Board games offer a fun way to spend family time while teaching children many valuable skills. Beyond counting, color identification, literacy, and hand-eye coordination, board games are a screen-free way to learn how to follow instructions, engage in problem-solving, promote teamwork, increase focus, and teach kids how to be gracious losers.
We have an overflowing game cabinet that we visit almost daily and have played and enjoyed all of the games in this list. I’ve grouped them by approximate age starting with the youngest at the top. Still unsure about a game? Search for a preview on YouTube or in the Amazon listing.
Ravensburger Teddy Mix and Match
This is a great first game. When we received it, Grace instantly dubbed it “BEAR GAME!!” and played it almost incessantly. A classic memory game, the bear cards are large, thick, and sturdy, which makes them easier to manipulate for small hands. Younger players can start by playing face up. The art on the cards is beautiful and unique, so you can also use the cards to encourage descriptive speech and create categories. With so many uses, you may find yourself calling it “BEAR GAME!!” too.
Though obviously aimed at older preschoolers and early elementary age, I placed this high on the list because children can easily use the game (without strategy) as early as age 2 as a way of building fine motor skills. It’s also a good tool for discussing colors, counting, and patterns.
The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game
Another great game for older toddlers, preschoolers, and beyond, this one teaches colors and counting. It also introduces loss (some of the spots on the spinner involve losing acorns collected). When we started playing this game, the squirrel tongs were large and difficult for Grace to manipulate. Instead, we had her work on her pincer grip to grab the tiny acorn stems.
Hi Ho Cherry-O
A classic, this one is very similar to Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel but without the tongs. This is a great counting game that strengthens fine motor skills. Speaking from experience, this game can run a little long depending on the luck of the spin. But it’s one of our younger daughter’s favorites.
Pete the Cat The Missing Cupcakes Game
This was the first board game we tried that really ventured into play beyond counting. With no reading require, even preschoolers can participate in categories including simple charades, naming a favorite food, and singing a favorite song. Players take individual turns but work together to try to fill the party table with cupcakes. To celebrate, you sing Happy Birthday to Pete!
Snug as a Bug in a Rug
Like all of the Peaceable Kingdom games we have, this is a cooperative one. Players work together to move all of the bugs under the rug before the three dreaded stink bugs arrive (P-U!). With 3 different levels of play, this game will grow with your family as you work to count and identify shapes and colors.
Hoot Owl Hoot!
Another cooperative game, this one involves using counting and color identification used to move the owls to their nest before the sun rises. Younger players will need help building strategies so no owl gets left behind, but you’ll enjoy watching them catch on as you play again and again.
Stone Soup combines a traditional matching game with an exciting, cooperative, competitive goal. Work with your team to identify all of the soup ingredient matching pairs before your cooking fire goes out.
Monkey Balance Game has been a great visual, tactile way to reinforce counting, numeral identification, one-to-one correspondence, and basic addition (while also strengthening fine motor skills!). Be sure to search around for the best price. These are sold by many sellers on Amazon with great variability in availability from day-to-day.
Spot it! is Grace’s favorite game right now. Each player flips a card and tries to be the first to identify the single object found on both of them. It’s great for refining visual discrimination skills and fun for all ages (starting at late preschool/early elementary). There are many variations of this game, including Spot it! 123, which involves identifying numerals and shapes.
Both of our girls to play the Super Why ABC Letter Game on the regular. This game works on letter recognition, letter sounds, rhyming, and simple word identification. Our daughters have become really proud as they grow in confidence each time we play. I’m so glad we got this as a hand-me-down the summer before Grace entered kindergarten.
An updated classic, this new version of Guess Who? still offers the same exciting fun (yay!) and now features more diverse characters (double yay!). Once you get started, it’s hard to walk away. But with short rounds and loads of opportunities to build visual discrimination, categorizing, and language skills, this is a real winner that I don’t mind playing again and again.
Uno is a game I wouldn’t have thought to introduce to our girls yet until I overheard one of Grace’s classmates mention it during school. The strategy will come, but for now, we play face up and work on matching colors and numbers and teaching them what the special cards mean.
What are your favorite games to play as a family? Share in the comments below.
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