Board Game Ideas for Toddlers and Pre-schoolers

A selection of board games, with playing pieces and dice

Do you often rack your brains trying to think of things to keep your active toddler occupied at home? Do you want to help your pre-schooler to develop important skills such as concentration, fine motor skills, and shape, colour and number recognition? Well we’ve trawled the toy shop shelves and searched the online stores to bring you the best board game ideas to suit the skill level of your toddler or pre-schooler!

We know — the thought of playing board games with toddlers and pre-schoolers can conjure up images of tears, tantrums and teething on playing pieces. Not to mention the fact that almost all board games recommend a minimum playing age of three years. But, as we discovered, by choosing the right games, children as young as two are able to have plenty of educational fun from the comfort of your own home, and you can enjoy some unhurried, quality time together.

Board game with monster pictures

Bingo

While the traditional number-based version of Bingo can be challenging for younger kids, there are many new and exciting variations available that make it a great game for all ages.

For toddlers, Soundtracks by Galt Toys is a wonderful introduction to bingo. This is a CD-based game in which you listen and match sounds (e.g. guitar, sheep, car horn) with the pictures on your board. For younger kids, you can make it easier by playing together as a team, rather than against each other.

For kids over three, we love Monster Bingo by Orchard Toys. With its adorable monster characters that match coloured shapes, it’s a fun way to learn and practise colour and shape recognition.

For children closer to school age, there are various forms of Sight Words Bingo available on the market that really aid early reading.

Snakes and ladders board game

Snakes and Ladders

There’s a reason this old favourite is still played in households all over the world — kids love it! It’s a fantastic time filler and using a dice promotes numeracy and subitising. There are some great options available that are targeted at younger audiences.

We recommend considering a version of Giant Snakes and Ladders, which helps little hands to easily manoeuvre the playing pieces.

Building Games

There are dozens of building games on the market that help to challenge toddlers’ manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination and patience.

Jenga is great fun as most small children love to build up blocks and then watch them come tumbling down again.

Another option is Tumbling Chimps, where you try to hang monkeys and bananas from a palm tree without it crashing down.

Kids version of dominoes with animal pitcures

Dominoes

The original version of this game may be too difficult for toddlers, but there are numerous junior versions available, such as Animal Dominoes and even The Wiggles Dominoes, in which toddlers can easily pick up the concept of placing two matching pictures together. It also allows little people to practise social skills such as waiting and taking turns.

Why not make a personalised version of bingo for your toddler? Here are some instructions to get you started. 

Fishing Games

While not technically a board game, toddlers seem to love any variation of the magnetic fishing games, which are great for enhancing visual perception and colour recognition. Don’t own a fishing game? It’s easy to make your own. Check out how to make your own fishing game here.

Playing cards

Card Games

Many toddlers can master a simple game of Snap or Memory. To begin with, try cutting down the number of cards to three or four matching pairs. You can even find lots of age-appropriate character cards available for your games, such as Peppa Pig.

As your toddler gets older, Uno Junior is a fun and easily managed card game. They can then advance to the full version of Uno and other card games including Old Maid and Go Fish. Card games help to teach number and shape recognition, grouping and counting, as well as letter recognition and reading. Learning to shuffle and deal the cards, however haphazard at first, is also great for developing fine motor skills.

Just-for-fun Games

If your toddler’s patience is running out, introduce them to Hungry Hippos. Given that the only requirement is to bash the lever over and over to make the hippo eat the balls, toddlers can actually win this game fair and square! 

Elefun is another ‘just for fun’ game which is suitable for all ages. Your toddler will love racing around to catch as many butterflies as possible when they blast out from the elephant’s trunk.

Board game

Pre-school Games

As your toddler grows into a pre-schooler, a whole new world of board games opens up. Beetle and Candyland by Milton Bradley are old family favourites. Newer games that are a hit with kids of this age group include Whatever Next by Galt Toys and Bright Buttons, a game encouraging kids’ natural curiosity, developed by an Australian mum.

Junior Editions

Many classic board games now come in junior editions, which are usually suitable for kids close to school age. Our top picks are: Scrabble Junior, Boggle Junior, Zingo, Monopoly Junior, The Game of Life Junior, Make ‘n’ Break Junior, and Junior Labyrinth. Almost all board games will help your child practise their verbal communication skills and require them to follow rules and instructions — all very valuable life skills to master.

A selection of board games, with playing pieces and dice

TIPS for Playing Board Games with Toddlers

Don’t take it too seriously

Remember, your toddler’s attention span will increase as they mature, but to begin with they may want to chop and change halfway through a game, or maybe even run off to pat the cat just a few minutes into a game! That’s okay, roll with it and perhaps leave the game out so your toddler can come back to it later.

Let your toddler win most of the time

Most toddlers have not yet grasped the concept of fair play, so it is okay to let them win and experience a feeling of mastery. As they get older though, board games are an excellent way of teaching children that, as with all things in life, ‘you win some, you lose some’.

Don’t just wait for a rainy day — go and have some good old-fashioned board game fun with your Brisbane Kids today!

For other games and inspiration, check out our Rainy Day Ideas and how to Make Your Own Indoor Games. We’ve also got loads of Craft and Fun Ideas just waiting for you to try, as well as our 33 Screen Free Ideas for Toddlers, Kids and Tweens.

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