The Best Board Games for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Because there's nothing better than family game night.
Family game night is fun. That is once you actually choose a board game to play that everybody happily decides on. Toddlers are particularly hard to please. Because they’re developing at a rapid rate, it’s not uncommon for them to throw tantrums over something they loved moments earlier. But the best toddler board games tend to bring people (and their moods) together in a way that other toys do not because they’re collaborative and fun.
There are a few things parents can look for when choosing a toddler game: It should be colorful (toddlers are really into primary colors), a little silly, and very simple. If a game is too complex and not completely intuitive to your toddler, there might be some crying and screaming. It’s rare for everyone to be excited about the same game, especially when more than one sibling is involved. But when it happens, you savor it and enjoy every last minute until an inevitable game-related squabble breaks out.
“You want something very simple,” says Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness. “Simple is the name of the game.”
And board games, even simple ones, are best for older toddlers and preschoolers; infants and many toddlers are still a little too young, explains Julia Luckenbill, the infant-toddler program coordinator at the Center for Child and Family Studies at UC Davis and co-author of This Is Play: Environments and Interactions That Engage Infants and Toddlers.
“Board games require the ability to follow one-part and two-part directions and regulate strong emotions,” she says, “ things many toddlers are not yet solid at doing.” Three-year-olds, says Luckenbill, “have more tools in their tool belts, at which point introducing the materials — for example, picking up acorns with Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, or working together as a team to count how many cherries fit the holes in the tree — would be an entry point” to playing games. Competing is, at this age, not where it’s at. “When they show you they have an interest in games with rules,” she says, “you can gradually introduce the idea of turn-taking and what the rules are, but most threes only last one turn and wander off.”
The Best Toddler Board Games
A sweet cooperative game that has children helping other kids out, be it someone who's afraid of the dark or is getting soaked in a rainstorm. It's great for social-emotional learning as they learn to recognize and name what they're feeling.
Toddlers and preschoolers get 48 cards, all of which have yummy treats on one side. They have to match the donut with the donut and the taco with the taco. Not only does this hone their matching skills, but it also encourages them to focus and concentrate.
This game gives kids the chance to practice a bunch of different skills in a fun, cooperative atmosphere. Kids can play this game on three different levels (it's ideal for ages 3 to 6), so they'll still find it challenging as they grow. Kids learn body awareness, motor skills, counting, and cooperation as they work together to feed the Woozle chocolate-covered flies, hairy pickles, and fuzz donuts.
We love this game because it combines physical activity and problem solving. Kids have to stack and serve pancakes based on what the cards tell them to do, and then, in a relay race format, pass the stack to the next player. Kids learn to follow a sequence of events and work on their gross motor skills as they race to be the first to finish the stack.
A wonderful game that teaches toddlers and preschoolers about the power of cooperation and collaborative play, this one has them working together to defeat the raven. They need to harvest the fruit before the raven gets to the orchard. Or else, they all lose together.
They're called toddlers because they're learning to walk at this age. After walking comes dancing, and this game is a great way to inspire toddlers to move and laugh and run. To play the game, simply toss the included plush cube to get a color and choose a card with a matching color. Each of the 48 cards has a different direction on it, and there's no wrong way to do them. Kids get to use their imagination, improve their balance and coordination, and have fun while they're at it. Kids as young as 18 months and as old as 5 will love this one.
Anyone who's ever argued with a kid who tried to cut the line knows that turn-taking is a skill. This rabbit-themed game helps kids practice it, along with hand-eye coordination. Up to four players get a basket, and the object is to fill it up with carrots, which kids can pick up with the included rabbit squeezer. A spinner determines how many they can pick up or if, disastrously, they'll have to dump their basket back into the field.
Up to four players, this cat-centric trivia board game is easy to understand for young children while also being super fun for the whole family. It's also made from recycled cardboard and printed with vegetable-based inks, making it softer on the earth than most new games.
This classic remains a perennial favorite, for good reason. And because there's no reading required, younger kids can play. They spin the spinner and move the pawn up the ladders and down the chutes; the goal is to be the first to reach the top without sliding down.
Players try to match hidden head tiles to the correct body tiles. If the head and body don’t match, players walk and talk like the mismatched tiles. Everyone will enjoy watching kids bark like a dog while walking like a cat. The player with the most matched cards wins. Hilarity for all ages.
This dog-themed game teaches toddlers counting and the fickle nature of chance. The object of the game is to get the most bones. Kids spin two wheels — one to decide if they'll collect, lose, or steal bones and the other to decide how many — to play. They pick up bones and put them in their bowl with a Shelby Squeezer, essentially a dog-shaped clip.
This game has players moving six snails along the board, following their color path. The game isn't competitive, so there won't be any board-game bloodshed. In fact, every player follows their snail's path, until they reach the end of the board. Kids learn to take turns, and work at their own pace.
This is one of the best-selling preschool games for toddlers. Kids learn about colors as they help squirrels find their acorns, as well as matching skills and taking turns. Players spin the spinner and scoop up matching acorns with a special squeezer; the first player to collect five acorns is the winner.
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