Shopping for board games for toddlers is more difficult than trying to find a gift for the pickiest adult you know. They’re developing so rapidly, but they don’t even seem to know what they want yet. They might like something one minute and then throw a tantrum about how much they dislike that very thing they loved so much the next.
“They’re learning new things,” says Dr. Ashley Taylor, a 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.”
Finding board games that toddlers will enjoy might seem like an impossible task. It isn’t, though, if parents use these helpful tips. Games should be colorful, maybe a little silly, and very simple. If the game is complex and not completely intuitive to them, there might be some crying and screaming.
Focus on the game’s visuals. Toddlers like items that are aesthetically pleasing, just like adults. They’re just more into primary colors.
“You want something very simple,” says Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness. “Simple is the name of the game.” Play to the toddler’s interest. If they like certain characters from TV shows, animals, types of games, lean into that. The games listed below should hit toddlers’ criteria and are easy for them to learn how to play.
Let’s Go Fishin’
This brightly colored board game will be captivated by the bright color, but they’ll stick around for this fun fishing game. It teaches your kid how to fish by dipping bait into the colorful, plastic fish. They’ll learn that they’ll need to wait for the right moment to catch a fish. As any parent knows, any game that makes a toddler learn how to be patient and wait is well worth it. Expect laughs when they miss the fish and joy when they get one.
The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game
Toddlers can channel their inner squirrel while honing their fine motor skills and learning about colors, patience, and numbers. This game can include up to four players, and each player gets his or her own color of acorn to collect and takes turns via the spinner. The object of the game is to get all five acorns into your tree log first. Toddlers will have to wait their turn, which they might get a little fussy about, but they’ll love using the squirrel as a tool. Who doesn’t love hungry squirrels?
This game is a classic for a reason. Connect Four is also a master-class in strategy for these young kids. They’ll hone their critical-thinking skills.
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 importance of rules. 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. This game gets your toddler on their feet and practicing how to turn words into actions. This game is engaging, fun, and a perfect learning opportunity.
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 board game where they balance cute, smiling 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
Who can say no to a game with spaghetti and a Yeti? Parents might even like this game more than Jenga, which Yeti in My Spaghetti is similar to. 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 take a tumble into the bowl. This board game will help your kid build their motor skills and patience while keeping them engaged.
Traffic Jam Matching Game
Kids love boldly colored cars and are probably aware of what traffic is, even at this young age. 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 is a much less terrifying and more interactive version of Pop Goes the Weasel. 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.