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
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We tend to use a lot of card games 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.
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, laying tiles, and following the rules of play.
Snail Pace Race – There are no winners or losers in this game except the snails.
Build a Beetle/Cootie
Snakes and Ladders/Chutes and Ladders
Snap and Go Fish
Memory/Matching Pairs/Joe’s Zoo
In cooperative games the players work together and win or lose as a team. They are a great way to introduce strategic gameplay to younger children because they work with you as part of a team.
Dinosaur Escape – This is a very simple game where the aim is to help the dinosaurs escape before the volcano erupts. Our 2.5yo got it for Christmas
Race to the Treasure – Players work together to beat the Ogre to the treasure
Hoot Owl Hoot – Another fun cooperative game by Peaceable Kingdom (all of their games are great). This one involves colour matching to help the owls get back to their nests before morning.
Outfoxed – This cooperative game was his absolute favourite for a long time. It is a fun combination of Guess Who and Cluedo.
Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters – And… this is his new favourite. My husband and I really enjoy it too. The aim is to collect the treasures before the house becomes haunted. You really need to work together as a team to fight the ghosts. Plus, the little ghosts and people are awesome!
Forbidden Island – This is a more complex cooperative game, that I would only suggest for children who are used to playing games already. Our son still needs some guidance to play this one. He loves it though. Like GFTH, it also involves collecting treasures, but this time, you have to gather them all before the Island sinks.
Games are great tools for practicing maths concepts in a fun setting.
Sum Swamp – Each move in this game involves a simple addition or subtraction. Beware the Endless Loop though… it can be ENDLESS!
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.
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.
Osmo Numbers – This interactive iPad game uses manipulatives to build numbers in order to collect fish. My son enjoys it a lot.
Sushi Go – This is a card collecting game where each set of cards is worth different amounts. The illustrations are adorable! It can be played with two people but works better with 3 or more.
Clumsy Thief – This is a fun, fast paced game that focuses on numbers that add to $100.
Dragonwood – This is another recent game that my son is loving. You roll dice to capture creatures and there’s some fun enhancements along the way. There’s a lot of small additions (the dice are numbered 1-4), and it builds number sense (how many dice do I need to roll to get…). My son still needs a fair bit of guidance when playing this game but I don’t think it will take too long until he gets the hang of it.
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. Think Fun have a whole range of fun solitaire logic games for all ages.
Labyrinth – This was one of my favourite games as a kid and I was excited when my boys got it for Christmas.
Blokus – We actually have this as an iPad App rather than the board game but the game play is the same.
Ticket to Ride First Journey – My boys gave the full version of this game to their Dad for his birthday. Our oldest can hold his own fairly well, just not very strategically. Our 2yo has melt downs over this game because he wants to play with the TRAINS!!! I am glad that we have the full version, because they won’t grow out of it, but I have heard wonderful reviews of the Junior version.
Carcassonne – This game is surprisingly easy, and yet very fun. It’s a tile laying game where you build, and claim, cities, roads and monasteries. Later you can introduce farmers and rivers, and then there’s quite a few expansion packs available. The box says 7+ but our son plays with almost no help after just a few games.
Australian Animal Menagerie – Oh my goodness, my husband and I can’t stand this game, but our son LOVES it. It’s gorgeous, and he has learnt a lot about our native animals and the things that threaten them. The gameplay is fairly bland though.
I’ll be honest, we haven’t delved much into literacy games yet because they tend to be either for children learning to read or for experienced readers and spellers. My son learnt to read before he was playing games but is not ready for Scrabble yet. These are some of the games that we have enjoyed.
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.
Kids on Stage – This is a fun charades game.
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.
Mostly for Fun
Slamwich – A complex variety of snap, with speciality cards that add some luck, evening the playing field.
Rat-a-tat Cat – This is a great little memory 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 – From 4yo, he could hold his own in this game. He doesn’t quite have the strategic thinking that can help mess up someone else’s turn, but he is fine playing his cards that match. He loves to make me pick up 2. We also have Uno Spin which adds some variety and speed to the game.
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.
Pizza Party – This is a super fast, dice rolling game. We love to play it when we need a mental break.
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.