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Best Preschool Board Games

Updated on October 8, 2014

Your preschooler will LOVE these board games!

This lens features a selection of board games that preschoolers are guaranteed to play again and again! With more and more new games coming out each year - each one promising to be the best yet - how do you know which ones will be a hit with your child? And just as important, how do you know which games reinforce the values and lessons you want your children to learn?

Board games are a great way to engage and interact with preschoolers, while helping them learn valuable lessons about taking turns, following the rules, and having fun together!

But all of those lessons are lost if your little one won't even play the game, or if the rules are too complicated for a preschooler to follow. 

Here, I'll show you some board games that are perfect for preschoolers. What does it take to be perfect? First, the game has to be fun for your child, so that they want to play it again and again. Second, the game has to teach valuable lessons. Third, it has to be developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.

All of the games featured here meet all of these criteria. I know from experience, because I regularly play all of these games with my own children, and have these games at my house ready to play at a moment's notice.

So whether you're looking for a birthday gift, a Christmas gift, or just a good game to enjoy with your family, these games are guaranteed to be fun for you and your preschooler!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/aidanmorgan/ / CC BY 2.0

 

#1 - The Cat in the Hat I Can Do That! Game - This game stays true to the wacky and fun spirit of the favorite book!

The Cat in the Hat Game is based on the favorite time-tested book by Dr. Seuss - and just like the books, the game is perfect for preschoolers! But don't just take my word for it - check out these awards!

Cat in the Hat I Can Do That! Game
Cat in the Hat I Can Do That! Game

What's in the box? - in the box you'll find a stack of irregularly shaped cards, an assortment of toys and items that kids will recognize from the book (including the fish in his bowl), and some foam rods and clips that are assembled into the "Trick-a-ma-stick."

How do you play it? - Each child takes a turn drawing three cards from the pile, and then trying to carry out the wacky instructions formed by the combination of three cards. Some examples of the wacky combinations include "Slide under the trick-a-ma-stick with the fish under your left arm," or "Hop three times with the rake on your head," or "Walk around the trick-a-ma-stick backwards with the ball on your head." If the child successfully completes the activity, they keep the cards.

Why do kids love it? - Kids love being allowed to do silly things, and this game has them doing some very silly things! They also love watching other kids try to do silly things and cheering each other on. Sometimes, after a child successfully performs a trick, everyone else will think it looks like so much fun they'll start chanting "I can do that too, let me try!"

Why do parents love it? - Admit it, you love watching your kids do silly things and laughing along with them. You'll also have fun trying to do the tricks yourself (especially the ones that call for you to go under the trick-a-ma-stick, a feat which is much easier for small bodies than grownup ones). But even beyond that, this game is developmentally perfectly suited for the growing bodies of preschoolers. They can't quite skip, or hop, or hold things between their elbows easily yet - and this game gets them to push their physical coordination skills in a safe and fun way.

 

#2 - The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game - From Eric Carle's classic picture book

Take your caterpillar on a journey to become a beautiful butterfly, while learning counting, colors, foods, and contrasts along the way.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Game
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Game

What's in the box? - in the box you'll find a game board wonderfully illustrated in the style of the book, an assortment of discs with pictures of the various foods that the caterpillar eats in the book, small foldup boxes that are the playing pieces, and a spinning wheel

How do you play it? - Children take turns spinning the wheel to progress on the board. Along the way, they arrive at various stations along their journey. First their caterpillar has to wait for the sun. Then their caterpillar has to eat 5 fruits. Next their caterpillar has to eat 4 picnic foods. After that their caterpillar has to eat one green leaf. Finally, they have to wait for the moon before continuing on to become a butterfly.

Why do kids love it? - On top of the regular aspects of game play like spinning the spinner, kids like being able to act out the story of the book through their game piece. They also love being able to pick the foods that their caterpillar eats and place each food into the tiny little gamepiece box.

Why do parents love it? - This is a very peaceful game that offers lots of opportunity to talk about night vs. day, healthy vs. unhealthy foods, thin vs. fat, and the obvious concept of metamorphosis. It also teaches children how to take turns, basic counting, and that sometimes they're first to the finish and sometimes somebody else is first.

 

#3 - Horton Hears a Who! You to the Rescue! - Based on another Dr. Seuss favorite book, and popular recent movie

Go on a wild adventure to find hidden clovers and rescue the Who's, all while wearing a funny elephant hat! From the same creators as the Cat in the Hat I Can Do That! game. Another multiple award winner!

Horton Hears a Who - You to the Rescue
Horton Hears a Who - You to the Rescue

What's in the box? - The first thing you'll find is a wacky elephant hat (it comes in two pieces so that it can fit in the box, you will need to slide the trunk into place before your kids try to wear it)! There are also six plastic clovers (each a different color), a game board, a magnetic sand timer gamepiece, six action discs, and a whole bunch of "Who Chips."

How do you play it? - First, the children must scatter and hide the six clovers throughout the house or playing area. Each child takes a turn spinning the spinner to see how many spaces to move the gamepiece. If they land on a disc, they put on the elephant hat and then flip the timer over to reveal the instructions on the other side of the disc. The child must find the correct clover following the instructions on the disc (e.g. flap to the red clover, run to the blue clover, crawl to the green clover, etc.), retrieve the clover using the elephant trunk (which has a small piece of velcro on it - NO HANDS ALLOWED!), and return with the clover attached to the trunk before the sand in the timer runs out to collect their Who chips.

Why do kids love it? - Kids love everything about this game! They love being able to run around the house and pick their own hiding spots for the different clovers. They love the physical challenge of having to move in specific ways while meeting the challenge of the timer. But most of all, they can't wait to have their turn to wear the elephant hat, which captures their focus and attention for the entire duration of the game!

Why do parents love it? - Like the Cat in the Hat game, this game is developmentally perfectly suited for the growing bodies of preschoolers. They can run, flap their arms, and crawl - but it gets a lot harder for them when they have to do it with an elephant hat on, and need to get back before the timer runs out! It's also a great and fun challenge for little kids to try to pick up a clover with an attached trunk instead of their hands. And beyond the physical aspect, this game also develops their memory, because they need to quickly remember where each color clover was hidden, because there isn't time to visit them all. But most of all, you will love seeing your kids put on a funny elephant hat and rush around the house in search of hidden clovers!

 

#4 - Cookin' Cookies Lunchbox Game - Find all the ingredients for your recipe before a rotten egg spoils the batch!

This game packs a whole lot of fun into a tiny lunchbox! You'll be amazed at how excited your kids get to play this game, and at how much fun you'll have playing too!

Ideal Cookin' Cookies Card Game
Ideal Cookin' Cookies Card Game

What's in the box? - In the box you'll find 4 plastic spoons with attached suction cups for picking up ingredients, 26 ingredient cards (including 4 rotten eggs), and 8 recipe cards.

How do you play it? - Each child selects a spoon, the ingredients are scattered on the floor face down, and each child draws a recipe card. Children can either take turns slapping an ingredient with their spoon and seeing it if matches an ingredient on their recipe card - or after yelling "Go!" everyone starts slapping up ingredients at the same time in a frantic race to fill their recipe! Anytime a player gets a rotten egg instead of an ingredient, their batch is spoiled and they must return all their ingredients to the pile.

Why do kids love it? - Kids absolutely love slapping the suction cups onto the recipe cards to pick them up! It's an insanely satisfying thing for both kids and grownups! They also love the challenge of getting their ingredients before the dreaded rotten egg comes up. Finally, all kids love to cook and this game gives them a chance to pretend their cooking without messing up your kitchen!

Why do parents love it? - This game teaches matching and memory skills. When a child sees an ingredient they need get tossed back into the pile, they need to remember where it landed and try to pick it up before somebody else does. This is also a very easy game for preschoolers to pick up, as no reading or even counting is required. So once they get the hang of it, a group of preschoolers can very well play this game on their own (with only occasional refereeing) - of course, that is, if you can tear yourself away from this addictive game!

 

#5 - Piranha Panic! - Don't let the piranhas eat your fish!

OK, not every preschooler game has to be developmental, or have won a bunch of awards. Some are just plain fun!

In this game you race your fish to the top of the stream, but watch out for the piranhas! There's no telling what fish they'll gobble up next - it could even be your own.

Piranha Panic Game
Piranha Panic Game

What's in the box? - There are a number of plastic parts that must be assembled into the game, 8 fish marbles, 4 large piranha marbles, and a game die.

How do you play it? - Each child takes a turn rolling the die. If it lands on a number, they get to move a fish that many spaces upstream. If it lands on a blue fish, they lose a turn. If it lands on a piranha, watch out because it's piranha panic time! The child then rolls the die again to determine how many piranhas to place at the top of the stream, and then they pull the level to release the piranhas. The piranhas roll down the ramp under the surface of the "water" and seem to jump out and grab fish at random to eat them up.

Why do kids love it? - The piranhas are cool, and kids love to see them gobble up the fish as they roll down the stream! They also love how unpredictable the piranhas can be - you never know which fish (if any) will get eaten when the piranhas are let loose. Most of all, they love Piranha Panic time, which is when all four piranhas get sent down the stream at the same time!

Why do parents love it? - This game is too much fun not to love! While you could probably come up with some lessons about the food chain, the circle of life, or environmental sustainability to teach your kids while they play this game - they won't be listening because they're too intent on the piranhas! And although it may sound violent for the piranhas to eat the fish, in fact nothing gets eaten and each fish just has to swim back upstream again. All in all this is a really fun game, and you'll love watch how excited your kids get every time it's "piranha time!"

 

Check out these great games too!

Here are some more great preschooler game suggestions for you. Check them out!

Candy Land The World of Sweets Game (Amazon Exclusive)
Candy Land The World of Sweets Game (Amazon Exclusive)

This timeless classic definitely needs to be on your game shelf if it isn't already.

 
Chutes and Ladders Game (Amazon Exclusive)
Chutes and Ladders Game (Amazon Exclusive)

Like Candyland, no game shelf should go without this classic game of ups and downs.

 
First Games Set (Set of 4)
First Games Set (Set of 4)

Just starting your game collection? This set is a great place to start.

 
Wild Planet Hyper Dash
Wild Planet Hyper Dash

Looking beyond board games? Hyperdash gets your preschoolers moving as they see how quickly they can tag colors on command.

 
Hungry Hungry Hippos
Hungry Hungry Hippos

Down by the river in a shady grove, live the Hungry Hungry Hippos. There's HoneyPotamus (who loves anything sweet), VeggiePotamus (who loves all things green), PickyPotamus (who's very, very picky), and his big brother BottomlessPotamus (who isn't picky at all!). Come on down to the riverbank and join the Hungry Hungry Hippos for a gobblin' good time. The player whose hippo munches the most wins! This heritage game with its frenetic, colorful gameplay is a recognizable favorite that always leaves kids hungry for more!

 

Do you know some great preschooler games? Maybe you've already tried the ones here and would like to chime in? Please go ahead and leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

Please leave your feedback here! - I hope you enjoyed this lens and will take a few seconds to let me know what you think.

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thanks a bunch! Excellent lens!

    • profile image

      clcmdorg 5 years ago

      Great lens and resources on preschool games. We're always looking for quality content to add and link to on our Rockville preschool site as well as use in the classes.

    • efarmiga profile image
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      efarmiga 7 years ago

      Thanks for the positive comments all! I'm very happy that you enjoyed the lens!

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 7 years ago

      Some excellent suggestions!

    • mylittlescholar1 profile image

      mylittlescholar1 7 years ago

      I love kids games... and as a preschool teacher I am always looking for some great ones. Thanks

    • profile image

      Funtshirts 7 years ago

      great lens! i like the descriptions for the games, it's very helpful! 5 stars :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Fun lens with some great preschool games for kids! Myself, I'm still old school and love Candyland! :)