Disclosure: We were sent some of these games for free at our request. This did not sway our opinions - in fact, not all of the games we were sent made it into this post. :)
At five years old, S is finally super excited about playing games. There are SO many games out there, it can be a bit overwhelming. S and I had the great idea to make a wishlist of games and then email the companies to see if they'd let us try them. We did, and they did, and here's the result of our little experiment! As I mentioned above in the disclosure, not all of the games made it into this post. Not to say those were bad, but we just didn't enjoy them. The ones that follow are a mix of games we already owned and the best of the games we tested. The age range for these games is 3 and up, but this list is probably most ideal for kids ages 3-8. I do not present them in any particular order, and those games that were chosen as a favorite by more than one family member are noted with a **.
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OK, this is one of my favorite games. I'm not sure if it's the cupcake theme, or what, but despite being very simple, we loooove it. The orange container is your sprinkle shaker, the dice tells you how many shakes you get, and you match the sprinkles with the three cupcake cards that are face up. If you fill all the sprinkles, you get to keep the cupcake. This one is a favorite of all of us and would be great for ages 3 and up (please note that the sprinkles pose a choking hazard, so be sure your kids aren't tempted to eat them!). Click here to see it on Amazon.
This is another beautifully simple, but super fun game. You take turns drawing cards and match them up with what is laid out. A head starts a new snake and a tail ends an already created snake. Whoever has the most snake cards in their pile when your draw pile runs out wins. This is another great first game for little ones as young as 3. Click here to see it on Amazon.
This is a fun way to introduce kids to card games. There are rules for when you "slam" the pile of cards that have to do with patterns created by sandwich fillings or are prompted by the appearance of certain characters. Since it has a few rules, it would be most appropriate for kids 5 and up. Click here to see it on Amazon.
A simple and short game that works on counting skills in a playful manner. You scatter 30 baby chick circles throughout the farm and then spin to see how many spaces to move your mother chicken. The number of spaces you move is the number of baby chicks you can move to the coop. If you land on a blue square you can collect an extra chicken and spinning a fox means you have to put a baby chick back. This is a great beginning counting game. If your little one is interested in counting from 1-10, this would be a great way to support them. At 5, and a fluid counter, S still enjoys this game. Click here to see it on Amazon.
This game is SO cool! It works on patterns, planning, and counting all at once. It is a little more complicated, so best for ages 5 and up, but it really is quite a bit of fun. Both my husband and I enjoyed the challenge of creating intricate patterns as we played. The art is just gorgeous as well. A great way to playfully support patterning and counting skills! Click here to see it on Amazon.
**Jake and the Neverland Pirates Spot it!
There are several themed Spot it! games available (including Disney's Frozen!), so if your child isn't a Jake fan, you should be able to find a version that works well. This is a great game for honing visual acuity skills - between any given two cards in the stack, there is one matching item. You flip over two cards at a time and whoever spots the matching item and says its name first gets to keep both cards; whoever has the biggest pile at the end wins. An additional cool factor is its size - it is SUPER portable. A great way to entertain kids while out to eat, in waiting rooms, or on vacation. It is a little challenging to find the match, but if you were willing to give a younger child a headstart, I think they'd be able to play and have fun starting around age 3 or 4. Click here to see all the versions of Spot it! on Amazon.
Toy Story Tell Tale
If Toy Story isn't your thing, there are other versions of Tell Tale available as well. This is a good way to practice storytelling skills. It does take a bit of work, so this is a better fit for older children - at least age 5 if not age 6 or 7. There are several ways to play, but the gist of it is using the images in the cards you play as storytelling prompts. You string together a story and it has to integrate what is depicted in whatever card you draw. It's a nice way to playfully practice storytelling skills! Click here to see all the versions of Tell Tale on Amazon.
This is a very simple game, so it's not likely to hold the attention of an older child BUT it is perfect as a first game for a younger child (around 3, but possibly even 2). You spin the wheel and choose food accordingly from each category. It even comes with an adorable picnic blanket, so there's a nice opportunity for some pretend picnic play once you've filled your plate! Click here to see more details.
We're big fans of cooperative games, and Buzz is definitely a hit in our house. Everyone's working together to gather all their pollen before the bear makes it to the beehive. The strategy comes from finding short paths from flower to flower, which builds counting skills without feeling contrived. This one would be good for 4 and up. Click here to see it on Amazon.
This is Bingo, so nice and easy again. Despite that, it's just a universally fun game. It would be great for ages 3 and up. You can play a few ways, but our favorite is to have one person draw an animal coin from the bag and announce it. You can play with several players or you can mix it up with an older child by playing several boards simultaneously. The illustrations are gorgeous and it's a fun and easy way to practice visual acuity skills. Click here to see more details.
My husband grew up playing rummy, and had TONS of fun playing this with S. It's a simplified version of Rummy, keeping the idea of suits from a deck of cards, but without the numbers. The cards are really high-quality, with fun and colorful robot pictures. As a bonus, the rules are close enough that this will make it easy to transition to rummy with a deck of cards once the kids are a bit older. This one's definitely best for about 5 and up. Click here to see more details.
I am seriously in love with all of the illustrations in these Peaceable Kingdom games! This is another cooperative game - you work together to get the baby owls to the nest before the sun rises. There's no reading necessary, so this is great for age 4 (or possibly a bright 3 year old) and up. There is a bit of strategy involved in choosing which colored card to play and you can play an easier version (with 3 baby owls) or a harder version (with 6 baby owls), so there are plenty of ways to keep it interesting for older children. Click here to see it on Amazon.
This is a great family game since the I-spy aspect of it is challenging even for adults! It's another cooperative game and you are working to get all of your players onto a ferry to a picnic before the pigs eat all of your picnic food (pigs eat a piece of your picnic food when you spin that option on the spinner). When you land on Goldbug (seen on the spinner below), you pull a card for an object pictured in multiple places on the board, set the timer, and you all use the orange magnifying glasses to try and find as many of that item as you can before the timer runs out. The more items you find, the more spaces you get to move. This part is always our family's favorite. :) Click here to see it on Amazon.
We had such a great time playing all these fun games. So nice that there are so many great opportunities for kids to learn through play!
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All activities here are activities I feel are safe for my own children. As your child's parents/guardians, you will need to decide what you feel is safe for your family. I always encourage contacting your child's pediatrician for guidance if you are not sure about the safety/age appropriateness of an activity. All activities on this blog are intended to be performed with adult supervision. Appropriate and reasonable caution should be used when activities call for the use of materials that could potentially be harmful, such as scissors, or items that could present a choking risk (small items), or a drowning risk (water activities), and with introducing a new food/ingredient to a child (allergies). Observe caution and safety at all times. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any of these activities on this blog.