The 5 Best Board Games for Young Children…and why you should play them!

 

There are so many great reasons to play board games with your child(ren)!  First of all, board games allows you to spend quality, intentional, and uninterrupted time with your children.  In this world filled with constant distractions and Facebook beckoning our every waking moment, it’s easy to try to multitask while spending time with our kids.  Chances are that by diving into a board game, you are committing to playing until that game is finished.  If you’re playing Chutes and Ladders, which is a game that never. seems. to. end., finishing a game might not be doable…which is precisely why it wasn’t including on our list!  :)

Second to quality time together as a family, children learn how to take turns and be graceful losers when playing board games.  Playing together offers the perfect time to demonstrate to your child(ren) how to be a good sport.  It is easy as parents to want to let our children win every single time we play because we don’t want to harm their fragile self-esteem.  That is the absolute worst thing we can do for our kids.  There is a time for winning and a time for losing…children should frequently experience both to learn how to handle the triumphs and disappointments that will inevitably come later in life.

Big Brother (4 years) is extremely competitive.  He gets angry when he loses at anything…or at least he used to.  Playing together as a family has offered us a perfect opportunity to teach him how to handle his feelings of disappointment in a positive way.  Now, he will usually (though not always) shake hands after he has lost or say, “good job” because we have coached him during the times of playing together as a family.

Finally, board games are excellent for your child’s cognitive development.  Even the simplest of board games includes some type of strategy as well as counting, color recognition, matching, and more!   Children learn best when they are engaged and having fun.  Board games offer exactly that!

 

 

Here are just a few of our favorite board games for young children.  Please note, this is not a sponsored review.  We are simply sharing our experience with our favorite board games in age order.

 

Roll and Play Board Game  :: For Children Ages 18 months and Up

Think your toddler is too young to play board games?  Think again!  This simple board game specifically geared towards toddlers is a wonderful way to introduce games to your little one.

There is a large plush die with a different color on each side is tossed.  The child then chooses the corresponding color of card and must perform the action on that card.

My favorite part of this game is the cards.  There are six colors:

  • Red:  Action Cards.  Example:  Do a silly dance.
  • Yellow:  Emotions.  Example:  Make a sleep face.
  • Purple:  Body Parts.  Example:  Rub your belly.
  • Green:  Animal Sounds.  Example:  Roar like a lion.
  • Orange:  Counting.  Example:  Clap your hands eight times.
  • Blue:  Colors.  Example:  Find something blue.
You can play this in a group and take turns or you can just let your toddler play again and again…either way, it’s an excellent first board game for kids!
The only downside?  Older kids might get bored after a while.
Zingo ::  For Children Ages 3 and Up

Our game has been well-loved…so much so that there is a hole in the box!

Zingo is, by far, Big Brother’s favorite game to play.  It is simple to understand and tons of fun for the whole family!  Rather than winning by having a certain number in-a-row like regular Bingo, in Zingo you have to fill the entire board to call out “ZINGO!”
The game comes with durable cardboard Zingo cards as well as plastic chips that are housed in an equally impressive “chip distributor”.
It is also great for matching pictures to text, even though your child will do it subconsciously.  Children younger than 3 can usually pick it up (especially if they have older siblings), but they’ll need lots of guidance.

We have a winner! He’s calling out “ZINGO!”

We only have the original Zingo game, but they also make Zingo 1-2-3 (that teaches number recognition and one-to-one correspondence) and Bilingual Zingo (which is in both English and Spanish).
Hi Ho Cherry-O ::  For Children Ages 3 and Up
Hi Ho Cherry-O has been one of our go-to games for a while now.  An entire game can be played in about 5-10 minutes.  I love how this game teaches color recognition and one-to-one correspondence while simultaneously encouraging fine motor development as your child has to carefully place the small pieces of fruit onto the game board.  This game is also perfect for introducing turn-taking to your young child.
This game comes with the game board, baskets that are inserted into the game board, a spinner, and the individual pieces plastic of fruit.  Each person will take turns spinning the spinner and adding the specified number of cherries (or other fruit) to their basket
The downside?  The tiny pieces that go with Hi Ho Cherry-O get lost easily (which is why you’ll want to put them in a baggie ASAP) and can be dangerous to children who still put small objects in their mouths.  The quality of the game board could be better as well.
The Ladybug Game ::  For Children Ages 4 and Up 
The Ladybug Game is near and dear to my heart because it was actually invented by a first grader (the grade that I taught before staying home with my two boys)!  I love how this game blends fun with learning about ladybugs (what they eat and who preys on them) as well as lots of counting practice.  The box says it is appropriate for ages 3 and up…but I would suggest it for kids 4 or older as there is quite a bit of components to this game that could get confusing.
It is a typical board game with various colors of ladybugs for the markers.  Each player must draw a ladybug card and then follow the directions on that card (either move a certain number forward or a certain number back).  Some cards even have a little ladybug at the bottom that means you get another turn, which you have to be paying close attention to notice (oops).  Then there is another component of collecting aphid cards to use just in case you land on a certain spot.
The only downside?  The Ladybug Game can take a while to finish (still not anywhere near as bad as Chutes and Ladders) and can get confusing if you don’t pay close attention to each of the components.
Bug Trails ::  For Children Ages 5 and Up (or modified for younger children)
Bug Trails is a domino game with a twist!  We really enjoyed playing this game and I think it is one that will easily grow with our family!  We modified the game slightly to make it simple enough for Big Brother to play.  As the boys get older, however, we’ll be able to modify it to make it more challenging.  This would also be a fun game to play with another family!
What I really like about Bug Trails (rather than just plain old dominoes) is the fact that there is more strategy involved.  Each bug has six legs.  You have to try to match the color of at least one of the legs of your bug to one of the bug pieces already played (if you have older children, there will be “flag” that you’ll use so that the next player can only play on that particular bug…we skipped that to simplify the game).  If you only match one leg, you have to draw another bug from the bag.  If you match two legs, you don’t have to draw another.  If you match three legs, you get to put one of your bug pieces back into the bug bag.  The first player to run out of bugs wins!

 

 

 

What are your family’s favorite board games any why???

 

 

 

*Please note:  The links in this post are my affiliate links.  Please read my full disclosure policy.

Comments

  1. EMag says

    We absolutely love Zingo and the Ladybug Game, as y’all know. For kids in the early reading/spelling phase, the same company that made Zingo has a game called “What’s Gnu?” that uses the Zingo-type pieces and distributor to give letters. Players use one of the two letters that come out to spell three letter words on the game cards (each card has two letters and one blank space.) Great way to work with kids on combining sounds and word construction skills.

  2. Veronica Miller says

    These are great! my 4 yo is getting into games but the 2 yo wants to play as well!. These are great to play together. Love all your ideas. Thank you so much for sharing

  3. Becky says

    Awesome gift ideas for the nephews and nieces, too! Thanks! Oh, I have a soft spot for Hi Ho Cheery-O as I loved it as a kid and was heart broken when my mom sold it at a yard sale when I was a teenager. I agree, I’m sad about the lack of quality of the new game compared to my version as a kid 20 years ago.

  4. Christy says

    I guess this is technically a card game, not a board game, but my 2-1/2 year old adores UNO. We took out all of the “special” cards (draw two, wilds, stuff like that) at first, so he was just matching colors and numbers, and have been slowly adding them back in.

    We play a lot of SORRY, too — he usually needs help counting the squares as he moves his game piece around the board, and with which direction is “forward” or “backward” (as the number 4 card requires), but it’s still fun. :)

  5. says

    I was literally trying to figure out which games to put on my son’s birthday list today! Thanks so much for a great post. We don’t own any of these games, so the grandparents and aunt will be appreciative of so many ideas. :)

  6. Jen says

    My kids love war and is great for comparing numbers. We remove the face cards for my almost 5 year old and just do 1-5 for my almost 3 year old. Simple but fun :)

  7. Joann says

    We also really love chess and Harvest Time. Harvest Time has such a great theme- planting crops and having to harvest them by winter. It also reinforces cooperation, as a child that rolls a vegetable that they have already harvested can help a fellow player.

  8. Stephanie says

    Great ideas…we love Zingo at our house and out newest favorite is Froggie Boogie. Will have to checkout the others. We have an awesome toy store near us that you can check out the games before you buy them. Sort of like the library…we love trying out new games without a big investment :)

  9. paula c. says

    Thanks for the great game recommendations. I’ll be getting the lady bug game and bug trails for my son. He’ll love playing them. One of my sons all time favorite games to play is Cariboo. He loves trying to find the bouncy balls hidden behind the doors.

  10. Zahara says

    Hello, just came across this on Pinterest and loved the list particularly the first game which I really want for my 2 year old daughter, unfortunately it turns out its not avaliable in England :-(
    Personally we love “Natural History Museum Animal Detective” which is aimed at older children but my daughter loves hunting out that animals.

  11. says

    I was wondering if anyone else has issues with their almost 4 year old wanting to spin for everyone else & move the game pieces for everyone too. Basically my son wants to play all of the turns & have us sit & watch – but he still calls it our piece – if that makes sense. I like that he gets extra practice counting the pieces to move & spinning, etc – but is it also teaching him that he doesn’t have to take turns?

    Thanks for any advice!!

    • Crystal M :) says

      We ran into this too with our 4 year old. We started letting her play for herself and me or my husband and that left one person to play for themselves, causing her to still have to give someone else a turn, but didn’t make her entirely give up her “desire” to play for everyone. : ) Good luck!

  12. says

    We love Monsteropoly. It is like monopoly but with common monsters that scare kids. Each card has a humorous story on how the monsters are misunderstood and are really nice. You learn math with the money, purchase properties (monsters) and follow simple directions. I like that it can help with fears.
    We also love a few discovery toy games that are no longer made; Games to Grow on. One is shape matching and colors. Flip the board and you are trying to get to school. You roll dice, draw cards, and move accordingly. You can get sent forwards and backwards. My 5 and 3 year old can play.

  13. says

    Currently my almost 4 year old daughter is obsessed with Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. I recently found an interactive DVD Candy Land game that is her new favorite. There are three separate games on the DVD and they are pretty cute. We also like the Eric Carle games.

  14. Krista D. says

    My 3 year old loves the game “Hiss” — basically building snakes with cards by matching colors. We also play a letter matching game we made up using our Scrabble set. It is his fave!

  15. says

    Haba makes a version of Hi, Ho, Cherry-O where the pieces are bigger and wood, and the board is of a much better quality. It’s called Orchard. They also add a puzzle element which turns it into a cooperative game, so no one loses. Haba makes incredible board games for children.

    Bendominoes is a great domino variant for littler kids. Memory is a classic as well. Rivers, Roads and Rails is a matching game where they have to add their pieces to a bigger map so all the roads and traintracks match up.

    Hiss! is also great for the three to four year old set. They have to build their own snake out of different colored pieces, and they can build on other peoples’ snakes as well.

  16. says

    Awesome post! I love your opinion of chutes and ladders. I recently got it for my boys for Christmas, and oh my, it DOES take forever! We love Candyland, Memory and Hi Ho Cherry O! We will have to check out Zingo very soon! Thanks for sharing!

  17. says

    You’ve picked some great ones. Zingo was always a favorite with my Kindergartners and my young grandsons love Hi Ho Cherry O and The Ladybug Game. Another fun one to try is Yahtzee Junior. It is a child’s version of the regular Yahtzee game with dice to throw and decisions to make about which dice to keep and which to roll again. It comes in a variety of themes – Disney Princesses, Toy Story, Spongebob Squarepants and Mickey Mouse characters. Check it out. I’m going to look for the Bug Trails. Where did you get that one?

  18. says

    Thanks for the great reviews of these games! We have so many games that we actually have to switch out which ones stay on our shelf! We enjoy Hi Ho Cherry O but it does drive us a little crazy with all the little pieces and my husband doesn’t like it because his huge fingers have trouble with the little cherry stems. LOL I am adding the other games to Amazon wishlist. (:

  19. says

    My two-year-old is obsessed with Go Away Monster (Gamewright), which she plays endlessly with her tolerant 4.5-year-old sister, who it was originally bought for. I recommend it without hesitation.

    The first time she played Snakes and Ladders, my eldest kicked over the board in frustration. As a games designer, let me tell you that is the correct response to a very tedious game with a very dubious message about luck and lack of skill.

  20. says

    Have you checked out the games offered by SimplyFun? If your family enjoys game play you will be enjoy browsing their selection. I am a consultant — I don’t want to hide that. I got involved with the compnay after being invited to a party in my neighborhood. I have a 1 and 2 year old. I am a former K-12 teacher as well and now stay home with my kiddos and teach a couple of nights a week at my local community college. Anyhow, I was so impressed with the quality and the selection of games. I wanted one of everything which is how I ended up as a consultant. I love your post and you reasons why people should play board games. I think there are many parents out there that don’t realize the long term benefits of game play. There is quite a bit of research out there about the links between board games and success in math. It’s pretty incredible! Thanks again for your post! If you have a chance please take thet ime to check out SimplyFun. Also, I started a blog yesterday where I will be posting about the learning achieved through play. I only have an introductory post so far but I’d love for you to hop over and check it out. Thanks. http://everydayweplay.blogspot.com/

  21. laribrook says

    My boys current favorite game is The Ladybug Game!! They love it. (They are 5 and 4). Our other current faves are both of the Busytown boardgames, and the Traintastic Cargo game from Chuggington.

  22. laribrook says

    Also, Chutes and Ladders is only fun when you pretend that the slides go up instead of down! Otherwise that game always ends in tears. I mean come on who thought that game up?!?!

  23. says

    This is a great post. Love a good game review. It’s important that they’ve been played by real people and given real reviews. Thanks for the list. :) Debs

  24. says

    Can you believe we only have one of those games? We need to stock up on those! You’ve definitely given me some ideas for my son’s birthday. He turns 5 in May. We have Candy Land, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Chutes and Ladders..Monopoly, and a couple of others. I 100% agree with you. Playing games is one of the best ways to spend time with your child without interruptions! :)

  25. Amanda B says

    The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is a favorite at our house! It’s great for helping develop fine motor skills, turn taking, counting and one-to-one understanding.

  26. Kristin says

    We just got Roll and Play for my daughter’s 2nd birthday thanks to your info about it. It is the cutest game! We love it, thanks! We also have Zingo…another “Think Fun” great.

  27. says

    Just want to let you know I’ll be linking to this in my post scheduled for Tuesday. We bought two of the games you mentioned here and love them!! Thank you!!

  28. says

    Jenae,
    I’ve been wanting to find a board game for my son to play but he’s only 18 months and I though for sure we would have to wait till he was older then 3. I just bought the roll and play game from your link. Thank You!! I can’t wait to try it out with him!

  29. Mel says

    your site is amazing!! thank you for sharing all your ideas to do fun and educational things with our children!! i woke up this morning thinking what a great day (cold and wet outside) to play a board game but what board games are good for a toddler? Of course your site had that info!! love it! thank u :-)

  30. Rebecca says

    I love board games… We have a few on this list and I’m always looking for more.

    My son is 5.5 and we play a lot of Mille Bournes lately. I loved it as a kid, and he loves it. It’s fun for grownups too. It’s a card game that teaches counting, relative number size, planning, and if you’re a grown up it can be very cutthroat! :)

    There’s also a HABA game called The Black Pirate that is very popular (although sort of larger and expensive but awesome). You get to blow your ship around with a little rubber bulb that acts as bellows.

    Quirkle is in the gift pile for Christmas, and I’m hoping that will go well, my son also really likes dominos.

  31. says

    Okay so with the craziness of raising twin 2-year-olds and the obvious chaos that that brings, I completely overlooked the concept of introducing board games into their every day play.
    *palm slap to forehead
    You’ve completely inspired me with this piece. Thank you!… and thank you StumbleUpon ;)

  32. Julie says

    You have to try Richard Scarry Airport and Busytown games for toddlers. Available through Amazon. Awesome quality and great fun. We also love Curious GeorgeBeach game. I think they are all made by Wonderforge. Xx

  33. says

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  34. says

    Nice post.
    I like how you reviewed by age group which is always important when it comes to kids games.
    Your review style has inspired me in my reviews to come
    Nice job.

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