He absolutely loves to play. And as an only child, we are his only options when he wants someone to play with.
My husband is great at imaginative play. The two of them will play superheros, or re-enact scenes from movies together. Sometimes our son wants to be the Grandma and appoints my husband to be the baby. Other times, he wants him to get down on all fours so he can ride him like a horse.
I’m not always as creative – nor patient – when it comes to imaginative play.
So, when he received a couple of games for Christmas, I jumped at the chance to have something specific to play with him. At 3 1/2 years old, he was at the perfect age to introduce board games into the mix of things to do at home.
Here are our 5 favorite games to play together as a family:
This was the perfect first board game, which my mom picked up on a trip out West last Fall and gave to him for Christmas. It is based on the beloved children’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. So the kiddo was excited to play, since he already knew and loved the book.
The game is designed for 2-4 players and comes with four caterpillar game pieces. Each caterpillar has a starting place on the game board. You then take turns drawing cards that tell you how many spaces to move. You can move in any direction around the board. However, once you cross a “Fruit” space, you earn a puzzle piece for that particular fruit.
Once you have collected each puzzle piece, you can put your puzzle together to create a beautiful butterfly.
The first person to create their butterfly and move to the center of the board wins.
A fellow writer on our team told me about this game. So, when I saw it on the shelf at Goodwill, I snagged it for $2.99.
The game comes with a red bowl, several pieces of “spaghetti”, and a small plastic Yeti figurine. It’s designed for 2 or more players.
To play, you simply put the bowl on the table; lay the spaghetti noodles on top of the bowl however you want; and set the Yeti on top of the noodles. Then each player takes a turn pulling a noodle out of the pile without letting the Yeti drop into the bowl.
If you touch a noodle, you have to take it. And you can only use one hand at a time.
Once the Yeti falls all the way into the bowl, the game is over. Whoever made it drop loses the game.
This is another super simple, yet fun game to play with your preschooler. Let’s Go Fishin’ features a rotating “pond” full of fish who open and close their mouths every few seconds.
Each player (up to 4 in the version we have) gets a tiny fishing pole to try to “catch” as many fish as they can before the pond is empty.
Whoever catches the most fish wins.
There are 24 fish in the pond and the game goes quickly. But it also teaches hand-eye coordination and garners lots of squeals and giggles in the process.
4) My First UNO
I’m sure we ALL remember playing UNO as a kid. And it’s not too early to teach yours how to play either! In fact, there are several different versions of My First UNO that feature characters your child may already know and love.
We had a SpongeBob SquarePants version from when my now 17-year-old nephew used to love him and spent a night each week at our house. Since our kiddo has watched the show several times with said nephew, we pulled it out one day to see if he was interested in learning how to play. He was.
The My First UNO version is for 2-4 players and has coordinating pictures, colors and numbers to help preschoolers make the right connections in order to match them up. He caught on quickly, but sometimes needs reminders that it is okay for the color to be different, as long as the number and picture are the same.
We found a $.30 version of Go Fish at Target as well (thank you Dollar Spot!), and he caught on to that much more quickly because he had played UNO first. Since all he had to do was match the sea creatures up in that game, it was even easier for him to master as a result.
Another throwback from my own childhood – Candyland is a classic game that will never go out of style.
If you still have your old game, it’s time to pull it out to teach your little one how to play.
The new version is not as cute as the old one. However, the rules are the same and it’s good, cheap family fun. We snagged this one for $3 at Marshalls.
As you may remember, this game is made for 2-4 players and comes with four little Gingerbread Men and a tiny deck of cards. You take turns pulling a card from the deck and skipping your way to the King’s Castle, based on the number and color of the squares on your card as it corresponds to the board.
You may get to skip ahead to a treasured candy space (come on ice cream cone!). Or you might lose a turn or have to go backwards based on the card you get.
First one to the castle wins.
As you can see, all of these games are super simple. However, I appreciate them because playing board games together also teaches him how to take turns, follow directions, and not be a sore loser.
We still have to remind him sometimes that it is okay if he doesn’t win. It’s still fun to play. And we try to be happy for whoever wins the game.
So, not only are these board games allowing us to spend some quality time together as a family. But they are also teaching him good social skills.
Do you play board games with your preschooler? If so, I would love to hear a few of your favorites! We are always on the lookout for new games to add to the mix. Please share in the comments below.