As someone who is in love with board and card games of all kinds and has fond memories of playing them as a kid, I couldn’t wait to play games with my kids.
We first bought Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders when Grace was 2. What a disaster. She couldn’t sit still for more than 10 seconds and had no interest in doing anything but throwing the cards around. Now, at age 5, she has the patience for most games but tends to make up her own rules or even cheat sometimes. And some parts of some games she still can’t comprehend. But more and more, we are enjoying playing with her.
I put together this guide in hopes of saving some of you the frustrations I have faced over the past few years. I’ve reviewed all the games we own. They are listed by the age *I* recommend them for. You’ll be surprised to see where Candy Land falls! The stars I have given it are out of 5 and basically indicate whether I would buy it again for the age at which I have it listed. The link is to the best price I found online though most of these can be bought at many online and physical retailers.
(When I originally wrote this post, before Blogger ate it, I included what the manufacturer said about the game and what age it recommended the game for but it was all kind of cheesy and boring. If you want to know, it’s available in a 2-second search on Google. Sometimes Usually less is more. Also, let me know if any of these links are bad. I wasn’t as diligent the second time through.)
I say: This game is fabulous. It’s nice to have a game that requires little to no adult help, even for toddlers. And it’s super fun to watch them “spin to a circle” or “hop to an animal.” A winner is declared often enough to hold their interest for a long time.
Grace says: I like that you get to do a dance when you win.
I say: This game is a classic and can be challenging even for an adult if you use enough cards. It comes in many versions, including the original listed in the link. We have a Backyardigans version, and the four different colored backgrounds makes it easy to pull out some cards for a shorter/easier game. I’m not sure if this is true of all versions. Or if they seem to have short attention spans at the moment, we put out even fewer cards. With Connor, we put a bunch of the cards out face-up and just have him look for matches. Another fun memory game that requires a little less set-up but isn’t customizable is Husker Du.
Grace says: I like that you get to go again when you get two matches and you don’t get to go again when you don’t get matches.
I say: This game stinks. It’s frustrating for kids to go through several turn where they don’t roll the number they need. And of all the games here, it’s the most boring for adults. If the kids like the little bugs (and they are kind of cute and have varied parts, unlike when I was a kid), just have them put them together and play with them. Another drawback, even as a toy vs. a game: Lots of little parts to lose or choke on.
Grace says: I like that there is a dice and it has 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 6 is for legs and 5 is for … I forgot.
Hi Ho Cherry-O
I say: This is a quick, easy game that’s especially great for early counters. Connor still makes a complete mess of all the tiny cherries in this game but Grace mastered it as an older 3-year-old. She didn’t even balk at the idea of sometimes having to put cherries back on the tree. Just watch out for all those small parts. (Tip: if you have an older version with the long stems that are easily knocked over, put them in the board upside down.)
Grace says: I like spinning the spinner and sometimes you have to put cherries back if you get a dog or bird.
Animals Animals Color Bingo
I say: This game combines bingo with a board game. And it features great animal illustrations by Eric Carle. There are suggestions in the rules for ways to make the game harder or to match what your kids are learning, such as colors or addition. Connor “plays” this game with us too without wreaking any havoc on it.
Grace says: I like filling up the boxes and then when they are full, you get to put on the caterpillars. (I wish I could spell caterpillar how she says it because it’s so dang cute.)
I say: Classic beginner game, right? Maybe it depends on the kid. It wasn’t until recently that Grace played it correctly and didn’t whine about not being in the lead. Trying to play with Connor is impossible. He messes up cards, knocks the pieces off the board and really has no clue what the point is.
Grace says: I like that there’s Dora, Diego, Boots, Backpack and Map. And if you get a treat card, like candy or ice cream, you go to it. And if you’re before it, you have to go back to it.
Chutes and Ladders
I say: Similar to Candy Land, this was an early purchase because I remember loving it as a kid. And similar to Candy Land, Grace had no patience for following the track or the rules until recently. Even now, she does not get the reward/consequence concept of the game and gets confused about which direction to go on the board. I think, however, with more patience on my part, both of these could be good learning opportunities for her.
Grace says: I like going up the ladders and down the slides.
I say: Grace LOVES tic tac toe and this is like the bigger, better version. It’s fun to see her learning to use strategy and prompting her to do so. And the adult playing with can easily alter their competence level to let the child win enough to keep them from getting discouraged. Heck, this game is even fun for two adults to play on occasion. And sometimes Grace and Connor just sit together and make patterns on the board.
Grace says: I like sliding the thing and making them all fall. And there’s red ones and black ones.
I say: We have/like the original deck of Uno cards, though Grace has played and liked the Attack version as well. This is one of the few games that Grace mastered much younger than the recommended age. She can play on her own with just a little help on what the special cards mean. I even saw my father-in-law playing with Connor last weekend, and with a little bending complete disregard of the rules, it worked great.
Grace says: I like matching numbers and colors.
I say: We haven’t played this a lot because it’s a recent purchase but we enjoy it. I think this is one of the few cases where the character version is better than the non-character because it might be boring for kids if it were just numbers. Luckily, there are a bazillion character versions to meet your kids’ tastes. Here’s a more thorough review, including how it differs from the adult version. I haven’t tried it with Connor yet but I don’t see him getting the point.
Grace says she likes it but declined further comment.
Tri-Ominoes for Kids
I say: The adult version of this is one of Mark’s favorite games. The kids’ version is fun because it has animal shapes in addition to the numbers. So far, Grace is more interested in making shapes or making up her own game than in playing by the rules. This is true of regular dominoes as well. But she has SO much fun doing it that it doesn’t bother me. And for the most part, she tolerates Connor adding to her shapes as well.
Grace says: I like that you can make funny shapes. And there are cows and pigs and sheeps.
I say: This is by far my favorite “kid” game we own and I hope the manufacturer comes out with more products. There are four levels of trivia questions that keep all ages interested and challenged and an element of luck that helps level the playing field without annoying those of us who don’t care for luck games. There’s also a booster pack if you play enough to memorize all the cards 🙂
Grace says: I like that sometimes I win and sometimes I don’t. (I found this an odd reason to like the game since this is true of pretty much every game we have but oh well.)
5 stars. I’d give it more if I could.
We also have a Disney Princess game box. I think it came from Target but I can’t find it online. An item like this is good for kids about 4 and up who don’t have a lot of other games. It includes:
- Checkers (Grace gets frustrated that she’s not good at this but still likes to play)
- Bingo (We have a lot of fun with this)
- A mechanized fishing game (These are kind of hard but both kids love them)
- Old Maid (Too hard for little hands to hold all those cards)
- Go Fish (A favorite here)
- Tic Tac Toe (OK, that’s dumb. Get a pencil and paper)
- Dominoes (See Tri-Ominoes blurb for what we do with these)
Have kids older than 5? This is a great post about playing games, how to get them on the cheap and suggestions of games for slightly older children. This post also lists games that look to be good for early elementary age children.
What do you think about the games I listed? Am I off my rocker for hating on some kid classics? Do you know of any games we should try? Seen any posts/lists/reviews worth sharing? Fill up that comment box. I hope to do a follow-up post after Christmas with leads from readers and reviews on any games we receive as gifts.