Solitaire is the most obvious one-player game, but it is still a really good one for kids to learn. Once they know how to play, all it takes is a deck of cards. Kids benefit from playing solitaire with cards (as opposed to on a computer) because shuffling and laying out the cards helps fine motor skills. And they have to learn to resist the urge to cheat!
One player, ages 7 and up
Hopscotch is a good single player game because it provides a little physical activity too. And it gets kids outside! There are tons of different ways to play this old fashioned game. Plus the fact that it takes chalk to draw the game gives kids another thing to do when they get tired of hopping and turning.
One player or more, ages 3 and up
The typical game of "20 Questions" is definitely not a one-player game. But this nifty little electronic toy makes it one. Think of something then hit go. It will ask you 20 questions and then take a guess to what's on your mind. And it is--amazingly--right most of the time!
One player, ages 7 and up
Of course, you can play this old game with just regular playing cards, but there are lots of options. And since I'm such a big fan of the I Spy books I highlighted this one. While it may be more fun with multiple players, this is a good single-player game to start little kids on. You can scale the difficulty level based on the number of cards you use.
One to six players, ages 5 and up
Simon isn't exactly old-fashioned like hopscotch or solitaire, but the game has been around for a long time. I remember playing it as a kid! The Simon Trickster has a few new twists but basically it's the same concept: follow the pattern of flashing lights until your memory gives out on you.
One to four players, ages 7 and up
With multiple players, SET is a fast-paced card game that requires quick, deduction skills. It's a good game to have for the whole family to play together. However, one player can play alone too. Either way, the games helps children recognize patterns. The object of the game is to identify sets of three cards with three of the same characteristics. Each card has one of three symbols (squiggles, diamonds, ovals) in varying numbers (up to three), three colors and degrees of shading, so each card is unique. Ages 6 and up.
One player and up
Kind of like Scrabble but with fewer rules, the name of the game is building words. Unlike Scrabble you build your own chain of words with no one stealing your space for the perfect word, even in the multiple player version of the game. Basically the idea is to see how many words you can build.
One player and more
Stack the hardwood blocks and see who makes the tower fall. While this game is meant for more than one player, one person can play alone and still have fun while perfecting his or her skills for when an opponent comes along. After all, it takes practice to have a steady hand to successfully pull block from the bottom of a wobbly tower and place it on top.
One to any number of players
Kids (ages 8 and up) can improve their chess game even when they don't have an opponent. The way it works is players get 10 pieces--2 each of knights, rooks, pawns and bishops plus a king and queen--then set them up on a mini version of the board to play one of the 40 challenges outlined on the cards the game provides. Players have to capture a piece with every move, so the game is fast paced. Unlike a computer chess game the challenges teach kids specific strategies.