The Best Board Games for Kindergarten
When I attended kindergarten in 19*mumbles*ty two we did a lot of playing. When my own children started kindergarten decades later, I was shocked that things had changed so dramatically. I sat in one my child’s classrooms to volunteer one day and the only play time they had was the 15 minutes between the end of classes and when the bus numbers were called. There were no puzzles. There were no board games for kindergarten to be seen anywhere. There wasn’t even the old kindergarten standby, Hi-Ho-Cherry-O! And that made me really sad.
The good news for my kids is that we were eventually able to bring them home, where we were better able to teach them in a way that is meaningful to most children: play. The good news for the kids who aren’t able to go home for school, more and more educators are embracing learning through play, because they know it works. Kindergarten is about moving and playing and trying things out and making decisions based on what happens when we mix two colors of paint. Games & play can help recapture this childhood.
With that in mind, here are some of our very favorite games for kindergarten, or roughly ages 4-6. Don’t stress if your 3 year old can whiz through these or if your 8 year old struggles, remember: play is supposed to be fun. If something doesn’t work, put it away and move on.
Best Board Games for Kindergarten
-Indoor Hopscotch. My family lives in an urban community and as such we don’t have the ability to use the standard chalk and rock hopscotch board, but I’ve found some great indoor solutions! These are perfect for urbanites like us, but also snow days! For larger areas this Melissa & Doug Hopscotch Playmat is over 6′ in length! For those with smaller areas or little storage space, this Ring Hopscotch Set can be configured to fit most spaces and quickly folds away for storage.
-Guess Who. I love Guess Who, sure it’s a fun observation and matching game but it’s also a game about emotions and preconceptions. The only reading skills needed are reading names, and even that isn’t totally necessary. Watch how your children describe characters and model politeness and respect when you describe a character. This is a wonderful way for parents to teach their children what type of language and questions are appropriate when we meet a person of another color/religion/ability.
Melissa & Doug Hop and Count Hopscotch Game Rug (3 pcs, 78.5 x 26.5 inches)Hasbro Guess Who? Classic GameEngineering AntsLearning Resources Sum Swamp Game, 8 PiecesDidax Educational Resources Chunks Word Building Game for Grades 1-4
-Engingeering Ants. This game is so amazing because a. it requires no reading skills and b. it encourages kids to make up their own rules while following the basic guidelines. It also happens to be a pretty great STEM and cooperative game. Read my full review.
-Chunks. Words are funny, and making words can be very funny when you play Chunks. Players work on decoding phonics skills by making words in this very amusing and easy-to-play game. Check out my review of Chunks!
–Tiny Polka Dot. I know it’s a strange name for a math game, but you’ll see why it was named that! Tiny Polka Dot is actually a collection of games that you can play with your child, or they can play independently. No prior math skills necessary.
-Lost Puppies – This sounds like a horrible game, right? Well, there are no sad animal stories allowed here! Lost Puppies is a cooperative game in which players work together to rescue the lost puppies and return them safely to their home. What kind of kid doesn’t want to help adorable puppies??
-Lucky Ducks – I really like Lucky Ducks for this age. Yeah, you get the colors, matching, and counting bit…but what’s even more important is that you get the turn-taking bit. You get the gracious winner bit. You get the gaming etiquette bit. This is a really great game that can be used to teach the little things that make gameschooling so much more effective.
-Whack a Mole / Mushroom Smasher – I am sorry in advance, but look, have you ever met a child who didn’t want to hit things with a mallet? Grab some ear plugs because Whack A Mole (or Mushroom Smacker for those who prefer a no-animals-involved version of the game) is a fantastic game for kids this age. Let’s talk about what smashing the mallet does for a child: It gives the child a sense of control. It motivates the child to improve just for the sake of improving. It motivates children who are tired or uninterested. It distracts children who are becoming overwhelmed. I am a big proponent of using short games to break up the day, and this is a great example to be used for that purpose.
-Perfection. I have a love-hate relationship with Perfection, and lemme tell ya why. I’m the type of person who jumps when the toaster pops, the doorbell rings, the microwave chimes…yeah, that’s me. Imagine that combined with poor fine motor control, adhd, and then let’s add a timer and pokey-edged plastic pieces. SURE MEG, LET’S PLAY PERFECTION.
Hear me out: Perfection helped normalize unexpected noises, even when I wasn’t the one playing. Simply being exposed to Perfection helped me rebuild how my brain interpreted unexpected stimuli. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate playing Perfection, but my siblings didn’t and that benefited me. The world is a noisy place and while desensitization cannot do miracles, it can help kids learn where their noise comfort threshold is and help them to expand it slowly.