the game after my son plays with it. Yesterday, my son decided to start picking up hangers in a chain just like the monkey game and I thought it was brilliant!

You need: 12 hangers (we used the baby hangers as they are a little smaller and easier for young kids to use plus they have extra hooks that make it a little easier for them to catch) and a laundry basket. Put the hangers in the laundry basket then dump the basket over into the middle of the floor. Take turns grabbing a hanger, pulling it up, then trying to hook another hanger onto the bottom. When a hanger(s) falls off the bottom, the turn is over and someone else can try by picking from the pile. See the Barrel of Monkeys instruction sheet

This game helps to teach counting, hand-eye coordination, and persistence.

DIY Barrel of Monkeys Game Using Hangers

2. Egg Carton Mancala-I shared this a while ago, but it’s a great and inexpensive game. Create the Mancala board using the instructions HERE.

Once your board is created, you can start playing. This is a two-player game. Use jelly beans, beads, or something else small for the pieces–they can be all the same color, but I prefer to make it colorful. Empty one of your cups at a time, depositing one game piece into each cup following until all the pieces are used. Your goal is to get all of the pieces to your large cup. See the full Mancala instruction sheet

This game teaches counting and strategy.

DIY Egg Carton Mancala Game

3. Craft Stick Dominoes-You need: 28 large craft sticks and a marker or paint. Draw or paint dots onto each popsicle stick to look like playing Dominoes (see the chart HERE) with a line dividing in the center. Basically, you will start with a stick that has no dots, one stick that has 1 dot and one blank, and work your way up to one that has both sides with 6 dots each.

There are many ways to play Dominoes, but we just did the basic version where you have to match the sides together. Put all the popsicle sticks in a pile, upside down, in the center of a large table or the floor. Shuffle it. Each player chooses 7 sticks; do not let your opponent see—hold them in your hand. The highest double Domino starts the game then you can take turns playing pieces that match the number on the open end of the stick. The object of the game is to lie down all of your craft sticks. See the Dominoes instruction sheet.

This game teaches strategy, matching, and counting.

DIY Craft Stick Dominoes Game

4. Photographic Memory (Memory Game)-My son loves playing the game Memory. In fact, we actually have at least three versions of it. I wanted to do something that was more personal to us, however–something that would bring to mind actual memories we made together. I decided that I would make a Memory game using printed pictures of each of our family members!

I went on PicMonkey and created a collage with 16 squares and filled them with pictures of each of us, saved the picture, then pasted into a Word document. I then changed the print orientation to landscape, the picture to be centered, and dragged the edge to make the picture as large as it would allow to stay in print margins and printed two copies onto card stock. If you want to avoid all that hassle, you can make a large version by using 2 each of some 4×6 or wallet-size printed pictures. Use the pictures as they are or cut them into squares. You can use any amount you would like; our game had 32 pieces and that worked well for my son’s age, but you can use more or fewer.

Mix up the pictures then place them face down neatly onto the table or floor. Each player takes turns flipping over two pictures. If they match, you keep the pair. If they do not match, the turn is over, but remember where those pictures were for your next turn! The object of the game is to get the most doubles. See the Memory instruction sheet.

This game teaches matching, memory, counting, and taking turns. 

DIY Photographic Memory Card Game

5. Hi-Ho! Cheerios (Hi-Ho! Cherry-O)-Get the Cheerios out of your bowl and into your snack container!

You will need 4 paper plates (the small ones are better, but the regular size works fine too), 4 snack containers (we used empty baby food jars), 4 spoons, 1 die, and 40 Cheerios. Prepare the plates by drawing on 10 circles, dots, or X’s where you will place the Cheerios. There will be 10 Cheerios per plate. Instead of using a spinner like the regular game uses, we will be using a die, so you might want to write down or draw what each of the numbered sides of the die will do. Number 1=1 Cheerio, Number 2=Vacuum, Number 3=3 Cheerios, Number 4=Baby, Number 5=2 Cheerios, Number 6=Spilled Snack Container.

Each player starts out with 10 Cheerios on the plate. Youngest rolls first. If you roll a 1, 3, or 5, scoop the given number of Cheerios into your snack container. If you roll a vacuum (2) or baby (4), that you have to put two Cheerios back onto your plate from your jar. If you roll a 6, you have to put all of the Cheerios from the jar back onto your plate. The object of the game is to get all of your Cheerios off of your plate and into the snack container. See the Hi-Ho! Cherry-O instruction sheet.

This game teaches counting, addition and subtraction, and taking turns.

DIY Hi Ho Cherry O Game

Know someone who could use this? Hit the โ€œshareโ€ buttons below! Be sure to follow Arts & Crackers on social media (buttons at the top right of the page.)

-Whatโ€™s your favorite family board game?


  1. Very cool ideas. I never thought about using hangers to play a game before but I can see that it works

  2. ascendingbutterfly

    Popsicle Stick Dominoes are so cute! Love that! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Love these ideas! Hi-ho cherrio is one of my favorite games! LOVE LOVE LOVE it! You can even make it a little more “difficult” by using tongs to pick up the pieces! It helps with fine motor control and strengthening!

  4. This is awesome! I love the photographic memory card game.

  5. Siphosith Sithole

    These are great games, you are so creative. I think the memory photo game is a lot of fun.

  6. LOVED these ideas, so great and things that are around the house! Definitely doing this with the kiddos on a rainy day!

  7. These are awesome!

  8. Awesome ideas! Found you through the SITS linkup!

  9. These are such great and budget-friendly ideas – I love them! Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. I love this!! my aunt’s been looking for something to do with her plastic hangers, will send her this way!!

  11. Stephanie Hebert

    I wish i had the time to do this stuff! Awesome ideas!

    • There are several that don’t take much time to set up at all and it is a great bonding and teaching opportunity to do with your kiddos! Get some free prints from Shutterfly and you can use those for the Memory game; decorate the popsicle sticks and you can always have them together…

  12. I love these. Especially the photographic “memory” game. Would be neat to add rarely seen family members so the kids would get to “Know” them more.

    • That is exactly what we plan to do with it ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s great too because you can keep expanding and using new pictures after the holidays!

  13. You are so creative. I remember playing all of these game as a kid.

  14. These are great ideas! Thank you so much for sharing!
    Stopping by from the SITS Girls,

  15. I love the photo memory game – that could be a lot of fun with toddlers. And as mentioned above, great for them to remember faces of family they don’t see often. We had a 3×5 sized plastic keychain and soft photo albums that we kept family pictures in for babies & toddlers, but I think that’s an even better idea!

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  17. All the fun ideas which you have shared are so much creative. Never thought such interesting games can be created with the things which are around us. Activities like these will be really helpful to promote creative thinking of kids. Thanks for sharing this!

  18. i really liked that basket of hangers game it was really fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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