Updated October, 2018
Our Favorite Board Games for 3, 4 and 5-year-olds
[Looking for toddler games? You can find our list of the best games for toddlers here.]
The board games for preschoolers we’ve listed here include our family favorites as well as the top games for preschoolers recommended by parents. The best thing is that we’ve chosen games that everyone likes to play, including parents. They’re fun, fairly quick to play and help develop dexterity, strategy, and games playing skills like taking turns.
In a hurry? Here are our Top Pick Forever Favorites:
- Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Eye Found It cooperative, seek and find, story
With over 1,000 reviews on Amazon, this great game has a 5-star rating. The game board is six feet long. Players look for objects on the board directed by the cards they draw. You work together to try to make it to Picnic Island before Pig Will and Pig Won’t eat all the food. There are hundreds of items to find, so it’s a lot of fun to explore this board game.
Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game: tactile, dexterity, matching
This great game combines turn taking, color matching, and dexterity. It’s not the most thrilling game for adults. However, it’s enjoyable to play with your preschooler as the length of play is just right. They love it, and the tactile feel of the acorns is great. The game is super cute and helps develop hand-eye coordination and basic game play etiquette.
Benefits of Board Games for Preschoolers
Playing board games with preschoolers not only strengthens your relationship connection, but game play also has cognitive benefits for children as well. When young children play board games, they learn social skills such as communicating verbally and sharing.
The game play can motivate them to increase their focus and to practice patience while they wait their turn. Preschoolers love the chance to work on mastering letter and number recognition and counting, hand-eye coordination, and color recognition.
Along with these benefits, playing games together gives children a comforting space to learn how to play within the rules and boundaries of the game. At 4 years old, much of life is hard to predict and not within your control – board games provide a sense of empowerment as preschoolers begin understanding how the game works.
Board games are also a good way to teach a preschooler about teamwork. Have your older children play a few of these board games with your preschooler, so they can learn to work with people of different ages while also learning how to be fair.
Unplug from Devices
With technology taking such a front and center role in our lives today, we are finding more and more preschoolers with tablets and iPads on their laps as they browse the latest cartoons. Introducing them to some fun board games gives them the opportunity to unplug from these devices and allows you to spend some quality time together as a family, without all the interruptions.
Board games are a fantastic way to find that much-needed balance between our children’s real life and digital connections. They also allow children to make much greater emotional connections with their parents and siblings.
Not a Fan of Time Out?
The next time your child decides it is time to test your patience and push their boundaries, instead of sending them to their room for a time out, play a board game! This will not only strengthen the relationship you have with your child; it will also teach them a new outlet for their frustrations. It prompts respectful responses and more positive attitudes instead of spending some alone time in a time out.
Teaching the Right Way to Lose
Finally, you will find that these board games for preschoolers can help you teach about fairness and sportsmanship. If they don’t like losing, then this is the opportune time for you to make it a teaching moment and encourage them to discover new coping skills and stay calm when things might not go their way.
Choosing Board Games for 4 Year-Olds
Preschoolers are beginning to have more and more fine motor skills, their imaginations are blossoming, and they really begin to understand how to play with others. This makes the preschool stage an ideal time for board games.
When shopping for board games for your 4 year old, look for games that play to their strengths such as imagination or big movements like hopping; or help them build up new skills such as color, letter or number recognition, fine motor skills like pinching and picking up small objects, or social skills like taking turns.
Favorite Board Games for Preschoolers
Many of these are board games that have stood the test of time in our family through multiple kids, and some of them continue to be favorites even as the kids get older. Preschoolers all the way up to teens and grown-ups can enjoy playing them – most don’t take long, making them the perfect quick connection activity. This list contains Amazon affiliate links.
Pete The Cat’s Cupcake Party: Charades, Imagination, Connection
New this year, this game is now a favorite game in our family for connecting with younger kids. The game play is cooperative. You take turns spinning to see what you’ll have to do in order to be able to put a cupcake on Pete’s Birthday table.
Actions you might have to perform include singing a line from a song, naming a favorite food, naming an object that starts with a certain letter sound or charades (simple enough for preschoolers and they include pictures, so it’s fine for non-readers). This is a quick game to play and enjoyable for parents and kids.
Hoot Owl Hoot: Cooperative, Simple Strategy, Eco-friendly
This is one of the most popular games ever from Peaceable Kingdom Games. The goal is for the group to cooperate to get the owls back in the nest before the sun rises. On their turn, players must play a sun if they have one (making the sun rise further) otherwise they play one of their color cards (like Candyland). The color lets you move an owl closer to the next. You can play with a different number of owls (up to 6) to make it easier or harder. The game has enough strategy to be fun, and kids get to learn how to work together too.
Another parent recently said to me, “You pretty much can’t go wrong with any Peaceable Kingdom games.” and that’s been our experience as well. We also have Seeds for the Birds and Peaceable Kingdom’s Race to the Treasure. We like Race to the Treasure better than Seeds for the Birds because making the pathway involves many choices and possibilities for how the game will unfold – it feels a bit more strategic.
Colorama: Colorful, Skill building, Younger
This is a well-made game by Ravensburger that reinforces colors and shapes. It will appeal most to younger preschoolers – I almost put it on our Toddler Games List, but it probably most suits 3 and 4-year-olds. With multiple different ways to play, you can use this game for quite a while.
Game play time is about 20 minutes as players roll to find the color and shape, then match a place for it on the board, or take a piece off the board, depending on the rules you’re playing the game with.
Dr. Seuss “I Can Do That!” Card Game: Active, Silly, Challenges
This is a game that was recommended to me by a grandmother of preschoolers. Her grandkids love the silly foam fish that comes with the game. One of the challenges when choosing board games for 3-year-olds and the younger preschool crowd is that they still have a hard time sitting still. No worries with the Cat in the Hat “I Can Do That!” game. This game involves lots of physical action – perfect for younger kids.
Players flip over a selection of three cards which will direct them in performing a challenge. For non-readers, pictures help give clues as to what the cards say, while also promoting early reading skills. With activities that involve things like ‘dancing with the foam fish between your knee,’ the combinations can be pretty hilarious.
Charades for Kids: Laughter, Imagination, Family
Charades is great for laughs, and this kids’ version comes with a picture on each card, making it possible for pre-readers to play. Non-readers can act out the picture on the card, while players who can read have three different words as an option on the cards. This board game taps into 4-year-olds’ imaginations and gives them the chance to be active during game play. It’s also just really funny.
Spot It Alphabet: Quick, Visual, Skill building
As preschoolers get excited about learning their letters, this ABC version of the ever-popular game Spot It is a hit. I mention Spot It in our Favorite Card Games for Kids because there are multiple ways to play, and the games go pretty quickly.
Each card will have at least one match to every other card. A couple game versions to play include one in which three cards are flipped over and whoever spots a match first gets to grab them, or having each player flip over a card from their deck and giving away cards to whoever spots a match first (kind of like War, where you’re trying to get all the cards first). Great practice for kids learning their letters.
Sequence for Kids: Strategy, Memory, Various ways to play
I love finding strategy games that adults can play with kids; that’s how Sequence for Kids is. Kids as young as 3 can learn to play, and you play with multiple ages. To play, you put down a card from your hand and place a chip on a corresponding game board space. When you have 4 in a row, it’s a “sequence,” and you win. The twist comes in with unicorns and dragons – a unicorn card can be used to place your chip anywhere, or a dragon card can be used to remove your opponent’s chip. This little bit of strategy makes this game interesting for preschoolers and grown-ups alike.
Aquarius: Strategy, All ages, Colorful
You might be surprised to find a “regular” grown-up game listed among the best games for 4-year-olds, but this is a very colorful card game that requires no reading, and it works for preschoolers! It’s played a little bit like dominoes…kind of. You’re trying to get seven of the same pattern together while blocking other people from getting their grouping together. Younger preschoolers may not quite get the point of what they’re doing, but they can still play. This game takes space to spread out, but it’s good for the whole family.
Haba Orchard: Cooperative, Beautiful game pieces, Imagination
We owned this cooperative game when I was a child, and my brothers and sister, and I loved the beautiful wooden fruit game pieces. This game is easy to play with younger players and may be a good choice for families with a toddler and preschooler.
Players are trying to pick all the fruit from the trees before ravens steal them. The fruits are pears, apples, cherries and plums, and the game comes with adorable little baskets for collecting the wooden fruits. Children who love miniatures and pretend play will love this game.
My First Carcassonne: Strategy, Early math, Matching
As a fan of the regular version of Carcassonne, I was intrigued to see this children’s game. We do not own it, but reviews are positive. Parents say that it’s a fabulous game because it’s simple enough for younger players to play but has enough choice and challenge that it’s not completely boring for adults. The ideal age range for this game is probably 4-8, but it really works well for a larger range than that.
Floor Puzzles: Spatial Awareness, Persistence, Crawling
I know they’re not exactly a board game, but when I looked into our game cupboard, I saw the floor puzzle all of my kids have enjoyed and had to list this as an idea. Floor puzzles can work well with preschoolers because they take what could be a sitting-activity and give it a bit more motion – you can crawl around on the floor to put together the puzzle.
A friend in the UK recommends these games by Orchard Toys as some of the first children’s games her preschoolers have really loved. Shopping List is a fun memory game, and Dotty Dinosaur involves color and shape recognition.
Your turn! What are your favorite board games for 3-year-olds through 5-year-olds? Leave ideas in the comments!
More Board Games for 4-Year-Olds
Kids in the 4 to 6-year-old age range are getting old enough to sit down for a board game, but they still love to be active, so games with a shorter time for play work well. Especially when that 4, 5 or 6-year-old starts heading to longer days at preschool or kindergarten, I love to have a little selection of favorite games so that it’s easy to pull out something you’ll both enjoy playing and you can reconnect when you’ve had time apart. Here are a few more posts with games that work for this age range:
- Our Favorite Card Games for Young Kids – fun card games for pre-readers
- Best Board Games for Families – highly recommended games for all ages
- Board Games that Teach Math Skills – fun ways to practice beginning arithmetic and spend time together.
Find more great ways to play together:
- Best Outdoor Toys for Preschoolers
- The 4-6 Year Olds Must Do List
- Independent Play Ideas for Preschoolers