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Games have always been a huge part of my life. Give me a cribbage board and a willing partner, and I’m set for the night!
This love of games has turned into a love for children’s games as I’ve grown into motherhood. When my oldest (now 7) got his first game as a 2 year old, I was beyond excited. Sneaky Snacky Squirrel was his first, if you’re wondering… He played it at daycare every day, and he fell in love! I fell in love with the extra fine motor skills, color recognition and sorting, turn-taking, and patience he was practicing!
We now have an extra large closet FULL of children’s board games. I went through and found my favorites for kids 5 and under. While kids older than 5 can enjoy these games, they really speak to pre-primary school skills! I broke them up into a few large categories, but the great thing about each of these games is they are LOADED with various pre-primary skills!
- Hot Dots Jr– There are many variations of Hot Dots. We have numbers and counting, and letters and sound recognition. We first started this game when our son was 3. This was a great activity to sit and do together. Once he reached the 2nd year of preschool, he was able to play completely independently.
- Scrabble Junior– Our 4 year old has started to play this game now, and our 7 year old still loves it too. The directions come with several variations to the game to meet your child where they are at developmentally.
- Boggle Jr– The directions for this game have variations to play with all levels of letter and word awareness and decoding!
Numbers and Counting
- Hi Ho Cherry-O– We have the Mickey Mouse version, but there are many to choose from. This is another great fine motor and color recognition game.
- Monopoly Jr– This has been a favorite in our house! We all play together (4 and 7 year old can play with adults helping the 4 year old).
- Pancake Pile Up– This was a great Christmas gift last year! There’s matching, counting, shape recognition and fine motor skills, all rolled into one game!
- Pop the Pig– What is more fun than feeding a giant pig chef little burgers until his belt bursts?! My kids think it’s the best! Colors, numbers, and lots of laughs.
- Sneaky Snacky Squirrel– This adorable nutty game works on colors, counting, and fine motor skills. We play this one over and over every week!
- Greedy Granny– This was on our Christmas list this year, and it has not disappointed! There’s not much strategy to this game, but the kids love spinning the wheel, collecting Granny’s treats, and counting out the number of times they get to push Granny’s chair! It’s always exciting to see Granny pop up while her dentures fly out of her mouth! Ha!
- Sorry-I bought this game to work on sportsmanship with our boys. They have a hard time losing, and Sorry gives many opportunities to practice good sportsmanship! There’s also a lot of counting and number recognition. Our oldest reads the directions on each card as well to get some more reading practice.
Strategy and Cognitive Skills
- Sequence for Kids– This is one for kids closer to 5 years old to enjoy. There is some strategy required that my 4 year old just doesn’t quite get yet.
- Zingo– This was a recent gift to our 4 year old, and the entire family has been enjoying it! It’s like Bingo with a twist!
- Candyland– this classic from my own childhood is still making the rounds. I don’t think I need to explain this one much because I know most of you have played a round or two in your lives…
- Matching games– You can find basically any book/movie/TV show character in a matching game format. We usually make the pairs and store them in baggies in smaller, more manageable groupings. For example, a baggie of 5 pairs versus the entire game of 24 pairs. My 7 year old can now manage the full game, but when we started as a 2 year old, smaller was better.
- Let’s Feed the Very Hungry Caterpillar– My son just chose this at the local toy store for his Christmas money purchase. There is counting, strategy, and fun puzzle building in this one!
- Operation-This is a classic from my childhood, and it’s just as hard! The kids have to work hard with those fine motor skills to remove the silly body parts from the man on the operating table! We adjust the rules slightly for the younger kiddos!
- Checkers-This game teaches all kinds of strategy! Our 4 year old has been able to grasp the concept. His little brain still moves so quickly, so we do try to help him work on his strategy skills.
- Perfection-Try to beat the clock and match all the shapes into their spots before the timer goes off! Move too slow, and you’ll have shapes popping everywhere before you finish! This has been a tricky one, so we practice without the timer first a few times. That has helped our kids learn the game much easier!
- Headbands Jr-This is a favorite game in our house. You wear a headband with a picture of a noun on it. You don’t know what you have up there, so you have to ask yes or no questions to try and figure it out! This is a great game to increase verbal skills with your kids. They will need a lot of guidance at first to understand what a yes or no question is, but once it clicks, it is so much fun!
- Don’ts Break the Ice-Fine motor skills get a good workout when setting this game up, then strategy takes over. Kids have to work hard to try to break out as much ice as they can before the penguin falls through the ice!
As you can see, we have a few games in our house (and I left a few out…). Our kids can learn such valuable skills with these games not to mention all the wonderful bonding you can do while you join in on the fun!
What are your favorite family games? I’d love more ideas!
Post was originally published in March 2020 and updated January, 2021.