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One of my family’s favorite ways to connect is through games—board games, made up games that my husband and I think of on the spot, and even adult games. (We once figured out how to include our toddlers in a rousing game of Yahtzee on a rainy afternoon.) They’re a great way to pass the time and have other benefits, as well.
Games teach vocabulary, memory, critical thinking, and are a natural and fun way to encourage children to communicate. In fact, we first played many of the games listed below during my children’s speech therapy sessions. Plus, they’re an excellent way for children to learn about taking turns, following rules, and understanding that they can’t always win.
The first few games listed are great for toddlers to play and the gaming options expand as children get older. My kids are now four and five years old and still love all the games I’ve shared here.
The trick to a successful game session is putting your phones and iPads away and turning off the television before you start playing. Without the sporadic pings of text messages and notifications distracting you from the moment, I guarantee you’ll have more patience to get through a whole game with your kids.
What games do you like to play as a family? Share your suggestions in the comments!
This is a preschool version of the classic game Uno. Instead of using cards, match farm animals or colors, knocking each figure into the barn as you go. It’s a great game to keep little hands busy.
This is simple enough for little ones but the suspense of the “pop” will keep older kids entertained as well. Roll the dice to see what color hamburger to feed the pig. Pick a burger of that color and flip it over to find a number. That’s the number of times you must pump the pigs head. That makes his belly grow until he eventually pops!
This is bingo with a twist. Slide the tile dispenser and see if any of the pictures match the images on your Zingo card. If they do, be the first to call out the image of the tile to win it. For a less intense version of the game that’s more friendly to younger children, just take turns sliding the dispenser and matching tiles. There’s also an advanced version with sight words.
Teach your kids left from right with this fast-paced game that’s also perfectly compact for travel. The instructions say it’s meant for ages 5+, but we were able to play as a family starting when our kids were around three years old. Begin with three chips. Roll the dice to see whether you get to keep your chips, pass one or more to the left, right, or center. The last person with chip(s) wins.
The adult version of Sequence is a lot of fun, so I was excited to find a simplified version for kids which is targeted for children ages 3 – 6. Younger kids will mostly enjoy matching the pictures and using the chips. Older children will begin to understand the strategy behind the game. Play a card from your hand and place a chip on the corresponding character on the board. The goal is to get four chips in a row.
I used to play this game with my grandmother when I was a kid, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Roll the dice to get the various dice combinations listed on the scorecard. Young children who aren’t ready to play by themselves will love shaking and rolling the dice for you.
This is the game of the moment for my four- and five-year-old. Be the first to get rid of all your cards by matching the color or number to the card that was just played. The wild cards keep it fun and unpredictable.
This is my new favorite. The rules are simple enough for little kids to understand but the game can actually be played with quite a bit of strategy. Score points by matching tiles based on either color or shape.