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For several months now, we’ve been playing board games at night with our preschooler. And we’ve found there are SO MANY BENEFITS to this! Today, I’m so excited to share both the games themselves and what we’ve gained by adding board games to our nightly routine.
The great thing about these 6 games is that many are familiar, all are readily available, and they won’t take up a huge chunk of time.
Here we go!
1) Candy Land
Everyone knows Candy Land, but this was the first game we really started playing together. This is obviously a great choice for an introduction to board games, as millions of parents before me already knew. Because you are able to start playing Candy Land at an early age, it’s a good way to review colors and learn to take turns.
It was also a perfect exercise for learning about setbacks. At age 3, we found that getting Mr. Mint when just moments away from winning could be a disaster, resulting in crying and no longer wanting to play. But by age 4, the same scenario would result in an “oh man!!!!” and understanding that we can’t just give up when disappointment comes our way.
#2) Surprise Slides
We found this game on clearance recently, and our preschooler loves it! You move by colors like in Candy Land, but because parts of the board can change, the course can also change and it introduces critical thinking skills.
At first, kids may just like to flip the movable pieces around, but eventually they will discover that how you change the pieces directly affects where your character will go. It’s a nice change-up in our typical game rotation!
3) Disney Matching Game
There are a million different matching games on the market, but ours happens to be the Disney version. As you may recall from your younger years, you can pick the number of matches you’ll use, which means this game can be very simple or quite complicated.
As kids get better and better at matching, you can keep adding more until you play the full board. We generally choose about 20 matches, mix them up, and lay them out. Honestly, our preschooler is better than we are at this game most of the time! 😉
4) Chutes and Ladders
Another oldie-but-goodie that we adore. We use an oversized dice to play this one instead of the spinner that comes with it, and ended up being totally surprised at how quickly a preschooler can learn the dice without needing to count each dot. This game is obviously great for number recognition since kids have to learn which way to go based on numbers.
Okay, you caught me. Not technically a board game, but I’m putting it on my list anyway! When we bought Alphabet flashcards, we didn’t want our preschooler thinking we were trying to force her into some sort of homework thing, so we told her it was a game. And since they include games in the insert, we weren’t even telling a white lie.
We’ve been laying out all the cards (upper and lower case) and then we take turns giving a letter to someone to find. That person then must find both the upper and lower case letter. We’re learning letters and it’s fun instead of stressful!
6) Guess Who
Technically, this game is for ages 6 and up. But when our four year old saw it up in the closet and desperately wanted to play, down it came. I did not think this would be a good idea. I thought she’d just get frustrated for not understanding it or mad she had to play on a “team” with one of us. But she wanted to learn, so she did.
After a few days of playing, she was a pro! Since she can’t read yet, when someone is ready to “guess who,” each player removes the card from the holder, puts it to their chest, and the boards get flipped around. That way, our daughter can guess by pointing, or answer our guesses by our pointing. By now, she has played so much that she knows some of the names, but we turn around the board just to make sure she guesses who she means to guess.
So now that you have some game recommendations, let’s chat about why they are so great to play!
REASON: Family Time OR Special Time
If you have multiple kids of game-playing age, this can be a great way to spend time as a family. If it’s still super warm where you’re at now, like it is here, then you probably need fun things to do inside. You can talk while you play, ask questions about each other’s days, and just enjoy a little bit of easy fun after a really long day.
Because our other child is only a year old, we opted to play games after he goes to bed. This gives our 4 year old a chance to have us all to herself, doing something she picked, and just feels so special to her. By spending this special time together, we are able to put all our attention to our oldest.
REASON: Developing Confidence
As our preschooler learns new games, gets better at them, understands more rules, and even wins a few, her confidence grows. Trying new things and then getting the chance to master them helps our kids see that a new skill might be hard at first, but with practice they will get better. This then translates to other areas as well. If our kids have the background knowledge that they are capable of learning something new, then how much more eager will they be to tackle whatever new thing comes their way in life?
REASON: Learning to Win AND Lose
For kids, it’s easy to win, but it’s pretty hard to lose. When we first started playing nightly board games, things were GREAT if our preschooler won. But if she lost? Watch. Out. So we started talking through winning and losing. We made a rule that if you lose, you tell the winner “Congratulations!” with a smile. If you win, you don’t go around gloating. Instead, you tell everyone else that they did a great job too. Although it took weeks and weeks, I think we’ve completed this lesson in our house, because out of nowhere, our daughter started telling us “We’re ALL winning because we’re ALL having fun.”
REASON: Learning to Follow Rules
We’ve spent a long time learning not only the actual rules of each game, but also learning to follow the family rules. For instance, we had a period of time where any game setback (going down a Chute, for instance) would lead to tears and a certain someone flinging game pieces all over and slamming the board shut. Ummm…no.
We quickly realized we had to set rules, and the biggest one of all was: If you can’t handle what happens in the game, we can’t play the game. This meant that if you were going to carry on about losing, something that happened, or it being time to stop playing, we wouldn’t be able to play at all the next night. And while every so often this becomes a problem again, we are usually able to nip it quickly by reminding that if we can’t play the right way, we just won’t play at all.
I hope that your family can find some time to play a game together soon. You may not be able to play every night, or even every week. But if you get a moment, bust open the closet!! You might just find that board games are the perfect way to wind down and reconnect with your kids after a long day.
What family games do you love? Are there any preschool games this list is lacking?
If your child is a little too young for these games, check out 12 activities for 12 month olds!
About the guest author:
Meghan is a working mama of two (ages 4 and 1), just trying to keep everyone decently happy and content. She writes her blog, this average mom, about navigating motherhood while being totally–you guessed it!–average. She doesn’t do Pinterest activities, and her kids eat way too many chicken nuggets. Her hope is that she can provide a place online where there’s no judgment or guilt about the way we each choose to parent. She enjoys reading, iced coffees, and the elusive date night. She has a newfound love of running and is working toward her first half marathon.