Playing family games can be a fun way of spending quality family time together. But with young kids under five years old it can pose challenges. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to play family games at home with toddlers and preschoolers. Just change your attitude, approach and find the right games.
The Importance of Finding Family Games to Play at Home with Young Kids
Finding family games to play at home is important for many reasons. Family games provide a way for everyone playing to have fun without having to go someplace. Kids are all about having fun. Nowadays, most families find themselves running from one activity to another with hardly a minute to even breathe.
My family is no different. From a young age, my kids have been involved in extra-curricular activities. I love seeing my kids do things they enjoy and yet, it can take a toll on our family relationships. So finding a few minutes a day or even a night a week to spend playing a five-minute card game can keep the fun in our family and build our relationships.
Games can be educational. This is another great reason to find time to play family games at home even when your kids are really young. Some games such as Candy Land can help kids with color awareness. Chutes and Ladders helps with counting. Many games, whether it’s reinforcing colors or teaching strategy, can help develop your kids minds.
So whether you are looking for a fun thing to do as a family or for the opportunity to help your kids learn more, games are a great way to do it.
Keeping Kids Under Five Engaged in Family Game Night
You might be thinking family game night sounds nice but isn’t for your kids. They are too little right? I mean how do you honestly play a game with a 2 or 3-year-old without wanting to pull your hair out? There are ways to keep them engaged and having fun. So don’t give up on the idea of a family game night even if your kids are really young.
Here are a few ideas on keeping kids engaged and having fun so you have quality family time without the hair pulling.
- Keep it short – play a game that doesn’t take long since toddler and preschoolers don’t have a long attention span
- Keep it simple – play something that isn’t over their heads
- Keep it fast-paced – pick a game that moves along so they want to keep playing
How to Handle Game Night with Kids of Different Ages
Many families have more than one kid. So what happens when you decide to play family games at home but you have a toddler, elementary aged kid, and a teen. Life just got more complicated didn’t it? No longer can you just pull out Candy Land, play a quick round, put it away and have everyone happy. I can almost guarantee your teen will be less than thrilled if that is what family game night consists of. But how do you keep it fun for everyone.
Well, as I mentioned above, keeping things short and fun is essential to having quality family time. Start with a game for the youngest in the house. Encourage your older kids to play a game of Chutes and Ladders or Memory. Once that game is done your littlest might be ready to go off and play with blocks nearby. Let them. Then pick a game the older kids like and play it with them.
I realize this isn’t playing a family game altogether when you play with just the older kids but if you start with a game everyone can play it still counts. Doing family game night this way works. It will keep the younger kids engaged but allow for some quality family time with the older kids as well.
Different Family Games to Play at Home
Finding the right family games to play at home can make or break family game night. If you try to throw Villainous at a preschooler you’ll be in for misery. It’s an amazing game but even my 7-year-old struggles to play it well. He just lacks the strategy skills. But playing a game suited to their ages can keep things fun for everyone. Here are board games and card games kids 5 and under will enjoy.
Board Games for 3-Year-Olds and Younger
Whether it’s family game night or you are just wanting to play a game with your kids, there are many options. Now, obviously, you can play these games with older kids as well. But here are five board games for 3-year-olds and younger:
Chutes and Ladders
Chutes and Ladders is a classic. It is very simple in nature which is needed at this age range. It comes with a board, character pieces for moving, and a spinner. Each person plays by moving their character piece however many spaces they spin. If they hit a ladder they get to go up the board, but watchout cause if you land on a chute you slide down on the board. First to the top wins. You may have to help with the counting and moving pieces in this one but overall it’s a great toddler game.
Candy Land is one of my all time favorite games for kids under 5. I put it here in the list of board games for 3-year-olds because it takes some color awareness but not a lot else. It is a great game to introduce toddlers to color recognition and even practice colors with preschoolers. Each person picks a colored character and begins at the start. You will draw a card and move to the color indicated. The first person to the end of the trail wins.
Let’s Go Fishing
Let’s Go Fishing is another fun game for toddlers. It’s played by turning the rotating piece on which contains plastic fish. As the fish turn, they open their mouths. Each player holds a little fishing pole and tries to catch the fish when their mouths are open. This was one of my favorites as a kid. It was super easy and didn’t take more than a little hand-eye coordination.
Little Tikes 3D Farm Animals Match Up
The 3D Farm Animals Match Up game was new to me a few years back but quickly became a favorite. Memory games are a classic for young kids as they begin learning things. My daughter was given this game by her great aunt around the age of two. We loved playing it together. The animals are split in two and each half is hidden under a haystack. Then it’s a simple game of memory, but with the twist of being 3D rather than just cards.
Hungry Hungry Hippos
Hungry Hungry Hippos is one of the best games for preschoolers or kids of any age for that matter. Now I would recommend with really young kids you supervise them to make sure they don’t put any marbles in their mouths. But if you are playing as a family the high-speed quick nature of this game will have everyone laughing and having a good time.
Board Games for Preschoolers
I realize there isn’t a lot of age difference between toddlers and preschoolers. Deciding a game to play not only comes down to the recommended ages but also your child’s maturity. If your kid loves putting things in their mouth you might want to stick with games like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. But if your kids are ready for a little more than just moving by color here are five ideas of board games for preschoolers.
Hi-Ho Cherry-O was a favorite when I was a kid and with my own kids. I remember going to my grandma’s house and when I wanted to play a game by myself or with my brother getting out Hi-Ho Cherry-O. Just something about it. The game is great for reinforcing counting skills but still has that little bit of a competitive edge making it fun for kids and adults. Just spin the spinner and pick that many apples off your tree, but be careful not to spill the bucket!
Just the name of this one sounds fun and it is if you have never played it. My other set of grandparents weren’t as big into games but they had a few. When we visited I would get out Kerplunk and have fun playing it even by myself. Now I wouldn’t recommend preschoolers play it alone, but as a family, it’s worth your time. It is an easy game of pulling sticks out and hoping the marbles don’t fall.
Cootie is another of the great board games for preschoolers. My parents owned this one and I loved it! Be the first to design your own bug by rolling the dice. Once I had my own young kids this one made the collection. The fun didn’t change just because I got older either.
Don’t Spill the Beans
Don’t Spill the Beans is from the same game collection as Cootie. I had only played it a couple of times growing up. Then when my kids were little I had the opportunity to get the game for my own family. It was well worth it. Similar to Kerplunk in that you don’t want to end up with very many beans, it takes a steady hand to place each bean on top without making it fall. This is another simple but fun game. All that is required is a bit of a steady hand?
Another of the newer games on the market or at least it was new to me: Jumpin Monkeys. It was given as a gift to my young son and it’s a hoot. Everyone has a catapult and four monkeys. The plastic tree is set in the middle of the table. When someone says go everyone at the same time begins catapulting their monkeys at the tree. The first to get all their monkeys to hang on the tree wins. The chaos that ensues when the game begins makes us laugh and the competition friendly and fun. And it’s simple enough for young kids to understand and play.
Card Games for 5-Year-Olds and Younger
Card games are a great way to keep things simple and connect during family game night. When you don’t have alot of time to set up a board game but want to play family games at home, cards are a perfect alternative. My family loves playing cards and they were something I grew up on from a young age. So starting your toddler or preschooler out playing cards can set them up for lasting memories. If you want some ideas for great card games for 5-year-olds and younger kids look no further.
There are numerous matching games out there. So you can find almost any character your kids love in a matching game. And if you don’t want to invest in a special version of memory there is always a deck of cards. Concentration, aka memory, was the only game I remember playing with one of my great grandmas. We would be at the lake and out came the playing cards. Sitting in the cabin we would play several rounds of concentration. Memory is an easy game to learn and helps kids develop observational skills.
Go Fish is a must have of the card games for 5-year-olds or even younger kids. It’s one of those that many people have played at some point in their life. Go Fish is played by handing out cards to each player. Players then go around asking another player if they have a card that matches one in their hand. If the person does have the card asked for they give it to the player who asked. If they don’t have the card they say Go Fish and the person asking must draw a card. You win by getting the most matches. This one can be just plain fun or can be educational if you get an alphabet version.
Old Maid is similar to Go Fish in that you are trying to make matches. The catch here is you don’t want to get stuck with the old maid card. After the cards are dealt players take turns drawing a card at random from another players hand. If they get a match they lay it down. But in the end, don’t be the one left with the old maid card!
UNO is my husband’s favorite card game. Truthfully, we bought it before we even had kids. So playing it around here on game night is a given. UNO is a great way for preschoolers to practice their numbers and colors. They will likely need a little help knowing what they can play though. Or, if you would rather spring for an easier version to start, check out UNO Junior.
Slap Jack is a very simple card game for 5-year-olds, or kids of any age for that matter. This is one I often played as a kid growing up. It was fast paced and a lot of fun. The play is simple though. You start with a pile of cards and everyone flips a card at the same time. If a jack is turned up the first to put their hand on the pile gets all the cards. However, if a jack isn’t turned up then everyone continues to turn cards until one is. The object is to get all the cards.
Gas Out is loads of laughs. It’s silly. It’s fun. What kid doesn’t love gross body sounds? That’s exactly what you get with this one. It also helps build simple counting skills. It’s played by passing cards out to each player. As you go around to each person, they play a card from their hand. If it has a number they press the gas guy in the middle that many times. If he farts, you’re out. The last person left wins. I was slightly skeptical when my son got it as a Christmas present, but my family really enjoyed it.
Making Family Game Night Count with Young Kids
Kids of all ages can enjoy and get something out of family game night. Playing family games doesn’t have to be intimidating just because you have a toddler or preschooler. It’s a matter of selecting family games to play at home they can understand and enjoy. Keep it simple and light-hearted.
Make sure to give them a chance to be victorious every now and then as well. It isn’t fun losing all the time and being uber competitive with a toddler may not be the best parenting tactic. On the other hand, challenge them by not going too easy.
Whatever you decide, keep it fun. If stress, sibling rivalry, or other negativities present themselves try another game. If that doesn’t work walk away for now and find another way to spend quality family time. One of the best gifts you can give your kids is your time. Make your family important. You won’t regret it.
Disclaimer: Don’t leave your young kids alone with these games as some may pose a choking hazard.
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