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10 Best Board Games for Toddlers & Preschoolers in 2021 - Happier Human

10 Best Board Games for Toddlers & Preschoolers in 2021

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Board games are one of our favorite activities to do at home, and board games with toddlers are an important part of a child’s development. Even simple games teach valuable life skills, and, more importantly, they are a great way to enhance social development while having a good time.

Before we proceed, if you don’t have the time to read the entire review, here’s a quick look at our top choices for the best board games for toddlers

Board Games for Toddlers Buying Guide

When looking for a board game for a young child, here are some things to be mindful of:

Gameplay Pieces

Pieces should be large enough that they don’t pose a choking hazard. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a good rule of thumb is to use pieces that are larger than the diameter of a quarter. Look for pieces that are also fairly rugged and durable, and can survive being handled roughly. In some games, you also may want pieces that are easy to clean.

Set Up and Take Down

Generally speaking, a child’s attention span is about 3-5 minutes per year of age. Most toddlers aren’t patient enough for a game that requires a lot of precise setting up and assembly, and you will want a game that is easy to clean up and put away once play time is over.

Skills Practice

While some of the best board games for toddlers involve simple skills like color or shape matching, keep in mind that games teach a lot of social skills unrelated to game play, like turn-taking, manual dexterity in moving or manipulating pieces, and rule-following and sportsmanship.

We love collaborative games for kids, where players have to work together to reach a common goal, rather than competing against each other, because those games create a greater opportunity for players to practice communicating with each other.

Who is Playing?

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of choosing a board game for a toddler is considering who is playing the game.

A small child may enjoy a color-matching game, but may outgrow it in just a few months after they have mastered that skill, unless it also incorporates some strategy or further challenges. Some things to keep in mind are:

Is This Game for Toddlers Only?

Do you expect a child to play this from about the ages of 3-4 and then move on?

Is this game for siblings or play dates to enjoy together? Do you want a game that will appeal to two or more children of different ages? Is it suitable for children to play independently, or do they need the help and participation of an adult?

Is this game for the whole family? There are only a few games (and we have our top picks below) that are simple enough for a child to play, while being interesting enough for teens and adults to enjoy as well.

Best Board Games for Toddlers and Preschoolers

With those factors in mind, here are the best board games for toddlers:

1. Best Cooperative Board Game for Toddlers: Wonder Forge Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It!

Richard Scarry’s Busytown characters are familiar and beloved for small children, and this game uses the same charming characters and artwork that toddlers will be familiar with. In  Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It!, kids work together to navigate the large game board and find hidden objects to solve a mystery.

Game play is simple and visual, so kids can play it independently, and it gives hours of visual exploration, promoting attention to detail. It’s a collaborative game where kids work together rather than compete against each other, and everyone helps to solve the mystery.

Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye Found It! comes with a game board that is more than 6 feet long, along with 4 movers, a spinner, a sand timer, and cards and tokens. It’s for 2-4 players ages 3 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play.

Pros

  • Fun and familiar Busytown characters
  • Cooperative game play
  • Detailed artwork for lots of exploration
  • Simple, visual instructions so kids can play independently

Cons

  • Replay value isn’t very high, because kids will quickly memorize where all the hidden objects are

2. Best Color-Matching Board Game for Toddlers: Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Toddler & Preschool Board Game

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel game is a great board game for toddlers, because it involves simple color matching with no reading required, but also requires strategy and decision-making that keep it fun for kids after they have learned their colors. It’s also a great way to practice manual dexterity as kids manipulate the fun and playful squirrel.

In this game, a spinner tells kids what color of acorn to collect with the squirrel squeezer. The first player to collect a complete set of 5 acorns wins, but kids can choose to “steal” acorns from another player.

The gameplay combination of randomness from the spinner, and strategy in choosing and collecting acorns, gives it replay value and longevity, so that kids can enjoy the game for several years, or siblings of different ages can play together.

The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Toddler & Preschool Board Game comes with the game board, squirrel squeezer, 20 acorns, a spinner, and 4 logs. It’s designed for 2-4 players ages three and over.

Pros

  • Fun and simple to play
  • Involves color matching, manual dexterity, and strategy, for development of several different physical and cognitive skills at once
  • Easy for kids to play together, even at different ages
  • Sturdy construction

Cons

  • Acorn game pieces should be kept away from very young children, as they may be a choking hazard

3. Best Board Game for Toddlers Who Love Pete the Cat: Pete The Cat The Missing Cupcakes Game

Pete the Cat is an incredibly popular New York Times bestselling children’s book series that can now be seen in several animated specials on Amazon Prime. This board game features the beloved character and familiar artwork, with a cooperative game play and fun, physical activities that kids will love.

Winning this game requires kids to work together, practicing memory and matching skills, and performing fun physical activities in order to win back the lost cupcakes. Game play promotes social skills like collaboration and turn-taking, literacy and memory by associating words and pictures, and physical activity and storytelling by acting out situations. It has great replay value that will remain fun for several years and development stages.

Pete The Cat The Missing Cupcakes Game comes with the board game, a spinner, 4 game pieces, 14 cupcakes, and 20 birthday present cards. It’s designed for 2-4 players ages 3 and up, and takes 20 minutes or more to play.

Pros

  • Simple to play with no reading and visual instructions
  • Develops physical, mental, and social skills all at once
  • Kids can play together independently
  • Cooperative game play where players work together
  • Cupcake pieces are large enough to reduce choking risk

Cons

  • Game play can be a bit long for very young children

4. Best Board Game for Toddlers on Play Dates: Ravensburger Colorama

Play therapy is important for the mental health and social development of children. Colorama is a color and shape matching game that is perfect for kids to play with each other, giving them a great opportunity to socialize, learn, and have fun together without adult intervention. It has bright colors, bold shapes, sturdy pieces, and simple, visual game play that doesn’t require reading.

It has four different levels of game play, to increase in complexity as children age, so it’s replayable and will remain fun and engaging longer than you might expect. In Colorama, kids roll two sturdy wooden dice to determine which color and shape to find and play by placing or removing it from the board.

Colorama comes with the game board, 40 large plastic pieces, two wooden dice, and instructions. It’s for 1-6 players over the age of 3, and takes about 20 minutes to play.

Pros

  • Large, sturdy pieces
  • Big, colorful pieces are sturdy and fun for kids
  • Simple shape matching with visual instructions that don’t require reading
  • Rule variations for increasing challenges over time
  • Simple enough for kids to play together

Cons

  • Even with the rule variations, kids master colors and shapes within a year or so, and the game loses its appeal.

5. Best Board Game for Active Toddlers: Wonder Forge Dr. Seuss Cat in The Hat Card Game

It can be difficult to get young children to stay in one place long enough to concentrate on a board game, but this game requires children to complete fun, silly activities that create laughter and include physical activity. This game doesn’t have small pieces, and there is no board to set up, so it’s fun for small children and a great game for travel. In the  Cat in The Hat Card Game, kids draw groups of cards that challenge them to use the included foam fish board and do various activities (hop to the window, etc.).

Kids who complete the activity get to keep the cards, The game can be played by drawing cards from the different categories, or by turning them over, like a memory game, but most people find that the game isn’t really about competing and winning – it’s about completing fun, silly activities and laughing together.

For that reason, it can be fun to simply play the activities for a few minutes here and there, rather than playing the game to completion and declaring a winner. The game is designed to be played indoors in a house (the cards refer to common household places and fixtures like bedrooms, windows, chairs, etc.), so the included activities may not work in all settings.

The Dr. Seuss Cat in The Hat Card Game comes with a foam fishbowl, 45 activity cards, and an instruction card. The game is for 2-4 players ages 3 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to complete.

Pros

  • Compact and portable without a lot of pieces or setup
  • Relies on fun, silly physical activities that get kids moving
  • Playable by a wide age range – seeing adults do these activities delights children
  • Promotes laughter and fun, without a strong competitive element
  • Visual instructions don’t require reading
  • Rule variations can make it simpler or include a memory component

Cons

  • Needs to be played indoors in a house

6. Best Board Game for Toddlers with the Whole Family: Pressman Charades for Kids

Family game time is a great way to cultivate happiness, and charades is one of the all-time great family games. Charades is a physically active, creative game, that promotes communication and social bonding. This variation of charades simplifies the game so that toddlers can participate, while still keeping it fun and engaging for players of all ages.

Every card in this charades game has three levels of complexity, with the simplest clues depicted as illustrations that don’t require reading. Older players can use the more sophisticated actions on each card, so everyone can play together. It’s convenient, portable, and a great activity for the whole family.

Charades for Kids comes with 150 cards with 3 charades on each card, a sand timer, and a game die. It can be played by 3-6 players over the age of 4.

Pros

  • Fun and physically active
  • Great for players of all ages
  • Improves communication skills
  • Doesn’t require reading
  • Portable and can be played anywhere
  • Large number of cards, actions per card, and number of players gives great replay value and versatility over time

Cons

  • Cards can be a bit flimsy for long-term use

7. Best Strategy Board Game for Toddlers: Sequence for Kids

Strategy games help build critical problem-solving skills that kids will use their whole lives. Sequence is a classic strategy game, and this version simplifies it for kids to play and enjoy. It’s a fantastic first board game for toddlers, with simple visual instructions and no reading. In this game, children match the animals on the cards in their hand with animals on the game board, and place their pieces on the board. Special cards act as wild cards, and the first player with four pieces in a row wins. The strategic play engages older kids and adults, so it’s a versatile game for the whole family.

Sequence for Kids comes with a game board, 42 playing cards, sturdy playing chips, and instructions. It’s for 2-4 players ages 3-6 years old. For younger players, some parents remove the wild cards to simplify game play.

Pros

  • Traditional board game with simple, visual instructions
  • Involves strategy and logical thinking, as well as object matching
  • Fun for players with a wide age range for great replay value
  • Sturdy pieces
  • Simple variations to add or reduce challenges

Cons

  • Better for two or three players than four

8. Best Board Game for Toddlers and Adults as Well: Looney Labs Aquarius

Looney Labs Aquarius is one of those rare games that is fun for adults as well as kids, with rules simple enough for a 3 year old to understand, and strategy complex enough for an adult game night.

It has rule variations that allow you to adapt game play for any player, so there’s a great combination of simple color-matching and connecting, along with strategy, bluffing, and last-minute changes that keep it exciting. Because it’s a simple card-based game, it is also super easy to take anywhere and set up in minutes, so it’s great for travel and portable play.

Looney Labs Aquarius comes with 80 beautiful game cards and instructions in a sturdy box. It’s for 2-5 players over the age of 3, and takes about a half hour to play.

Pros

  • Simple to learn, complex to play
  • Rule variations for players of all ages
  • Great for kids and/or adults
  • Attractive designs
  • Portable game
  • Excellent replay value

Cons

  • None

9. Best First Board Game for Toddlers: HABA Orchard Game

Board games are a great way to teach children social skills like turn-taking, and help them cultivate sportsmanship and self-control, which is a key indicator of later success and happiness. Orchard is designed for kids to play together without adult intervention, with simple rules and cooperative play that fosters critical social skills.

It also improves motor skills, and practices simple counting and color-matching. In Orchard, children work together to harvest fruit before the raven gets it all. They roll dice to harvest fruit into their baskets, and assemble the raven puzzle together. It’s a visually appealing game, and kids love the action of gathering fruit into their own little baskets.

Orchard comes with a game board, 40 wooden fruit pieces, 4 baskets, the raven jigsaw, and a color die. It’s for 1-8 players (with more than four players, they form teams), ages 3-6, and takes less than 15 minutes to play.

Pros

  • Cooperative game
  • Promotes social skills, manual dexterity, color matching, and puzzle assembly, for a wide range of skill practice
  • Fun and visual, with no reading
  • Sturdy, durable pieces

Cons

  • Lots of round little pieces that may easily be spilled and lost, or pose a choking hazard for younger children

10. Best Board Game to Grow with Toddlers for Years: My First Carcassonne

My First Carcassonne is both a stand-alone version of the game, simplified for children to play, and also an excellent expansion for the classic Carcassonne game, supplying pieces and supplemental rules that substantially improve game play. 

Like the classic Carcassonne, the rules are simple, game play is fast, and it promotes strategy and problem-solving. Carcassonne is an international best-selling game, with multiple expansions, a video game franchise, and even world championship tournaments. It’s a game that you could introduce to a child as young as 4, and then play with them for their whole lives, with gradually increasing complexity, strategy, and fun.

My First Carcassonne comes with 36 large, rugged game tiles, and 32 player pieces. It’s a game for 2-4 players over the age of 4, and takes less than 20 minutes to play.

Pros

  • Fast and simple game play
  • Strategic game takes thought and planning
  • Works as a standalone game or expansion set
  • Fun for players of all ages
  • Life-long replay value

Cons

  • A bit expensive for what’s included in the game

Conclusion

Overall, our top pick for the best board game for toddlers is the Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat Card Game. With just simple, sturdy cards, it’s easy to take anywhere and has no pieces to lose, set up, or pose a hazard. It encourages kids and adults to have fun and be playful, with simple, silly actions.

It can be played as a memory game, to promote memory skills, as a simplified card game, or you can simply pull out the cards at random and challenge each other to the activities, without a score-keeping or “winning” component.

It’s fun for small, active kids with short attention spans, and a great way for adults and kids to be silly and laugh together. It also makes a great gift for family members or caretakers who need to keep kids busy and entertained and may want some ideas.

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