Bonding through Board Games: 7 Recommended Games for Young Children

This post was originally published on Victoria Moms Blog.

We are definitely a “games family”. Growing up, my parents taught us numerous card games: everything from Uno, to Solitaire games, Accords, and Bridge. And our family has always loved to play board games. Every Christmas my Aunt would come to visit for a week, and almost every night after dinner the whole family would play board games. We still do! We have many favourites, including Pictionary, Cranium, What, Catch Phrase, and Taboo. I remember so many nights spent laughing together as a family, and so many jokes that started during a board game and went on for years.

Even my husband went through board game initiation when we first met. One of the first weekends when we were dating, he came over for our family Easter dinner, and was subjected to a game of Catch Phrase. Poor guy, English was his second language, he’d only been in Victoria for a few months, and there we were making him play a fast-paced word game! He was a great sport though … probably part of the reason he is my husband today! I’ll never forget him getting the word Macadamia nut. After getting me to guess nut, and with the time quickly running out, he said “just name every nut you know!”

When our daughter was born a few years ago, we knew we wanted to instill a love of games in her as well. This sounds a bit corny, but I swear that our family is closer because of all of the “bonding” time spent playing games together. So as soon as our little one was old enough, we started buying children’s board games. She is currently four years old, and these are some of the games that our family has really enjoyed:

Shopping List by Orchard Toys (3-7 years)
This is a memory game, so don’t expect to win this one against your toddler! Each player chooses a shopping list and grocery cart, and all of the pieces are laid out face down in the centre. When it’s your turn, you flip over a piece. If you have that food item on your shopping list, place it in your cart; if not, return it upside down in the centre for another player to select on their turn. Our daughter really enjoys this game, and it’s enjoyable for parents as well. At the very least, it’s helping to keep my memory sharp(ish)!

Busy Town Eye Found It by Wonder Forge (3 years+)
This is an awesome, unique game! Based on Richard Scarry’s Busy Town, this is a collaborative game (collaborative meaning no winners, and therefore no sad players!) where players work together to reach the picnic at the end before the piggies eat all of the snacks. When it’s your turn, you spin the wheel to determine whether you will move forward, solve a mystery, or whether the piggies will eat a food item! If you spin a mystery, you draw a card (e.g pylon) and all players work together to find as many images of a pylon as they can throughout the game board. This is one of my current favourite children’s games.

Zingo (3 years+)
This award winning game is a fun twist on traditional Bingo. As with Bingo, each player chooses a card (there are 2 levels of difficulty to select from). Instead of having a caller to call out the items, players use the Zingo Zinger to reveal tiles. If you have the image on one of the two tiles, you call out the word, and take the tile for your playing card. Our daughter loves to be the person that operates the Zingo machine. I think this is probably her favourite of all the board games we currently have.

Hoot Owl Hoot (4 years+)
This game has also won numerous awards, and while we don’t own it ourselves, we have played it a number of times at a friend’s house. This is another cooperative game, where players work together to move all of the owls safely into the nest before the sun comes up. Each turn, players draw a card. The card either gives you a colour (indicating a space that you can move one of the owls to) or a sun (meaning that the sun moves one more spot towards rising). This is not an easy game – I’d actually love to try it just my friend and I (no children!) and see if we can beat that sun once and for all!

Disney Frozen 6-in-1 Games (3 years+)
This game isn’t for everyone … but if you have an Elsa fan in your midst, it might be a hit in your family! There are 6 games in the box to keep you entertained: Bingo, Go Fish, Crazy 8’s, Four-in-a-Row, Dominoes, and Matching. We haven’t really gotten into Dominoes yet, but the other games (especially Go Fish and Four-in-a-Row) are favourites with our little one.

Crocodile Snap (3-8 years)
This game is a children’s version of the traditional card game Snap. Each player starts with a stack of tiles, each with a different animal on it. You place them face down in front of you and take turns flipping over the top card in your pile. Any time a matching pair of animals is visible on the table, players shout out Snap, and take the deck and add it to their own. If it’s two crocodile tiles, players shout Snap while making a crocodile snap with their arms. Although the game says ages 3-8 years our little one found this game a bit tricky at the start. Even now, we find that we have to react much slower in order to give her a chance to sometimes be the one to shout Snap!

Go Fish/Old Maid/Concentration
Go Fish is probably one of the top games in our house at the moment. It’s easy to play, can be played with multiple different decks (animals, letters, Frozen characters, etc.), and doesn’t take much time for a game. You can even use the same deck of cards to play a game of Concentration or Old Maid! We love the Animal Village Old Maid set, and the Go Fish set from School Zone where you match the baby animals to their Mommy/Daddy.

We have found that for little hands, holding the cards to play some of these games can be tricky. My Dad made our daughter an awesome wooden card holder that she uses all the time. These playing card holders can also be found online and in toy stores, and might be a worthwhile purchase to avoid frustration!

Board Games

Does your family have any favourite card or board games? I’d love to hear them!

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