If you were born in the late 70’s or 80’s, you would have played board games to while away the time in your teens (when you weren’t out playing ball). I, in particular, could recall gathering the “young people” in our community for Saturday afternoons of board games and table tennis at my neighbor’s.
When COVID-19 struck, board games started coming out of the home shelves for some reprieve from social media bombardment of troubling news. It also made for good old quality time with the family.
And to make sure you don’t get bored doing the same things all over again, we compiled this list of awesome board games for when you start building your arsenal of kid-friendly board games.
A Quick Overview on the History of Board Games
It is believed that the first recorded board game was from Ancient Egypt. Most of the games started out as a variation of the strategy game that we now call Chess. As times evolved, they also developed into games that encouraged more interaction, simplified rules, and versions that are fit for kids. Eventually, we have veered away from “strategy games” to ones that encourage the behavior that the manufacturer wishes to reinforce. We’ll talk more about those as we go through our list of recommended board games.
Why Develop Board Games for Young Kids
This late stage in a child’s formative years is when we start to see a slowing down of their physical growth and achieving physical milestones; and this is the time when we see more of the intellectual, social, and emotional changes. Later, when we go through the list of recommended games, you will see how each one has been carefully crafted to meet this very important fact.
Piaget recommends for children in this age group to be exposed to a variety of activities that explores with all the senses. And board games are perfect for this!
The quality of instruction is related to small but positive gains in a child’s social-emotional outcome.  Board games made for kids are easy to teach, make use of interesting quality materials, and puts the spotlight on things that affect social interactions, such as taking turns.
It has been said that a child’s environment affects his or her overall development; but the ones most impacting are those affecting the emotional health of a child. Board games are designed with simple rules but it is still best that the games be played under the supervision of an adult. This is to help ensure that resolutions are objective. It is said that the caregiver-child relationship will have an effect on negotiation skills and expectations, among other things.
Recommended Board Games For Young Kids
1. Don’t Step In It Unicorn Edition
This game is so simple and fun that it is considered fit for kids as young as 4 years old. All the kids will have fun setting up “unicorn poop” on the plastic mat. The fun starts when you hit that spinner and blindfold the player who will try his very best not to step on any of the colored poop piles as he attempts to make the number of steps that showed up on the spinner.
The idea of creating things with your hands and seeing them accomplish something – become an obstacle or cause a player to lose on his/her turn – is very fulfilling for kids. Because there will be a number of steps to take, counting is easily squeezed into the picture. Taking turns and resolving not to be the one to step on the poop pile will also help in the socio-emotional development of the players.
Developed by Hasbro Gaming, Don’t Step In It Unicorn Edition is fun and learning in one colorful package. This game packs loads of good fun for your buck.
2. Sequence for Kids
Sequence for Kids is visual strategizing at its best.
Pick a card, place the chip on the corresponding character and get four chips in a row is how you play this game of combined luck and planning. You plan on getting four chips in a row but your fate is decided by the luck of the draw. What do they learn from this aside from counting and matching? Planning while luck is in play is pretty much the reality of life. It helps prepare kids emotionally for the surprise at some bend.
3. Candy Land
Candy Land Kingdom of Sweet Adventures is a board game that is easy to teach to kids as young as three years old. It helps reinforce counting, encourage goalsetting, and the important social skill of waiting for one’s turn.
4. World of Disney Eye Found It
Wonder Forge did very well when they designed this game for young kids. The game trains them to zero in on what they must accomplish, encourages recall and identification of the objects on the board, matching skills, and cooperation. Powered by Disney favorites who will go around the world, kids are sure to enjoy having their turn.
5. Pete the Cat The Missing Cupcakes Game
This is the most interactive game in this lot. Briarpatch introduces the character of Pete the Cat and the Grumpy Toad.
Cooperation is the name of the game as kids work together to get the missing cupcakes. In this game that jogs the memory and requires low-level strategizing, kids would have to sing songs, identify objects and words, and act out physical activities.
6. The Cat in the Hat I Can Do That Card Game
With classic characters from the children’s book The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, even young kids will find the components of this game adorable.
We all love the classic children’s book The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. That alone makes this beautiful already; but this game by Wonder Forge also comes with a deck of color-coded cards that will reinforce learning of colors and association as kids go through each one. Each card will require the execution of a challenging activity that will turn out to be loads of fun for kids aged 4 to 8. It may be a bit more pricey than the others but do we really mind? Parents will always want the best for their children.
7. The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel
This lovely board in the shape of a tree will have kids thinking of the outdoors while playing in the safety of the indoors.
Wouldn’t you love to know that your kids learn multiple things while having so much fun with their peers? This game was designed to teach kids about colors but the how’s of the game also work on counting numbers and your children’s hand-eye coordination. Kids spin the spinner then use the Squirrel Squeezer to pick up the number of acorns required. First to squirrel away five wins.
8. Hi Ho Cherry O Mickey Mouse Edition
Counting with Mickey is always fun.
The game is so easy that even 3-year olds can play it. I must say Hasbro Gaming did very well on this one in terms of ease of play, covering basic preschool learning, and cuteness overload.
9. Kanoodle Extreme
This game is a puzzle game in 3D.
This game forces the mind of the players to be creative in achieving the desired look for the puzzle. When kids remain engaged, problem-solving skills are addressed within the cloak of fun and togetherness, and a little competition.
10. Guess in 10
Guess in 10 has nine different versions to choose from, which makes it a selection kids would want to take a chance at nailing. This can be played in singles or in groups and kids aged six can play this game.
Guess in 10 can be fun for a very big range of age brackets really. It’s nine versions keep it interesting and works like a transition to harder things. It builds vocabulary and association even as it helps our kids zero in on things that they need to focus on to arrive at the right answer.
11. Boredom Buster
Boredom Buster is highly engaging and the reusable mats make learning repeatable when parents want to focus on a particular skill.
Boredom Buster can be played with kids as young as three. They make for quality time learning with either parent or with the whole family together. The skills kids get to practice run the gamut from writing, counting, observation, and critical thinking.
12. Clue Junior
It’s CLUE but for kids!
Hasbro Gaming keeps things interesting by making two versions specifically designed to appeal to young kids and capture their fascination for what is already a very popular game. I can’t imagine any parent complaining when kids learn to think for themselves and analyze things in the course of having fun with their playmates.
13. Scrabble Junior
Scrabble Junior gives your young ones a taste for the wonderful world of words.
Hasbro Gaming took on a simple but very effective approach to building the vocabulary of our kids as they grow and as their world expands.
14. Mouse Trap
Mouse trap is for kids who are already in school, at least 6 years old.
When all our kids know are the four corners of their child-proof rooms, they do not have to navigate the little dangers of a decision or a choice that does not turn out to be in their favor. In this game, kids start to learn about that; and it prepares them for the challenges that come with their age.
This is another game that requires a little more strategizing, a wider vocabulary, and the ability to make the connection between things.
Hedbanz is a game that will encourage in children what we, adults, call thinking on your feet. Through the process of elimination, kids learn to compartmentalize and label things into varying groups that will fit their purpose.
16. Skillmatics Education Game: Space Explorers
This educational game makes use of reusable activity mats and dry erase markers to deliver focused learning while keeping their minds away from the notion that they are still studying at home.
Space Explorers will awaken a love for the unknown while keeping a healthy assurance in what is known in these sessions – the love of the family. Security allows kids to dream bigger and explore more; and this game does that on an age-appropriate level.
17. Harry Potter Labyrinth
Treasures and targets make the journey more fun and interesting than the destination. But reaching the destination first is still the name of the game.
Kids aged seven and up will have so much fun trying to find their way through the labyrinth while reminiscing snippets from the movies made on the Harry Potter books. Plus, there will be rewards along the way so it’s a race but it’s also a hunt. Whoever finds the balance wins.
18. Catan Junior
The Settlers of Catan has become so huge that they have held international events for this board game. It has become so huge that they just had to make sure the kids don’t miss out on the fun.
This game has gained quite a following that it has its own website for providing updates to its loyal followers. The game has reached its 25th Year Anniversary and they celebrated it with a 25th Anniversary Edition last Nov. 15, 2020. They’ve been holding world championships for this game and people take note of it. In recent years, they had to get on the online world of gaming to remain relevant. In fact, the Catan VR for Oculus Quest and Quest 2 platforms is already out in the market too.
After going through that list of board games that target learning while ensuring family fun, it is our hope that you will make a point of not just owning one but building your own arsenal of board games to whip up as the need arises. By that, I mean picking the ones that address a learning need. This list is not extensive but put together by virtue of the balance of learning and family fun that each provides. It is our hope that your time with family will always be fruitful.
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 Ashiabi, Godwin S. “Promoting the emotional development of preschoolers.” Early childhood education journal 28.2 (2000): 79-84.