Toddler brains are learning and moving so quickly that getting on their level to play a game together often leads to some very big laughs and fascinating conversations. Just earlier this week, my three-year-old son taught me about Lantern Fish (he’s in an ocean unit at school). He offers fish facts without provocation or hesitation, which is an endearing characteristic I’d love to see more of in the world.
How much more fun would the world be if we looked at a stranger and offered a fun fact, they gave us one back, and there was no expectation of further conversation? I’d live in that world. Channeling toddler curiosity and energy into games is fun for us all.
For the second post in our family game series is our favorite board games to play with toddlers, ages 3 & up. All the games on this list are just as fun for us, too! Which one will you play first?
If you are a parent of a certain age (e.g., you had a favorite Backstreet Boy or *NSYNC member), you probably remember Hi Ho! Cherry-O! If you’re like me, you’ll challenge your toddler to a Hi Ho! Cherry-O duel and you will warn your small game partner that they will not win just because they’re cute. It’s probably best to not be like me.
Hi Ho! Cherry-O helps to teach math skills—toddlers from about three and up will have a blast picking pretend fruit from the trees on the game board and filling their buckets. The spinner lets them know the number of pieces to pick—or to put back. There is a luck factor here, so it’s possible that even intellectually competitive parents may lose to their preschools in the first round. Game on.
Okay, this game is the cutest: The bright, wild animal cards make matching fun. They’re relatively large and easy to hold. They’re also hard to lose. The rules are simple, so it’s the perfect first game for small humans. Suuuper Size Memory Game teaches animal names and colors while also training memory, concentration, and cognitive thinking.
What’s double cool is the game box comes with a carrying handle, which makes it easy to take along on your family adventures—whether on road trips or over to visit the cousins.
If Hi Ho Cherry O! and Suuuper Size Memory Game had a baby, it would probably be this The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game. This sweet intro board game reinforces color learning, develops matching skills, encourages strategic thinking, promotes turn-taking, helps hand-eye coordination + fine motor skills while remaining easy to understand.
Be warned: many a toddler has become addicted to this game and asked to play it over and over. Do with that what you will.
If your family likes friendly little monsters (shout out to Elmo!), you’ll love Feed the Woozle. The Woozle’s preferred diet includes hairy pickles and fuzzy donuts. Can your toddler balance his crazy treats on a spoon and get them into Woozle’s mouth in time?
This game grows with your kiddos by offering three levels. There’s no reading required, so even the littlest littles can play with their older siblings. This one is great for multiple kids three and older.
If your child is familiar with the three little pigs, they’ll have even more fun with this Three Little Piggies game. It allows your child to use their creative interpretation of the classic story to help the three smart pigs build their houses. The game tasks littles with setting up the houses so the pigs can play outside and then, if they spot the wolf, get the pigs to stay safely inside.
Three Little Piggies is an excellent brain game for young children: the three big puzzle pieces are easy to hold, and kids will be intrigued by the way the pigs fit inside the houses and look through the windows. The game includes a storybook with images and a booklet with 48 challenges (24 with the wolf and 24 without). It also helps develop early spatial insight, planning, and problem-solving skills.
The fact is kids love Pete the Cat. Now they can show how much they care about him by helping him match his buttons. Players of all ages and sizes spin the wheel and learn shapes, colors, and matching while using the Pete the Cat squeezer to collect his lost buttons. This game is also a fantastic way to hone fine motor skills.
Can your toddler help Pete the Cat match all his buttons?
This sweet little board game is all about farm life! Baby chicks have flown the coop, and Mama Hen needs your little’s help to bring them back. They’ll spin and count numbers to travel and collect chicks while working together. Once all the chicks are gathered, everyone wins!
This is an excellent game for kids with parents like me because it removes potential competitive stress, empowers young learners, and teaches kids that playing together can be fun. This counting game also helps kids learn at a young age how easy it is to cooperate. We could all use a little more of that.
One of my favorite ways to involve our kiddos in our day-to-day life is by grocery shopping. It’s important for so many reasons, not least of which is teaching them to love and appreciate food, culture, and nourishing their bodies. Plus, toddlers love helping, so even holding the bag for them while they count and put apples into it at the store is something even my not-yet-two-year-old loves doing with her mommy.
Shopping List reinforces all those real-life skills: It’s a memory game that teaches about nutrition and competition. Players race around the store to see who can be the first to collect all their grocery items. It develops personal and social skills, shows kiddos how to use a grocery list, and offers two levels of play that allow siblings to all enjoy the race to checkout!
Stinkbugs, *South Park voice* yech! But beyond yech, it’s also super fun to save the other bugs from the stinkbugs in this game. All the colorful bugs need your kiddo’s help to get safe and snug before the stinkbugs show up and stink up the place.
This is a fun, cooperative, and matching game for children that will surely get lots of giggles from all players. Kids learn colors, numbers, shapes, counting, matching, and the concept of big and little. They also get to practice rolling a die, spinning a spinner, and taking turns. Parents get to enjoy the joyful sounds you’ll hear from the other room while you work on dinner.
Does your kiddo worry about monsters under the bed? Hopefully not, but if they do, this is the game for them. This game teaches children how to get rid of monsters for good.
Young players reach into the bag and feel around to find the pieces that fit their bedroom game board. If they pull out a monster, they learn not to be scared—they can just tell that silly old thing to go away. Toddlers can get rid of the monster for good by tossing it into the monster pit and out of their room. They take charge, and the monsters take off!
This interactive game teaches shape recognition, sharing and cooperation, and, best of all, mastery over those pesky nighttime monsters.
Pick up a game from this list? Show us! We’re @thriftylittles on Instagram.