While I would absolutely love to get away from the millions and zillions of things my children receive (and then subsequently break/lose/get bored of/forget) as gifts, there are a few tangibles we are actually hoping to see come down the chimney. Games and puzzles have always been one of my go-to suggestions for gifts for kids and this year is no different. I crowd-sourced parents’ top suggestions for educational or developmentally valuable board games for the preschool-early elementary set (ages 3-9). Here are the top suggestions I’m sending off to Santa’s workshop this year:
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(2-4 Players, Ages 3+) This game has been a hit since way back before even Venti was a preschooler and why we don’t own it yet, I have no idea. Kids develop fine motor skills using the squirrel grabber to pick up colorful acorns, reinforcing color names and sorting and matching skills. Grande and Tall will definitely get a ton of mileage out of this and play time is short enough that Venti won’t lose interest too quickly if he’s helping out.
(2-6 players, Ages 6+) I’m lumping these together because they were often suggested at the same time and have a similar game style. Published by a company called Gamewright, these two card games have a similar strategy of collecting cards based on their value. Aside from providing practice with addition within 20, they are also great strategy games for young learners. We have had Sleeping Queens since the beginning of the school year, and love playing it. Grande, who is only four has even played with a partner and enjoyed picking which card to draw and naming the characters.
(One player, Ages 5+) ThinkFun is a well-loved board game publisher and it’s no surprise that this classic problem solving 3D game is another one knocked out of the park. Set up your board according to one of 40 challenge layouts (in three levels- Easy, Medium and Hard) and help your ice cream truck find the path out of the traffic jam.
(2-5 players, Ages 8+) Another winner from the folks at Gamewright! This card game asks players to think fast to come up with the best combination of cards – make the most maki rolls or collect a full set of sashimi – strategic thinking skills are stretched on this one. Gameplay is quick, so if you’re wanting to fill up time between activities, this will be a great go to, while still having awesome replay value.
(2-5 players, Ages 3+) If you haven’t figured out my (and many parents’) adoration for Gamewright by now, let me hit you over the head with it: these. games. are. so. perfect. Hiss asks players to use visual logic skills to match colors to build their snake from head to tail. Perfect for learning colors and older elementary players will test addition skills while they help score the game at the end.
(2-4 players, Ages 7+) Mole Rats in Space has the unique quality of being cooperative in nature. Players can practice strategy, problem solving, communication and cooperation to help the mole rats gather equipment to escape the evil snake invaders. Younger players will enjoy the fun of the game without stressing out over who wins or loses, which is a win-win when you are still learning grace.
(2-4 players, Ages 5+) Another entry in the cooperative games category, players build various contraptions to help the ant engineers defeat the Anteater. Build problem solving, fine-motor practice, communication and cooperation skills, even among younger players with some assistance.
(2-7 players, Ages 4+) Zingo is an update to your classic bingo games but with a fun educational twist. The base game (linked below) is perfect for pre-readers and helps teach vocabulary, matching and communication. You can also purchase expansion packs with numbers, sight words, telling time and a word-builder theme. The contraption that spits out the tiles (it’s called a Zinger, obviously) will also be fun for little hands to play with.
(2-4 players, Ages 8+) I have played the grown up version of Apples to Apples and it can get a little… well… let’s just say it’s even more fun with wine! This version pairs perfectly with your choice of Capri Sun or Honest Kids and just like the grownup version, whomever puts together the best combination of cards wins the round. Kids develop language skills, vocabulary and you could even throw in some practice on parts of speech while you’re here.
So this one is not exactly educational, in fact, I’m not really sure what kids might get out of it other than just plain old fun. This game came so recommended by everyone PLUS both Venti and Grande have seen it on TV and asked for it, so I had to add it. It can’t be 100% educational, 100% of the time, right? That’s just not the Sort Of way.