When my kids were young, most of our board games stayed tucked away in the closet. It was hard to play board games while we had babies or toddlers around. Then we started finding board games for preschoolers to play too. Now, we enjoy pulling out games to play as a family. Here’s our favourite board games for preschoolers.
Board games are a great way for kids to learn so many things. Scholastic notes that “in addition to teaching them about teamwork, patience, and how to win and lose gracefully, board games can actually benefit kids’ brains and language development.” Board games also provide hours of family fun—I still have fond memories of crazy Sorry! games with my brothers, and playing epic Monopoly games over Christmas vacations.
UPDATED 2020 with NEW board games for preschoolers. This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Our Favourite Board Games for Preschoolers
We ventured into playing board games with preschoolers by trying to teach Sunshine to play Sorry. It’s a fairly simple board game that I enjoyed when I was growing up (in fact, I have every card and move in the game memorized). So we pulled it out. Lily had fun rearranging her four pieces while we attempted to teach Sunshine about turning cards, following instructions, taking turns, counting spaces… maybe it was more complicated than I had thought.
Lily wanted to flip cards too. One game took much longer than I remembered. But the girls enjoyed it, so we’ve pulled the board out a few times since that first attempt. It’s a good learning tool; they work on their counting and turn-taking skills and Mommy works on her patience.
This game also teaches preschoolers about perseverence and losing a game without losing their temper. There may be times in the game when it looks like someone is winning and someone else is losing, but Sorry! can turn around quickly. My kids have often gotten upset at getting a “Sorry!” card from a sister, so I have to remind them to have fun and wait for their turn to draw a card.
Chutes and Ladders
For her fourth birthday, Sunshine received Sesame Street Chutes & Ladders from one of her little friends. She beat me at it the first time we played (while Lily was napping, so I only had to coach one child). Again, it was good for some lessons; Sunshine had to learn to count and think about what moves belonged on which space (climb a ladder or slide down a chute) and Mommy had to work on not cheating so the game wouldn’t end sooner.
Rubik’s Race has been hugely popular with our kids. They can all play it, from 12-year-old Sunshine (who is proud of the fact that she hasn’t yet lost a game—but she hasn’t yet played Mommy or Daddy) to 4-year-old Pearl (who hasn’t yet won but still likes sliding the tiles around). This two-player board game is based on the classic Rubik’s Cube, as players race to slide their coloured tiles into the indicated pattern.
Hoot Owl Hoot
Hoot Owl Hoot is a co-operative board game for children. They have to work together to help the baby owls make it from the tree to the next before the sun goes down. Each child takes turn drawing a card and then moving either the owl pieces or the sun across the board.
For children who don’t like losing games, Hoot Owl Hoot is a good option. It still teaches children about taking turns, drawing cards, and moving game pieces. For children who are very competitive, this game only works if they are working together, so one child can’t decide to take her “own” owl off across the board without the others helping her.
Uno is a classic card game that our family has recently re-discovered. Four-year-old Pearl can play this game even though she doesn’t read yet, because the cards are big, bright pictures. She does know most of her numbers, but we also encourage her just to match what’s in her hand to what’s on the table. Uno can help kids learn their numbers and colours, as well as taking turns and holding cards.
Carcassonne may not seem like a great board game for preschoolers, as it’s from the same family of games as Settlers of Catan. However, this game can work on multiple levels. My husband is all about the strategy and getting points, while to our preschoolers, the game is like a puzzle. All our kids enjoy drawing their tile and seeing where it fits on the board. They like building cities or roads.
We then encourage them to place their “meeple” wherever they want, and that depends on how they are feeling right than, rather than how many points they think they can get out of it. This game is also good for any young kids who hate losing, because you don’t know who has won or lost until the end of the game, when the points are counted up.
Because our kids like playing Carcassonne, we were super excited to see Catan Junior! This board game for preschoolers is a very simple version of Settlers of Catan. No reading is required, as kids get big, brightly coloured playing pieces. Each child gets a card in front of them which shows how many “resources” they can trade to build ships and forts. Four-year-old Pearl sometimes needs a bit of coaching from her sisters, but six-year-old Jade is a master.
Imaginative Play with Board Games
My preschoolers have also enjoyed pulling out board games for imaginative play by themselves. For example, several of my kids really liked the owls in Hoot Owl Hoot. They’d pull the six owl pieces out to play with and then put them back in the game. Our Mancala set has brightly coloured little animals that are also attracted to play with.
Pearl really likes getting out the Game of Life, and filling the car with people and driving them around the board. This occasionally drives 12-year-old Sunshine nuts, as Pearl “isn’t playing the game by the rules,” but I don’t mind it. She’s still having fun with the board game (and isn’t that the point of the game?) and someday she’ll be old enough to play the game as the rules say.
More Board Games for Preschoolers
Another option for playing board games with preschoolers is to put them on a “team” with a parent or older sibling. We’ve often played bigger games like Ticket to Ride and Puerto Rico this way. The younger sibling can manage the playing pieces or help place them on the board. This way, your preschoolers get a chance to observe and feel included. It’s also a start towards them learning these games and being able to play on their own.
As your preschoolers start learning to read, board games can be a great idea to enforce their alphabet and word skills. Here’s 5 best word games for children to play.
What board games do you and your preschoolers enjoy playing? At what age did they become interested in board games?