Playing games as a family allows you to spend fun time together. You get to practice important communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills, while having a good time. These soft skills are essential for life.
Board games naturally help children practice these soft skills. They learn to wait patiently for their next turn. Kids get to talk about the game, listen to the rules, and practice communication skills. House rules (if you have them) teach your child to think outside the box and use creativity.
That’s why I love integrating games into our homeschool. While we play, my kids are practicing soft skills, boosting their strategic thinking skills, and often reviewing a math or reading skill at the same time. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
But, for a long time I had a hard time playing games with my younger kids. Board games for preschoolers used to be pretty boring. You can only play so many rounds of Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders before you’re mentally done. And if mommy gets bored playing, the game won’t come off the shelf very often.
Now, however, that isn’t the case. Those classics aren’t the only board games for preschoolers. And I’ve gotten better at integrating my younger kids into games designed for older kids.
Here are some of our favorites for the three to five year old crew that won’t bore older siblings or parents as quickly. They are a combination of board and card games, because we call them all board games in our house! 😀
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#1: Busy, Busy Airport
This game will keep your little one moving during play! It’s perfect for active little preschoolers. You set up the game by spreading four destination mats around your room. If you want to encourage more movement, you could even spread them out across the whole house.
To play, one player rolls the dice and sees how many passengers and stops are needed. Then, the player sets off to pick up passengers and take them where they need to go. The planes are fun, and motivating for my crew.
Spot-It is simple to learn, but fun to play. Because of it’s compact size, it’s perfect for slipping in the diaper bag or even your purse for fun on the go.
You can play several different variations of the game, so be sure to read the directions and decide on one version before you jump into game play.
I love that this plays quickly. Each round takes just a couple of minutes.
The object is simple—to match an item from one card to an item on another. Every card has exactly one item in common with every other card in the deck. You just have to use the power of observation to figure out what that item is.
There are multiple versions of Spot-It available, but each one plays the same. Once you know the rules you can play with any deck. We have the original Spot-It, an alphabet one, and a Disney Planes deck. My kids seriously wouldn’t mind if I picked up a few more—they’re that fun!
#3 Racoon Rumpus
Ellie got this game for Christmas last year, and it’s a lot of fun! Your goal is to collect outfits for your racoon. To make this happen, you have to roll the die.
Then you pick an outfit that matches the color shown. You can find community helper outfits, sports outfits, and more. There’s plenty to pick from.
But, it is possible to lose your clothes. Then your racoon will be down to his underwear!
My preschoolers are definitely into the potty jokes, so having underwear in a game makes it a hoot!
This game also naturally leads to conversations. Where is your racoon going while wearing that? What does your racoon do for a living? What season do you think it is?
So many questions can be asked based on clothing, and I’d encourage you to expand the game play by asking them.
These raccoons and clothing cards also work well for solo play. My kids will get them out during Family Writing Time and create stories.
#4 There’s a Moose in the House
There’s a Moose in the House isn’t necessarily designed as a board game for preschoolers. But, it’s a fun game that younger kids can play. The rules are fairly simple, and you can always adapt them if you need to!
We played this as one of our games of the week in 2018. We’ve been playing it ever since.
Cards feature rooms in houses, doors, and rooms in the house with a moose in them.
The goal is to put moose in other people’s houses, while keeping them out of yours. The person with the fewest moose at the end wins.
This game really works on matching, since you have to put a moose in the kitchen on an empty kitchen card. A moose in the bathroom goes on an empty bathroom card. It’s a quick moving, fun game.
#5 Count Your Chickens
It’s time for a collaborative game! These help children learn to work together for a common goal. They teach that not everything is a competition, and that there is a definite benefit to working with others to achieve something.
I don’t mind competitive games where there’s a definite winner. In fact, most of the games we play result in a winner.
But, I see the value in working together so we play a few collaborative games as well! I think having a variety of games is a great thing, because your children can learn that not everything always works the same way.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about the differences. Some of it might be over their head, but at least you are beginning to build the foundation on this concept.
The goal of Count Your Chickens is to reunite the baby chicks with Mother Hen. Since we have chicks running around currently, it’s a great time of year to play!
On your turn, you spin the spinner, then move the correct number of spaces. You get to collect that number of chicks and get them back to the mama.
When as a team, you return all the chicks, you win!
#6 Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Game
Do you love Mo Willems books as much as I do? If you’ve never read them, you’re definitely missing out. This game brings that loveable pigeon to life in a new way.
Keep the pigeon from driving the bus by keeping him away from your bus.
You will have to use a bit of strategy, because when the pigeon lands on the same space as your bus you have to return to start. On your turn you can decide to move the pigeon towards other buses, into wide open spaces, or away from your bus. It’s up to you.
Learning strategy helps your preschooler look at the big picture and think ahead a little bit. Planning is important!
#7 Tell Me a Story
I’ve written about this one before! Here’s the post that tells you how we use this game to enhance literacy. This is my go-to birthday present for young kids. It’s well made and contains endless fun.
The goal of the game is simple. Use the cards to tell a story. There are other rules you can implement if you want, but I typically don’t.
The cards are beautifully illustrated, and feature a setting, event, character, or object. They can be combined in endless ways to tell so many different stories.
We each draw a certain number of cards and then tell a story with those cards. My preschoolers tell stories that are very much fact based.
They start with the first card and say what it is. Then they add a “went to” or a “found” or something to tie in the next card. Their stories take seconds to complete.
But, they are learning to use transitions. To tie from one thought to another. And it doesn’t take long for them to really start inserting imagination into their stories. Especially since we usually play this one as a group and there are plenty of older siblings modeling story telling.
Where Are the Games of Chance?
Many of the classic board games for preschoolers are purely based on chance. You had to draw the right color at the right time. You had to roll the right number to avoid going down the slide.
It took luck to be a winner in most of those games.
The games I shared above, aren’t solely about luck. Of course every game has an element of chance, but these games allow for strategy, for critical thinking, and for the player to actually feel like they have a sense of control. I think that’s why I don’t find them as boring!
What Board Games for Preschoolers Do You Love?
These are our favorite board games for preschoolers. I’d love for you to share yours in the comments section below!
This post was originally published in 2018. It’s been updated and refreshed.