Thursday, February 11, 2016

Great Games for Little People: Games to Start With That Won't Make You Crazy

Games for Kids -

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.

Pop-Up Pirate

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.

Trouble Game

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!

Memory Game

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 my five year old!

Connect 4

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:

Old Maid

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.

Uno Game

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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  1. My six year old is really getting into Parcheesi. I have to play it with her, but I enjoy it. We let the three year old roll the dice (on her own special tray so they don't go all over the place) and it is a win win for everyone.

  2. Games! I love games! I think a nice perk of big families is when the kids are old enough to play games together and entertain themselves. And, you can still play games when everyone gets older-games are such a bonding thing, it's awesome! I think it's great that your family is into card games! When I was young, my dad taught us kids how to play Hearts, so we would spend many, many evenings and afternoons playing that together. We also went through a phase of Rummy, and a phase of Golf.

    When I was 6 or so, my family bought a chess set for beginners-on the backs of each piece were little arrows that showed how that particular piece was supposed to move. I like how that game is simple yet can be super difficult, and really encourages critical-thinking skills! Another game that my husband and I just received as a gift is somewhat similar to chess, but most of the pieces move in the exact same way-Arimaa. All of the pieces are little animals, and the goal of the game is to get your rabbit to the other side of the board. In theory, it's super simple, but it's one of those that can become more challenging, too. Another really awesome game that is marketed as 8+, but a 7 year old could probably play it, is Carcassonne. Basic idea is-you lay down tiles to make cities, roads, and farms in a medieval setting, and then you get points for completing different elements. So all the skill that's involved is laying down tiles, and then having one of the older kids (or parents) help score it all.

  3. Tsuro...the box says 8 and up, but my 6 year old and 4 year old enjoy it with us!

  4. We also like Stackable Animals, which is made by the same company as the orchard game. :) (I haven't played that one, will have to check it out!)

  5. Quirkle - almost like Uno with wooden tiles - colors and shapes to match. My HS senior likes to play it with my 5 yr old. And unlike the uno cards, the tiles can't bend or rip when the toddler grabs them! Othello can also be played with 6yr old and up - depending on your patience level.

  6. For Richard Scarry fans, Busytown Eye Found It is a good one. Not annoying -- good for ages 4-6ish

  7. Such a helpful post! I was just looking for some new game for my littles, and there are a few here I've never heard of before! Thanks!

  8. Thanks for this! We recently had a baby after a huge gap and the older kids love to play with him. I'm looking forward to them being able to play some of these toddler games together. My older kids love Wildcraft. It's a cooperative board game that teaches a little bit of outdoor knowledge and is set in Grandma's backyard mountain. I love the idea of the chess pieces with the instructions on the back, too.

  9. We just got our first kiddo game (the sneaky squirrel game) that I brought out during a big snow. It went pretty well until my girls discovered that others can take one of their acorns if they land on "the sneaky squirrel". Tears and talk of "that's not right!" ensued, so for now they just make up their own rules...we have a ways to go in the game department. ;)
    I'm loving those Old Maid illustrations!

  10. My family played almost all of these games growing up!

  11. Thanks for this list! I'm excited to try them with the family! Great ideas for birthday presents 😀

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