Playing board games can be a great family activity, but they can also teach your preschooler some important social skills -- learning to take turns, how to be a good winner (or loser), the importance of following rules and even some academics -- counting, the alphabet and simple reading. Here are our choices for the top preschool games -- have fun!
Ready to have some fun? You won't be able to help but laugh when your little one (and maybe you too) has to crawl, crabwalk or do one of six funny motions under the limbo stick. Get too close to Giraffalaff and he'll fall down, giggling as he goes. This game is great for developing important gross motor and coordination skills as well as just having a good time. Sure, there is a winner (whomever can get under the bar at the lowest level) but the focus here is on enjoyment. This is also a great game for those days when you are stuck indoors and are looking for something to do.
Want a game that will put your preschooler's high energy to the test? Cranium Hullabaloo will get the whole family moving, dancing, jumping, spinning and more. The premise is simple -- move from one shape to the next using a Hullabaloo move. When Hullabaloo says, "Freeze!" the player on the lucky pad wins. Quick and easy, you can play it over and over again and never with the same result. The game really encourages good listening -- you have to follow directions. Great for parties or playdates when you have a semi-large group of kids that you need to keep occupied.
This game is a classic and with good reason. It teaches counting -- be the first to collect ten cherries in your basket -- but also offers lessons in taking turns and patience. Kids might be disappointed when they are instructed to put their cherries back, but will quickly learn how the game works. Math is the main focus and parents can really expand on game play, asking their preschooler to engage in some basic problem-solving -- If you have 7 cherries and have to take away 3, how many will be left on your tree?" Pieces are small, so you may want to have some plastic bags on hand for storage. Younger preschoolers may have to be reminded not to put pieces in their mouth.
This game for little ones was actually designed by a kid, so it's very thoughtful. Focusing on basic strategy and math, the object is to get a ladybug past the bad praying mantis and bully ants and back home. At times this no-reading required game can get long, but it does a good job teaching kids about counting and taking turns. There's a nice back story about the four ladybugs who "star" in the game, so kids can pick their favorite to play with.
This spin-off game incorporates many fun elements of the original UNO game, but on a level young children will enjoy and understand. The purpose is to be the first to get rid of all your barnyard animals by matching colors and figures. And like UNO, once you are down to one piece, there is some yelling involved, although this one is more fun ("UNO MOO!"). Preschoolers will learn their colors, about animals and how to match while having some silly fun.
This updated version of the old classic game Candyland offers fun for the whole family. The premise is the same -- get to the castle first, but instead of using a flat board, the game is played on a three-dimensional "puzzle." You can preset the length of the game by building a customizable path -- great if you little one has a short attention span or if you have the whole afternoon to play. No reading is required; little ones will learn about colors and taking turns.
From the popular book by Eric Carle, Brown Bear-Panda Bear, What Do You See? helps little ones work on rhyming, remembering and sequencing. As they play the game, kids are asked to find all the animals required for their story and then recite it at the end. A good game if you are looking to wind things down a bit (say before bed), the length of play isn't too long or too short. No reading is required and the instructions are easy to understand.
This game of Bingo with a twist is great for developing word and picture recognition, as well as your little one's memory. The purpose of Zingo! is to fill your cards with matching tiles from the Zingo! Zinger. The first one to fill their card wins. Simple enough, but the game can be easily modified depending upon the number of players and the skill level involved. The game features lots of simple drawings of basic words such as dog and hat, which will help your preschooler develop a nice base of basic sight words. Although designed with young children in mind, this game is great for the whole family.
Need your preschooler to entertain himself for a while? This one might do the trick. Based on the arcade game, the object is to, well, whack the moles as they pop out. It's loud with flashing lights and lots of sound and your little one will just adore it. Kids can play against the clock or each other.
Good for older preschoolers, Sequence for Kids is all about getting four chips in a row (creating a sequence) while trying to prevent opponents from creating a sequence. This game will really get your little one thinking as she learns about strategy and taking turns. If she's frustrated at first, you can modify the rules to make it a bit easier. The board is fun to look at with lots of different animals. Note there are a lot of chips and cards, make sure little ones know not to put them in their mouths.
An old favorite with lots of variations (Spider-man, Dora, Diego, Sesame Street), the object is to get from square one to 100. Focusing on consequences, players will encounter characters doing lots of things in this game -- some good, others bad -- and get to either climb a ladder or slide down a chute, depending on the behavior. This game teaches taking turns and some basic counting and offers an opportunity for discussion as you play and afterwards -- "Why is it important to clean up?" "Should you take cookies without asking?"