The last time you hit the game aisle at Target did your eyes glaze over from all the choices? Or have you searched on Amazon and been overwhelmed the sheer volume of choices? Lucky for you, I’ve been able to sort out the bad and find the best board games for preschoolers.
Our family has extensive exposure to preschool games in occupational and speech therapy so we know the good games. While I generally enjoy games, I’ve also observed in tons of situations that games are a great way to teach preschoolers so many skills.
If you hate playing board games, this list will help you find the most palatable game for your tolerance level. For those of you who enjoy games this list will help you choose the games that will best benefit your child.
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Board Games for the family are Amazon’s Deal of the Day December 17. Check them out!
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Board Games Teach Preschoolers Social Skills
First, it is good for parents to have an understanding of what skills board games can teach. Then you can identify the games that will be most helpful for your child.
Board games teach how to take turns
Sharing and turn-taking is a learned skill. In board games children have a structured opportunity to practicing giving other people a turn to play. When children understand that another turn is guaranteed as part of the rules of the game, they build that sharing muscle.
Board games provide opportunities for frustration tolerance
Many of these games offer occasions when a child will lose a turn or get the wrong color, thus leaving a set temporarily incomplete. This coupled with the opportunity to have another turn builds tolerance for frustration.
Board games teach how to win graciously
When your child wins a game, you can teach your child in the privacy of your home how to be a good sport. You can teach your child about over-celebrating and bragging. With board games your child has a opportunity to learn how to be gracious in victory.
Board games teach how to manage disappointment
Building resilience with losing is important for all children and especially important for children with certain developmental issues. When a child loses a game, they develop skills over time with how to handle that disappointment and adversity. Resilience in the face of adversity is one of the most critical skills we can teach our child. Similarly, learning to manage disappointment in a constructive way is a valuable skill.
Board games teach how to cooperate for a common goal
Many of the games I’ve selected are cooperative. The players have to work together in order to “win.” This isn’t to communicate that competition is unhealthy but rather to demonstrate that collaboration can be more useful that working solo at times.
Round up of Best Board Games for Preschoolers
Here’s the round-up of our family’s favorite board games for preschoolers.
1. Sneaky Snacky Squirrel
In the Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, the children help the squirrels find their acorns while learning colors and strengthening fine motor skills.
This game provides children with an opportunity to build frustration tolerance and manage disappointment. The spinner includes an option where the wind blows away all the acorns; a player would have to start over with collecting acorns.
Your child will develop fine motor skills by placing the acorns in the stumps and you can also use the optional Squirrel Squeezer to place the acorns in the log.
This is my favorite preschool board game. It’s so simple and I love the cheerful design.
2. Getting Ready to Write Gumball Grab
In Gumball Grab, players work on strengthening their fingers and developing proper pencil grip. The players use the tweezer tongs to collect the gumballs and place them on their gumball machine mat to develop the necessary muscle strengthen.
Children take turn drawing cards and then follow directions about which color gumball to grab. This provides an opportunity to develop frustration tolerance while the players wait to draw the correct card to complete the set of gumballs.
3. Snail’s Pace Race
Snail’s Pace Race is the first game I recommend to anyone starting to teach their children how to play games.
It teaches basic board game skills like how to move one space at a time and how to roll dice. Players move all six of the snails along the game board until they reach their matching colored leaf. All the snails race even if there aren’t an equal number of players.
Snail’s Pace Race helps children develop the social skills of turn-taking and tolerance for waiting.
4. Feed the Woozle
Feed the Woozle is cooperative game where players feed a silly monster who loves to eat wacky snacks. Your child stands up the cardboard Woozle on a table and places a snack card on a giant spoon to feed the Woozle.
This game develops hand-eye coordination and body awareness; players have to perform certain skills like jumping when they feed the Woozle with the spoon.
A non-competitive game, Feed the Woozle, helps children practice turn-taking and cooperative skills. Since the Woozle eats unconventional snacks, too, this game helps thinkers develop some flexibility with beliefs.
5. Hoot Owl Hoot
Hoot Owl Hoot is another Peaceable Kingdom board game. Players work together to help the owls fly back to their nest before sunrise.
While children must work together to get the owls home, it is possible that they can lose at the beginning by not getting the owls home before sunrise. You can remove some of the sun cards at the beginning until your children develop their skills.
This game provides practice with following directions on the color cards and turn-taking. It also build skills with shared decision making and empathy.
The game is sturdy for those of us with rough and tumble children who can be hard on things and there is a contact number for replacement pieces – hooray!
6. Pop the Pig
In this hilarious game, players try to Pop the Pig. They take turns feeding plastic hamburgers to a chef pig until his stomach pops out. This game requires children roll a dice and follow the directions on the color of burger and the quantity of times to push the pig’s belly.
This game is great for building frustration tolerance. Some children might get fixated on only feeding the pig their favorite color burger. Similarly some children might struggle with wanting to be the person who feeds the pig the burger that finally makes it pop. There is some suspense, too, which provides a controlled opportunity for emotional regulation for children, too.
7. Let’s Go Fishing by Pressman Toys
While playing Let’s Go Fishing, the plastic fish open and close their mouths as the pond spins. Players try to catch them with their fishing poles. This game is great for hand-eye coordination and also builds frustration tolerance as it isn’t always easy to catch the fish the player wants.
We found it useful for teaching and enhancing focus and concentration too.
Elefun is a super fun and silly game: the plastic elephant blows fabric butterflies from its trunk. Players use nets to capture the falling butterflies. This game is great for drawing out a child who might be reluctant to play with others because it is so much fun.
My children don’t count to see who has won the most butterflies but it could be good for dealing tolerance with losing for some children.
Often times a few butterflies get trapped in the trunk and it needs a good shake to get them out. I actually find this pause to be helpful in the game.
9. Don’t Spill the Beans
In Don’t Spill the Beans, players take turns placing a bean on top of the pot. The goal is to keep the pot balanced and not to spill the beans. The player who gets rid of all their beans first wins.
My daughter’s very first OT played this game with her. Managing the beans in your child’s hand and manipulating them is a great way to build fine motor skills that are the precursor to holding a pencil.
This game is great for managing disappointment. It takes practice to carefully balance the beans.
Warning: The beans are a choking hazard, though, so skip this if you still have a little one at home who puts everything in his or her mouth.
10. Lucky Duck
In Lucky Duck, the plastic ducks quack and swim around the game board pond. Players take turns lifting the duck to find the ones that match their symbol – diamond, heart, triangle, square.
This game is great for beginning to learn shape and color vocabulary. It also helps develop concentration and memory as children have to learn to keep their eyes on the duck they want as it moves around the board.
It develops social skills around turn-taking and frustration tolerance. It can be hard to manage big emotions when the duck the child lifts up doesn’t have the desired shape on the bottom.
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Best Board Games for Preschoolers
Check out these board games for your children and help them develop critical social skills for successful friendships.