My son loves to play games and this term we have made it part of our daily rhythm. When we move from Morning Time to Tablework we transition with one (or two or sometimes three) quick games. It has been wonderful. He also loves to choose a game from his shelf in free time.
Games are some of the most useful tools for teaching thinking and logic skills, but also for honing character traits such as patience, perseverance and graciousness. We’ve all played Monopoly.
He is learning to win. He is learning to lose. He is learning to stick with something even if it’s not going well. He is learning to wait his turn. He is learning to follow the rules.
He is learning to think logically. He is learning to think strategically. He is learning to think about the big picture. He is learning to add instinctively. He is learning to think quickly. He is learning to pay attention.
Best of all, he doesn’t realise he is learning anything, he is simply having fun.
Recommendations of Games for 4-6 Year Olds
I have included Amazon Links where I can. These are affiliate links and by purchasing through them you are helping to support our homeschool. For those in Australia, all of these games (except one) I have found in either the main chains (eg Target, Kmart, Big W) or in specialty toy or game stores (eg Kidstuff, Casey’s Toys, Games and Things, Hobby Co).
These help to introduce children to the fundamental skills needed for game play. Things like taking turns, using dice or cards, winning and losing, counting, using a board, and following the rules of play.
Snail Pace Race – Turn taking (Thanks Amanda for the recommendation!)
Build a Beetle/Cootie – Dice, turn taking, winning/losing
Hungry Hungry Hippos – Winning/losing, counting
Snakes and Ladders/Chutes and Ladders – Dice, counting, using a board, winning/losing
Mouse Trap (There are two different versions of this game. We prefer the Hasbro one, but the Elefun version is readily available in Australia) – Turn taking, winning/losing, using a board
Snap and Go Fish – Using cards, turn taking, winning/losing
Trouble – Turn taking, dice, winning/losing, a good game to begin introducing strategic play.
Memory/Matching Pairs/Shopping List – Turn Taking, winning/losing, a good way to introduce paying attention and using logic to play.
Card games are what we tend to use during our Morning Time because they are quick and easy with minimal set up. We particularly like the GameWright card games because they have a story to them and are quite distinct from each other, making it easier to alternate between them without muddling up the different rules. Card games are great for packing in a bag to take with you to play when out and about.
For little hands, I recommend a card holder. We have one like this, and really like that it can either be held in the hand or stood on the table.
Slamwich – A complex variety of snap, with speciality cards that add some luck, evening the playing field.
Sleeping Queens – This card game has dragons that we make roar and wands that we zap. It has a bit of strategic thinking, some addition (although you can play without by tweaking the rules) and some luck.
Rat-a-tat Cat – This is a great strategic game that focuses on getting the lowest numbers possible.
Super Tooth – His favourite is the Triceratops because it scares away the meat eaters. Roar!!! This game is all about the story and very easy to play.
Uno – At 4, he can hold his own in this game. He doesn’t quite have the strategic thinking that can help, but he is fine playing his cards that match. He loves to make me pick up 2.
SkipBo – This game is great for teaching the numbers 1-12. I remember playing it often at my Nan’s house when I was a kid.
Games are great tools for practicing maths concepts in a fun setting.
Dice Games – eg we play one where we each start with 20 counters, we roll 2 dice, add them together and steal that number of counters from the other person. We take it in turns. The person to collect all the counters wins.
Maths Dice Jr – A great little game for practicing addition and subtraction skills.
Mancala – This traditional game is strategic but the foundational skill is counting.
All of my son’s favourites are in this category. There are so many helping thinking skills learnt and practiced while playing these games. He definitely surprised me with his logic in Outfoxed and Guess Who.
Outfoxed – This cooperative game is his absolute favourite. It is a fun combination of Guess Who and Cluedo.
Connect Four – A classic simple strategy game. It teaches him to pay attention to the moves the other player makes as well as his own plan.
Rush Hour Jr – This one is at his Nanny and Pa’s house and he loves it. It is a single player game.
Labyrinth – This one is still a bit beyond him, although he has a good try. I think in another year he will be able to play it well so I included it here. It was my favourite as a kid.
Guess Who – I haven’t beat him at Guess Who yet!
Robot Turtles – This is a coding board game. It was really helpful that he had played Turtle Logic on the iPad first because that introduced him to the concepts (and it’s turtles too!). There are alternate rules online for older kids/adults to make it harder, faster and more fun.
Blokus – We actually have this as an iPad App rather than the board game but the game play is the same.
Zingo – This was great when he was learning his sight words. They have other versions too.
Silly Sentences – This game has him in giggles. I love those giggles.
Scrabble Jr – We haven’t actually played this game yet, it’s hiding in the top of the cupboard for Christmas.
Brain Quest Smart! Game – This is a trivia game that covers Science, Maths, Art, Reading and The World (hence “SMART”). My 4 year old is able to hold his own with the level 1 questions. I put it under literacy because he has to listen to (and read) the questions. The actual questions cover a range of topics.
I’ll admit these don’t get played so much as part of our “school” work but they are fun and well loved when we do bring them out.
Twister – My son is very short for his age so this is a challenge, but it’s great to get the whole body moving and for learning left from right.
Jenga – I was surprised how good my son was at this. He has to really concentrate and control his actions.
Pick Up Sticks– This is a great game for working on hand strength and dexterity. His hands are tiny, so Jacks will be some years off still, but it’s a great game for hand coordination as well.
Well, that list ended up a bit longer than originally planned because there are just so many good games out there. This list is by no means exhaustive. These are simply the games that we love. We hope you love them too.