Whether they incorporate cards, dice, boards, spinners—or even an adorable cardboard monster and an oversized spoon—games have a host of benefits for young children. Games help children develop academic, spatial, and critical thinking skills. By playing with peers, kids practice social-emotional skills like cooperating, taking turns, and winning or losing gracefully. Plus, playing games is fun! Many mainstream games are perfect for the preschool classroom. Check out some of our favorite card games and board games for preschoolers, both old and new!
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This classic game is a childhood staple, and these cards are easy on little hands and eyes.
Once your students understand the premise of “Go Fish,” treat them to this adorably imaginative version from a favorite illustrator. They’ll love making pairs of “Strawberry Fish,” “Scribble Octopus,” “Lobsterbots,” and more.
When your older preschoolers are ready to learn some simple classic card games, check out the whimsical companion set of regular playing cards.
Here’s a year’s worth of Math Center activities for you in one cute and tiny box. Sturdy and visually-pleasing cards offer tons of possibilities for building number sense; students can use them to count, match amounts, compare, subitize, and more.
Children race to be the first to fill their shopping baskets with the items on their lists. The board is simple and uncluttered, and the picture-and-word shopping lists encourage the development of concepts about print.
Preschoolers feel so empowered once they catch onto the principles of a basic memory game. The enticing popsicle-shaped cards will get them talking about attributes as they play!
Easily adaptable to large-group play, movement cards ask kids to practice gross motor skills with a fun beanbag banana.
Help kids learn basic game-playing skills like rolling a die and moving along a path in a familiar context: bedtime! Kids love helping make decisions about how Bunny’s bedtime routine will go.
Anything with Pete the Cat is an automatic preschool win. To get Pete’s cupcakes back from Grouchy Toad, kids must name objects, sing songs, and act out charades.
Sliding the card dispenser has a similar appeal to spinning a bingo cage. Zingo supports vocabulary development and print awareness as well as focus—you have to be watching to call out and snag your picture first! Spanish, sight word, number, and word building versions are also available.
This classic game might make adults groan, but we still consider it one of the best board games for preschoolers. Why? Kids can take it out, set it up, and play it by themselves. Cooperation and independence for the win! (Pro tip: Provide a playing card tray for easy management of the draw pile and discards.)
Dominoes is a versatile and timeless game for all ages. This set from Melissa and Doug is super-sturdy and gets kids recognizing standard dot formations of numbers 1-6.
The goal of the game is to have the lowest score when someone calls “Rat-a-tat-cat!” This game builds number sense and teaches the concept of zero. If you’d like to encourage conversations about numbers, opt to have the students play with their cards turned up and visible.
In this matching game with a twist, the fun comes when you turn over cards that don’t match! When this happens, players must move like the animal body card and make the sound of the animal head card. Stomping like an elephant while clucking like a chicken is hilarious when you’re a preschooler—or a preschool teacher!
15. Banana Blast
Cue the squeals of laughter; kids love the suspense of this game! Remove the bananas one by one to see which one makes the monkey jump. The included puzzle is a nice bonus for friends to make together.
Practice matching basic shapes while helping Frankie the Cat create his food truck meals. The real appeal (and sneaky fine motor strength-building) comes from the Frankie-shaped “squeezer” players use to move the game pieces around.
Players roll two die to get a color and a shape and must locate a matching spot on the board. There are multiple levels of play for different groups.
This oversized game board gives plenty of room for a group of kids to spy items in the pictures and move ahead on the board. The goal is to get to the picnic before the pigs eat all the food, and everyone has to help!
Every kid should learn to play Uno. It’s marketed for ages seven and up, but the rules are easily adaptable for little ones. With enough practice, they’ll be unleashing the Draw Four cards like pros.
20. Hoot Owl Hoot!
Players must work together to get the owls back to the nest before sunrise. Color cards, similar to Candyland, move the owls closer to the goal, but there are a few added twists to make it more interesting.
It’s often the simplest games that are best. Players take turns rolling color dice to see which snails to move in this cooperative game. Which snail will win? Oh, the suspense! Swap out one die with a regular die if you want to speed up the game and encourage number recognition.
22. Feed the Woozle
There are multiple ways to play this silly game. In the simplest version, players roll a die to determine how many pieces of food to “feed” the Woozle. But wait: Walking across the room balancing the food on the spoon adds an extra challenge. Players cooperate to satiate the goofy creature’s appetite.
23. Where’s Bear?
Players hide a wooden bear under one of six sturdy nesting blocks decorated as rooms in a house and then try to find him. This game capitalizes on toddlers’ love of hiding things and offers a lot of language-building opportunities. This is perfect for a two-year-old class or a multi-age group in which older students can play the adult role.
This game is our go-to for older preschoolers ready for a bit of strategic play. Players cooperate to create a path to reach the treasure before the ogre does.
What do you think are the best board games for preschoolers? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, check out our favorite ideas for sensory tables.