By the time they hit preschool, kids 3 and up can actually follow two-part directions and somewhat regulate their emotions. And that’s your moment to strategically deploy educational games and toys to keep them entertained while also, insidiously, helping them with their development as functional human beings. Sure, the best learning games for toddlers capitalize on their newfound ability to pay attention, but let’s make sure we keep expectations in check. Yes, preschoolers can play basic games. But this is not going to be an epic, hours-long Scrabble or Catan deathmatch.
“When they show you they have an interest in games with rules, you can gradually introduce the idea of turn taking and what the rules are, but most 3-year-olds only last one turn and wander off,” cautions Julia Luckenbill, the program coordinator at the Center for Child and Family Studies at UC Davis. “I had the most success with my daughter when she was 3, in the game of Count Your Chickens, because we were doing teamwork, and we made the odds good so that together we always won, meaning she didn’t need to both regulate strong emotions and follow directions at the same time.”
So pick games that are easy to follow, without complicated, convoluted directions that will frustrate young children. Make sure they feature engaging characters that kids love, like squirrels or chickens, or concepts that they can understand, like moving a ball around. And better yet if kids are not competing against each other, because losing sucks. Especially when you’re 3.
A wonderful game that helps toddlers and preschoolers with their emotional development, this one explores 10 different feelings: Happiness, fear, sadness, shyness, love, disgust, laughter, jealousy, anger, and surprise. Kids match the emotion with facial expression.
Kids love this game, for good reason. They learn about colors as they help squirrels find their acorns. Plus, they work on their matching skills and and the concept of taking turns. Children spin the spinner and scoop up matching acorns with a special tool; the first player to collect five acorns is the winner.
Hairy pickles and furry donuts? Yes, in this game, which gives kids the chance to practice a bunch of different skills in a relaxed, cooperative way. Kids can play this game as three different levels (it's ideal for ages 3 to 6), which means they won't be bored. Kids learn about body awareness, plus they work on their motor skills, counting, and cooperation as they work together to feed the Woozle all manner of gross foods.
If your kids loved Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel, meet the rabbit version. In the hide-and-seek carrot game, the bunny needs help hunting colorful carrots. The game is super-engaging, really enjoyable, and easy to follow. And it also teaches preschoolers hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and much-needed social skills.
This award-winning game includes 48 cards which offer equal parts fun and learning opportunities. You roll the plush cube, choose a card with the corresponding color, and then act out the activity shown like making a happy face or roaring like a lion. This game is easy to follow and perfect for teaching turn-taking.
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