Thursday, March 19, 2015

Best Board and Card Games for Young Kids (Age 2 to 6)

My backyard in Stanford opens into a closed courtyard with a beautiful playground. My kids aged 3 and 5 absolutely love it. So why don’t we just let them out to play all day?

I enjoy playing games with my kids instead because it is my way of spending quality time with them. If they were in the playground, or playing with toys, they do their own thing. But playing games, our attention is on each other, and they learn how to follow rules, how to develop strategies, and how to play well with each other as well as adults. Different games also do have specific educational aspects. We’ve gone through quite a number of games over the past year, and I decided to start a list of what has worked and what doesn’t, for anyone else who wants to get their kids started on gaming.

Click on the affiliate links to find the games on Amazon (and let me earn a few cents if you decide to purchase it).

Recommended Games


SPOT IT! is a matching game: each card contains multiple designs, and any two cards in the deck always has only one design in common. There are many ways to play with the cards, but they all involve being the first to identify the common design. This was the first game my kids got really into, and is still one of their favourites. There are many variants, and we have the original, the Junior Animals version and the Disney Planes - Alphabet version. We all prefer the original one, mainly because it has more cards (because there are more designs on each card.) It is rated age 7+, but if I don’t focus my 5yo will kick my ass, and the 3yo won’t win but she will get her fair share of points.


Interest Rating: High - The kids take this out and play with each other
Educational Value: Medium - Learn the names of the different designs, train visual recognition and reflexes


COLORAMA is a game of matching coloured shapes into slots on a board, using a combination of a die for colors and a die for shapes. It is rated for kids aged 3-5, with different sets of rules for each age. In practice, my 3yo easily mastered the rules for 5yos, and the 5yo is happy to play with her although it’s too easy for him.

Interest Rating: High - The kids take this out and play with each other
Educational Value: Medium - Learn colours, shapes, how to interpret dice and basic probability


I’ve long wanted to start teaching my kids to programme. I realized after buying a Raspberry Pi that it would help if they could read first. However, I just found this game that teaches the concepts of programming without needing to learn to read! The concept is pretty simple, and folks in my generation will recognize elements of the old Logo/Turtle drawing language from the 1980’s. ROBOT TURTLES lets you set up obstacles on the game board, and the players need to sequence a set of command cards to get their turtle past the obstacles to the treasure. My 5yo quickly grasped the concept of iterative commands, and I will next introduce the idea of optimizing the algorithm to use minimal cards, as well as the Function Frog for subroutines. My 3yo loves the game too, although she is quite happy right now making her turtle dance around the board. The game is rated ages 4+. (Instruction video here)

Interest Rating
: Medium - The kids like it, but they can't really play on their own because they rely on the parents to moderate the game play.
Educational Value: High - Learn programming concepts

RICHARD SCARRY'S BUSYTOWN is part of the Eye Found It series, and is a cooperative game that revolves around finding objects among the pictures of Busytown on the game board, such as wheels, ice cream cones and spades. Players need to get everyone to the finish line together before time runs out, and finding enough of the everyday objects greatly expedites the objective. It builds great teamwork and camaraderie amongst all the players. It's very easy for a 5yo, but more interesting for a 3yo.

Interest Rating: Medium - The kids like it, but they can't really play on their own because they rely on the parents to moderate the game play.
Educational Value: Low - they learn how to spin the wheel and recognise objects

This is a live list, and I will continue to update it over time. Bookmark this page and check back occasionally for updates! Suggestions are also welcome – leave a comment below!

More Recommended Games (full review in due course)
Disney Frozen Matching Game
Marvel Matching Game, Blue
Zingo! Sight Words,
MindWare Toppletree
Ravensburger Make 'N' Break - Family Game
 








Games We're Keeping Till They Get Older


Games I Don’t Recommend 
Either due to low interest value or low education value