Best Board Games for 3 Year Olds & 4 Year Olds

This post was first published April, 2012. Updated 2019.


best board games for 3 and 4 year olds and why board games are great to play with toddlers and young children


Why Play Board Games With Young Children?

There are so many great reasons to play board games with your child(ren)!

1. Time With Your Children

First of all, board games allow you to spend quality, intentional, and uninterrupted time with your children. In this world filled with constant distractions and Facebook beckoning for 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! :)

2. Improve Social and Emotional Development

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.

3. Encourage Cognitive Development

Finally, board games are excellent for your 3 or 4 year old’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!

Related Post:  Best Toys For Toddlers

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.

Our Favorite Board Games  For Toddlers

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 for 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 toddlers!
          The only downside? Older kids might get bored after a while.
board games for toddlers

Board Games For 3 Year Olds

Zingo ::  A Board Game For Ages 3 and Up

Zingo is, by far, Big Brother’s favorite game to play. Our game has been so well-loved…so much so that there is a hole in the box! 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.
board game for 3 years old
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 : Board Game For 3 Years and Up

board game for 4 years old

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 board game for 3 year olds 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.
board game for 4 year olds

Board Games For 4 Year Olds

The Ladybug Game ::  A Board Game For 4 Years 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.
board game for 4 years old
board games for kids
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.

Board Games For 5 Year Olds

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 board 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 board 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!
board games for toddlers

What are some of your family’s favorite board games?


  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!!

    1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    1. I’m so glad I read your comment and took the time to check out Simply Fun – what a great site full of awesome fun and educational games!! Thank you so much will definitely be going back to buy some cool games to play with our toddler! :-)

      1. Hi Mel! My personal website is Online ordering is only set-up to ship within the US. If you are highly interested in placing an order, you can contact me directly. I can have the order shipped to my home and then ship them to you. I have never shipped anything to Australia so I have no idea what the cost would be. That’s the only option I can think of though. Thanks for your interest.
        [email protected] is my email.

  21. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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

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  34. 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.

    1. Curious how many 18 month to 5 year old you know who play chess? That’s what this list is targeted to. I could see a 6 or 7 year old beginning to learn, however even the board game itself is listed as 8 years and up.

  35. Bug trails look soo fun, and your kid is really happy playing it! Thanks for this awesome review, I think I’m going to buy this board game for my niece :)

  36. I purchased one game for my girls ages 7&9 they loved it! As a teacher I bought another for my students. Thier academics have improved 100 percent. The game is from the creator of Apple’s to Apple’s fame Matt Kirby

  37. My three year old loves Candyland, although in the interests of keeping the game fairly brief, I took out all the cards that could potentially send the player back to the start. She also likes to play matching games :)

  38. We introduced our 4 year old and 6 year old to Settlers of Catan Jr. and it is really fun to play for the whole family. My husband and I tend to handicap ourselves for fairness sake… each person is suppose to start with two castles and one boat, but we don’t give ourselves those to start and only let the kids have it. It is a complex game and teaches strategy; my 4 year old is a pro.

  39. Our sons are 2.5 and 4 (both boys), and board games have become BIG business in our house over the last six months or so. Lately, the four-year-old has really been into checkers (great for learning strategy), and “Q’s Race to the Top” (a game centered on manners, ethics, positive attitude, etc. but also includes gross and fine motor skills) is also a favorite. Both kids love Zingo quite a lot, too, and for just general family silliness and fun, they love Hungry Hungry Hippos.

    We have several “classic” games (e.g. Candyland, Operation, Chutes and Ladders) which they rarely ever play with.

    However, two recent acquisitions that they LOVE are “Hoot Owl Hoot” and “Count Your Chickens,” which are both cooperative games. These are a nice change of pace, because big brother is inherently very competitive and gets pretty down-in-the-mouth if he doesn’t win (something we’re working on, and for which board games are a great training ground). Playing these removes the competitive edge and makes it just an enjoyable exercise for everyone, which is more little brother’s speed. I would say Hoot Owl Hoot is better for strategy–you discuss things as a group and decide which owl you should move and why, what the advantages or drawbacks might be to each potential choice–whereas Count Your Chickens is more of a straightforward counting game. The 2yo LOVES “the baby chicks game” (as he calls it) since it’s pretty simple, he gets to move the game piece, it has the fun spinner, and he gets to practice fine motor skills by picking up the tiny baby chicks and putting them on the rows in the chicken coop. We have also modified game play on the fly to incorporate arithmetic, since big brother is into addition and subtraction pretty intensely ATM. While the little one gets basic counting practice with moving the game piece along the board square and hunting for his specified number of chicks, they “help” one another by dividing the number of chicks to find. For instance, if younger brother spins, is supposed to move 5 squares, and is therefore supposed to find 5 chicks, big brother will break it down into a math problem saying “okay, Bubba, you find two chicks, and I will find 3 chicks, and together, we will round up 5 chicks.” These games are also nice because they’re fast, so we can usually squeeze one in between dinner and bath. I’d highly recommend both of these to anyone with kids in the 2-6 range, especially if you have more than one child and competitiveness is an issue when you play games together!

  40. Thank you. I’ve seen several lists of games for younger kids and this is the first one that looks like a fit for our family … And, to answer your question; When I was a child, I enjoyed playing Triominos. I was pretty big on trying to beat my own best scores, so I LOVED playing games I could enjoy alone. My favorites were Perfection (which I only had access to to when I was visiting someone who owned the game) and Mr. Mouth (which I bought secondhand with my very own money – I was so proud – lol). I would sit and play Mr. Mouth for hours :-)

  41. We love Hullabaloo by Cranium. It’s great fun… A lot of physical action along with practicing listening skills… There’s been a lot of laughs with this one especially when the parents get involved. LOL Racoon Rumpus by Educational Insights is another favorite in our house. Each player has a Racoon card and they need to dress the Racoon… You roll dice to accomplish this. One die has colors and the other die has clothing pieces – shirt, pants, whole outfit etc. in the middle you lay out cards with outfits on them – great for discussing different professions with your child (Dr., Scientist, chef, Vet, baseball player, ballet dancer etc) say you roll blue pants – then you chose card that has that of course has blue pants. Each card has a different color shirt and pants etc… Goal is first to 5 outfits wins game. But watch out if you roll the underwear – uh oh you must return all your outfit cards back to middle pile. Great for practicing turn taking and color recognition, conversations about professions, and an introduction to a graceful and funny way to learn sometimes there are setbacks… And well… you just pick up and try again. This game is rated ages 2-5… My 3 year old loves it and it’s super quick too… 5-10 minutes max. We also love the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel game, Pop the Pig, Spot it Jr. And good ole Barrel of Monkeys :)
    I’ve looked at Hiss a couple times and now have seen it in this list too so I will look into it for sure.

  42. My almost 3yo loves Feed the Woozle. I’m so grateful he’s not interested in candy land or chutes and ladders. My attention span is much too short for both of those!


  43. 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.

  44. Awesome post! You’ve picked some great ones. Currently my nephew is obsessed about Chutes and Ladders, Ocean Raider and Monopoly. These all games we play every now and then at home. He loves all the games. And I recently gifted him Pet Me on his 8th birthday and he is really mad about this game because we also have pet at our home and find it interesting to own a pet and giving them food. I think you can add these games also in your list of games. Great post Thanks for helping me to pick-up next game for my niece also :P.

  45. We are a toy making enterprise creating product for families to engage , communicate, and discover the world around them through play. We believe in the power of play of helping people unlock their creative wealth.
    We just concluded a very exciting game that teach kids about different countries around the world and encourage them to be more understanding, empathetic and turn them to be a global citizen.
    We would like to hear your review on the game and would like to send you a copy.

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