I admit it. I stink at playing with the kids. I know we are supposed to do it and it is a great way to connect with them, but when it comes to imaginative play I…leave a lot to be desired. For instance, with 3 boys there have been lots of sessions of playing with cars. But I never really know what to do or how cars “play”, so I usually just line them up in rows and call it a parking lot…that is organized by color and type of car (you know, how real parking lots are!)
So instead of beating myself up for being bad at imaginary play with my kids, I just find other ways to play with them that I enjoy. I find games, toys and activities that I can play with my children without wanting to poke my eyes out. In fact, I just wrote about these “play compromises” in this post called 5 simple ways to play with your kids, for those of us who don’t love to! with board games at the top of my list.
But even though board games are one of my favorite ways to play with my kids, there are some board games that make me feel like I am on a never ending merry-go-round and I can’t get off! Because I may have loved Candy Land as a kid simply because I dreamed of living in a land that had gingerbread trees, lollipop woods and candy castles, but as an adult? Oh, the monotony! Same goes for Chutes and Ladders. Just when I think the agony is almost over, I end up trying to steal cookies from the high shelf and end up back at the bottom of the board lying in the midst of shards of broken pottery and cookies.
So, what are the best preschool board games that don’t make me want to poke my eyes out? Here are a few of my favorites. Feel free to purchase them through the (affiliate) links if you want to add some interesting games to your Family Game Closet.
Best Preschool Board Games
Gobblet Gobblers (2 players Only, Ages 5 and Up, Manufacturer: Blue Orange)
This is a simple wooden game that is a new twist on Tic Tac Toe. Each player gets 6 pieces or “Gobblets” of varying sizes. You play them as you would in a Tic Tac Toe game, trying to get 3 in-a-row, except the bigger pieces can “gobble” the little ones and take over their space. There is actually a lot of strategy involved, especially as the kids get older. When they are younger, they simply want to gobble the pieces up, but even I have to think about what size pieces to use and where to play for the best results. Honestly, I give this one 5 stars (if I was doing such a rating system, which I would never do because that takes too much organization and planning! ;)
Hiss (2-5 players, Age 4 and Up, Manufacturer: GameWright)
We have had this game for quite a long time, but it still tops my list of best preschool board games. It is described as a “colorful snake-making tile game”. You simply place all the cards upside down in a few piles. Next you draw different cards (or tiles) with (cartoon looking!) snake parts on them. The head cards and the tail cards are solid colors (except for the rainbow wild cards), but the bodies contain 2 different colors. The goal is to build a snake with at least 3 cards, including a head, body and tail. The color cards have to match and can change in between. You can also make very long snakes with this game (our record was 17 cards long!) The kids have fun building the longest snake they can!
Zingo (2-8 players, Ages 4-8, Manufacturer: ThinkFun)
Zingo takes the classic bingo game and adds a “zing” to it by using a plastic tile dispenser (called a Zinger) that clicks and slides out yellow tiles when you push it. The cardboard bingo cards have 9 pictures on them (9 on each side, a red and a green option) and each player gets a turn to slide the Zinger producing 2 yellow tiles that you race to claim and fill your card. The highlight of the game (yes, even for me!) is sliding the Zinger! I have no idea why it is so exciting but there is something about the sliding that is so satisfying! And while we just have the original version of Zingo, ThinkFun has since come out with a number, a site word and several other versions that make learning fun. I have to say this is one of the first games I suggest when my kids and I are going to play a game together.
Memory (2+ players, Ages 3 and up, Manufacturer: MB Games)
I know this is one of the oldest games around, but unlike Candyland or Chutes and Ladders, it takes thought! I don’t know why I like it so much- perhaps because we are all on the same playing field, having to remember where we found certain cards. The game rules are the same as they have always been, laying little cardboard pictures cards upside down and taking turns flipping over 2 cards at a time. If they don’t match, you flip them back over and leave them exactly as they were before the next player has a turn. While the rules remain the same, we make some adjustments based on age in our house. We make the game easier with less cards in the game for the younger members of our household. And we make sure that the cards stay in the same place, making memorization easier. I have known some people to let their littlest ones just keep the cards facing up leading to a more simple matching game. Either way you play, I feel like I am exercising my brain when I play this game with my kids- keeping Alzheimers at bay or something!!
Spot it! (2-8 players, ages 7 to Adult, Manufacturer: Blue Orange)
(I definitely think its appropriate for younger kids as well, but I see that this is the age set for the classic version and now they have a junior version as well!)
Spot it! is a great game, if simply for its portability. This is a great screen-free time filler when waiting with your kids at the doctor’s office or in line at the post office. There are several different ways to play the game. The version we play the most is that you place one card in the center between the players. You deal out the rest of the cards evenly between the players. When the game starts, each player looks for a picture on their own card that matches a picture on the card in the center. When you find a matching picture, you shout out the name of the match- for example, cactus or snowflake and place your card on top of the center card and your card now becomes the new card to match. The goal with this version is to get rid of all the cards in your hand. This one always has us laughing as it’s a race to find the first picture match and get your card on top! The other great thing about this game is the different themes and versions Blue Orange, the manufacturer, has come out with. From sports to numbers and shapes to every Disney show imaginable and at such a low price point, you could buy or give this as a gift over and over again!
As always, I keep it simple with 5, but I know there are lots of other great games out there! Please share in the comments below as I am always looking to add games to our closet that keep my eyesight intact! ;)