I think it's safe to say that I'm an expert in winter and being cooped up with a lot of little kids! Winter is "challenging" to say the least, and I've had many days where I'm more than proverbially pulling my hair out, but this year we've really turned a corner in how my kids can entertain themselves and I'm really excited and grateful for it -- they're old enough to play games by themselves! With each other!
It's really a remarkable ability that we're just getting a handle on around here, but not only is it a great winter activity, it's also really helping them grow in critical thinking skills, reading, logic, and a little bit in sharing and taking turns. I think there's something wonderful in the fact that kids can still play with tactile games and not simply click, swipe, and push buttons. It's also really great that I can tell a couple kids to go pick a game off the shelf and that they can play it without my help!
Here's some games we own that we have seen used really well in our house for all our kids, I'd love to hear your favourites too because I think games are a fantastic investment and that you can never have too many!
Games for the Tots
Good games for toddlers are hard to come by. They need to be simple, yet still appeal to fun and competition or else a toddler has no desire to stick with it. They also need to not drive the parents insane or else they'll never come off the shelf. It's a tough line to walk but we've found these games have been successful with the under 5 set. My toddlers can play these all with their older siblings and even on their own, although we all know they greatly prefer if mummy plays with them!
Hisss Card Game
This game is based on color matching and it's simple and fun. My 3 year old can play it with the older kids and that's a giant plus.
Little Orchard Game
This one was a great hit at Christmas with my now 4 year old son. He really gets a kick out of it and I play it with him and our 2 year old. It encourages good turn-taking, doesn't take too long to play, and has a giant wooden dice and pieces that the kids love to touch and play with.
This one has appeal to little kids, it's simple and tactile, but comes with lots of pieces. So it has driven me a bit crazy, but I trade that off with the 15 minutes of peace I can get out of the kids playing it together. Full disclosure!
Spot it Junior Animals
One of the best games around, this card game that encourages matching and visual concentration can be played in a myriad of different ways. My 3 year old could play many different versions of it and had a great time, but this game is fun for all ages and the grandparents play it with the kids regularly. Highly recommended!
Great Introductory Board Games
These games are more for 4-5 years and up. They're great for introducing kids to the basics of how to play board games, taking turns, beginning logic, and the fun that comes from playing games. These are also great games that you can just tell your kids to go play and shouldn't involve much from you for them to both play and clean up.
The popping can drive you a little mad, but if they play it in the basement everybody wins! For some reason this is just a hit with kids. All my kids have enjoyed playing it, and once they were taught the ins and outs my husband and I can bow out and get away from the noise.
Battleship Board Game
This one is a little bit more complicated, but it's a really great game for critical thinking skills. My boys especially appreciate it, and it's a great activity for quiet time.
Uncle Wiggly Game
A solid beginning reader's game. Enough action to keep them involved.
I know, I know. Who plays checkers anymore?! But this is a great game for building critical thinking skills. I've already seen improvement in the kids' thinking skills just from playing this game. It's great for friendly competition and learning strategy.
This one doesn't see as much play in our house, but when they bring it out everyone wants to play it. Again, a great beginner's game, perfect for number recognition and matching. And easy to learn!
I feel silly saying this, but I remember thinking Memory was stupid and why would anyone have fun playing it. Now I stand corrected because my boys have a great time playing it and are killer good at it. I always lose...to my five year old!
I know, it's just tic-tac-toe. But if a crazy plastic board gets my kids to play a game by themselves then I'm up for it. Perfect game with easy clean up for times when you need kids to just do something by themselves.
Beginner Card Games
My husband and I love cards. Our families love cards. We're really big card game people. It is one of our family tenants to have card game playing children who can identify trumps by the age of ten. Right after fulfilling our baptismal promises for our children comes "teach them how to play cards." Okay, I'll stop now, you get the picture. So far these have been great:
Classic. And if you get a fun deck with cute occupations and illustrations it makes it a lot easier and fun for young kids to play.
Another classic game that's easy for kids to pick up. We haven't played this game as often this winter, but it is a great starter game that's easy for kids to learn.
This game is a good one. Adults like to play it and it's a lot of fun. Our kids have so far gotten the hang of it, but still need an adult to play with them, but that's good too. Family games are good games!
There's A Moose In The House
This game is silly but fun and has some good card game fundamentals that aren't in many beginners games. It's probably perfect for our 7 and 8 year olds, but the 6 year old has picked it up just fine.
These are what we've been filling the cold afternoons and long evenings with this winter. Hopefully we'll build upon our repertoire of games and my kids will continue growing up enjoying playing them together. And I might just survive the long Canadian winters!
What are your kids favourites?
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