Monday, July 26, 2021

Board Games for Toddlers

Tips and ideas for board games with 2 and 3 year olds

After spending so much time playing games with my oldest, I knew that I wanted to get my youngest playing with us as soon as we could. Unfortunately, not all toddler games are all that much fun. Thus began a quest to find games for the toddler that wouldn't make the rest of us go (too) crazy.

Tips for incorporating younger kids into family games:

  • Let them "help" - We will often have my youngest roll dice for us. He feels like he's part of the game, but not actually making any decisions.
  • Cooperative games - These games are great because everyone is working towards the same goal. Younger kids can be coached, while still taking the actions themselves. We started doing this with Forbidden Island when my oldest was about 4. Ghost Fighting Treasure Hunters could also easily work with older players helping a child as young as 3.
  • Make it cooperative - do you have a competitive game you can make cooperative? We used to play Candyland and Chutes and Ladders cooperatively with my 2 year old. Now we play Math Dice Jr cooperatively with my 3 year old. Instead of seeing who can get to the end of the track first, work together to move the same piece.
  • Gamer in Training - keep in mind a lot of games aimed at 2 year olds end up being more activities than true "games." However, they get little ones used to some game mechanics like taking turns, doing things in steps, working towards a goal, etc.
  • Non-Toddler Games - so many games now have fun components and pieces. I've found several of the games we play with my oldest are interesting to the youngest. This ends up saving money on toddler specific games and gives us more bang for our buck on the older games (as long as pieces don't get lost). Some include Blokus, Qwirkle, and Conezilla.

Non-Toddler Games
We have a lot of games that we play with my oldest, but my youngest has discovered some as activities for himself.
  • Pancake Pileup - This is actually a racing game for older kids where you have to stack the pancakes in a particular order. We play without the racing component.
  • Blokus - he loves arranging all the blocks in the tray. It keeps him busy for a long time and is great for visual/spacial skills!
  • Qwirkle - we have used these for matching games. They also work well for shape or color sorting! You could even use them with Venn Diagram rings!
  • Conezilla - my little guy loves putting numbers in order, so this game was perfect for that! As he gets older, we will be able to play the real game.
  • Shaky Manor - once again, my little guy loved sorting the components into categories.

Toddler Game Ideas

  • Lucky Ducks - Very simple shape matching game.
  • Perfection (smaller version) - We started off using it without the timer that makes it pop. It makes a great little shape matching/orientation game.
  • Frankie's Food Truck Fiasco - This is a good one to grow with the kids. We started playing at 2 without the spinner or tweezers as a simple shape matching activity. As he has gotten older, we have been able to add in the idea of the spinner and cat tweezers. 
  • Sneaky Snacky Squirrel - Similar to Frankie's Food Truck Fiasco, this one uses squirrel tweezers and colored nuts instead of shapes.
  • Honeybee Tree (or Kerplunk) - this is one of those games that both my kids have enjoyed across a wide range of ages. To be 100% honest, it isn't my favorite, because it does take a while to put all those sticks in!
  • Building Site Game - This game has a little truck that drives around the building site to build a house. You have to match little icons to the stage of the "blueprint" to build the different components of the house. There really is no way to lose, it is more of an activity about accomplishing tasks in order.
  • My First Orchard - a cooperative game where you try to gather all of the fruit from the trees before the raven gets to them. You can actually lose, depending on the die rolls. 
  • Spin to Play Build a Robot - a simple spinning game that works on number recognition. To make it simpler, eliminate the "tool." 
  • Go Away Monster! - a cute little game where you pull pieces out of a bag to decorate your room. If you get a monster you yell "Go Away Monster!" and put it in the monster pile. You may be the first to complete your room, but not a strong way to lose.
  • Little Cooperation - an adorable little luck game. I like this one because it is a story that is really easy for little ones to grasp. The little animals want to go home to their igloo and you have to help them by getting them across the bridge. We do tend to lose this one often, though.
  • Monkey Around - a cooperative action game where players get bananas by performing different actions. Once again, not a true "game" because there really is no way to lose.
  • Raccoon Rumpus or Koala Caper - These games are pretty similar, but one focuses on colors and the other on patterns. You have to try to find clothes for your little character that match the dice. We started off playing this one with only one die and then added in the second.
  • My First Animal Upon Animal - an adorable little animal stacking game that has multiple ways to play. 
  • Little Bird Big Hunger - Another cute little HABA game. This game actually does have someone win. The nice thing is everyone has the potential to play on everyone else's turn as well, avoiding that lull for kids while waiting for it to be their turn.
  • Shopping List Game - Orchard Games has a very popular version of this game that includes expansions. I actually went with this other version because it included "money" and prices, giving us more ways to play. So far, for us, it is more of an activity than a game, though. No one really wins or loses.
  • Count Your Chickens - a cooperative game where you try to get all the baby chicks in the coop before the mama hen gets there. I like that it introduces the concept of a board where you progress from one end to the other. This one works on early counting skills.
  • Hoot Owl Hoot - another cooperative game where you try to get the little owls back to their nest before the sun comes up. Similar to Count Your Chickens, it introduces the idea of progressing across a board, focusing on color recognition instead of counting. (A lot of times you can find a two pack of this and Count Your Chickens from places like Mindware or Target).

  • Stone Soup - another cooperative Peacable Kingdom game. This one says ages 5+, but I think it might be too boring for a 5 year old. It is a memory matching game where you try to finish making the soup before the fire goes out. My 3 year old likes it now.
  • Don't Break the Ice - another game I'm torn about putting on here. My son LOVES it and it is great for using an overhead marker to write words or numbers on. However, you spend most of your time setting it back up.
  • Hiss  in this game you match colors to make snakes. My little guy gets how to play, but doesn't get the strategy part of it, therefore my older son always wins. 
  • Feed the Woozle - in this game you balance food on your little spoon and walk it across the room to put in the Woozle's mouth. It's simple and fun, although I think we did adjust the rules a bit at the beginning of playing.
  • Dragomino - the junior version of Kingdomino. Players match terrains on "dominoes" to earn eggs and baby dragons. Simple, but should still be fun for older siblings playing with little ones.

Single Player Logic Games for Toddlers

I LOVE single player logic games for kids! Most are so good for developing visual spatial and/or deductive logic skills. I learned at a math conference years ago that being able to mentally manipulate objects is a huge predictor of success in math and it has really stuck with me. Here are some that are good for toddlers.
  • Castle Logix
  • Bunny Peak a Boo
  • Trucky 3
  • Three Little Pigs - my 3 year old can do this one, but needs a little help with setup.
  • Penguins on Ice - This is actually intended for much older kids. I have found that my toddler can do it when I put the pieces in the correct positions (they slide to change shapes) and he just have to figure out how they fit into the tray together.
Gifting-Online also has a good list of family board games.

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