Toddlers are notoriously hard to understand — much less entertain. Since they’re just discovering the world around them, their reactions can be immediate and unpredictable, and it’s hard to know just what they’ll like. It makes sense. “They’re learning new things,” says Dr. Ashley Taylor, clinical psychologist at the Center for Connection. “They’re starting to interact with friends more often. They’re just really taking in so much information and growing and changing at such a fast pace.”
Pleasing a kid at such a fickle age is no easy task, and sometimes downright impossible. But toddler board games — simple, colorful, and sometimes silly — do a damn fine job of it, if you pick the right one.
When shopping for it, make sure that it’s nice and visual and social in a way they will intuitively grasp. “You want something very simple,” says Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness. “Simple is the name of the game.” Above all, maybe, is that it needs to be interesting to them. Like these board games for toddlers that hit all of these mark.
Let’s Go Fishin’
Colors, colors, and more colors engage your toddler with this simple, effective board game. It teaches your kid how to fish by dipping bait into the colorful, plastic fish. Expect laughs when they miss the fish, joy when they get one — but above all, a solid lesson in patience.
This classic never gets old. Your toddler will learn critical thinking skills as they try to outmatch you in stacking four of the same colored coin in a row.
Matching is an activity any toddler can get behind—and this board game lets toddlers match like-cards to others in “FIND ME” and “SEEK ME” categories. It also has to happen in a particular order, so this will help them learn patience and the proper order to play in. All the while, you can help be their guide.
ThinkFun Roll and Play
This board game for toddlers is simple enough for an 18-month old to understand, but encourages creativity even past the toddler point. Your kid rolls a colored block, and whatever side turns up, they perform a simple activity (a “moo” say) based on cards with that color. Engaging, fun, and a perfect learning opportunity for younger children.
Hi Ho Cherry-O
This board game is among the simplest out there. Your kid will gather cherries and other fruits and place them on the color-corresponding tree. Since they have to place the pieces carefully, they’ll learn patience and improve their motor skills. It’s not a long game, either, so it’s perfect for some quick entertainment.
Find that sun. That’s all your kid has to do. You pick a card that tells you where to hide it (behind your back, under a chair) and your kid gets to feel what it’s like to win by finding it. It’s a wonderful way to have a little improvisational fun with your child.
Little Balancing Game
Help build your child’s fine motor skills like dexterity — and a little patience — with this toddler board game where they balance little frogs on little water lilies. You get the chance to guide them as they delicately place the frogs where they need to go, setting up a great bonding opportunity.
Yeti in My Spaghetti
It’s like Jenga… but with a Yeti. Set up the Yeti on top of dozens of hard noodles, and your child pulls a stick out, then you, then back again. The object is to not let the Yeti fall. This board game will help your kid build their motor skills and patience while keeping them engaged.
Traffic Jam Matching Game
Hard to think of anything more visually appealing to some colorful cars—to both you and your kid. This game lets children match large, brightly colored cards to their corresponding traffic signs. Perfect way for you to get your little guy started in the world of fine autos.
Little kids love small surprises. This board game for toddlers helps fine motor skills as kids place swords into a barrel in eager anticipation of seeing the pirate pop-up from it out of nowhere. The swords are colorful, too—just make sure they don’t find their way to any mouths.