We love to play games here at the Yankee Homestead, and I’ve been on the lookout for great games the whole family can play together, including our three-year-old.
[Note: Pictured above is Older Brother, who is almost seven. Little Brother–the three year old–did not cooperate for a photo, but was indeed playing this game with us. :-)]
Our general criteria for family games include:
- Requires strategy, problem-solving or some sort of mental effort. 🙂 We’ve decided–based on the recommendation we read in Hints on Child Training–to try to avoid games of chance. Some of the games listed below do involve some degree of chance, but none of them are based wholly on chance. [According to my understanding, examples of games of chance would include games like Candy Land and Chutes & Ladders.]
- No reading necessary. This is obviously for Little Brother. We do have other fantastic games that we look forward to playing with Little Brother when he’s a bit older.
- High quality. Not all our games meet this standard, but I do try to avoid really cheaply-made games in favor of those with more lasting value.
Here are a few of our favorite family games
that a three-year-old can play…
1. Zingo was a gift to Older Brother a few years back. We’d never heard of it, but it’s perfect for non-readers and beginning readers alike! Both boys love this game.
The cards have two sides–one is a bit easier (less competition) while the other side is more challenging (the cards have more pictures in common, which means players must be quick to claim the picture chip they need).
Everyone loves to shoot the picture chips out of the handy-dandy red thingamabob, but the only downside to this game is that Mom & Dad usually get stuck re-loading said thingamabob.
**I just realized, from the picture above that links to Amazon, that they must have redesigned the red shooter to include that “re-loading slot at the top.” See it? Ours doesn’t have that. We have to load the picture chips, one at a time, into the two columns inside the shooter. So if you buy the updated version, you should be golden.
2. Orchard was a fantastic find at a used curriculum & book sale I attended recently. I’d heard of HABA games, and have had a few on my list for a while now.
They’re supposed to be high-quality, meaningful games and they can be pricey. This Orchard game is about $40 on Amazon, but I paid $2 for our secondhand game. [For less expensive options, you could check out Mini-Orchard and First Orchard, which I noticed on Amazon.]
Granted, it’s missing one (out of four) baskets and a few of those that remain are rather “well-loved,” but they are intact and we can easily substitute a cup or something for the last basket when our whole family plays together. (When it’s just me and the boys, three baskets is perfect.)
It was also missing a few pieces of fruit, but the previous owners included one navy blue button they had used for the missing blue plum. I improvised one pair of cherries–and did a pretty great job, if I do say so myself! For the apples, I had trouble finding buttons in the right shade of green, until it occurred to me that our foam sticker shapes include circles of almost the perfect color. So we’re using two foam circles for the missing apples.
- It’s cooperative, meaning all the players work together for a common goal. Love that!
- Perfect for non-readers, but equally engaging for older kids, like Older Brother who is almost seven.
- The wooden fruits are just really cool. 🙂
3. Hisss was recommended by several sources, so we gave it a shot and actually bought it new online for Little Brother’s Easter basket. It’s a very simple game, but it’s been a big hit at our house.
There is absolutely no reading required. The boys can even play it just the two of them, and it can be played solo as well.
The object of the game is to form snakes by matching the colors. Whoever completes a snake gets to claim it for points, although we generally don’t keep score.
4. Charades for Kids is a no-brainer. The great part about the “for Kids” version is that there’s a set of picture cards included with the regular “words-only” cards. So Little Brother uses the picture cards–and always announces his word/picture prior to acting it out. He doesn’t quite have the concept down yet…
Once again, I found this game used, at a thrift shop. It was in perfect condition–we’ve definitely gotten our $1’s worth, and then some! Both boys LOVE this simple game.
5. Sequence for Kids was also a gift to Older Brother, but Little Brother enjoys playing a modified version with us.
Basically, we lay our cards out for all to see, which kind of defeats part of the purpose, but we figure we’re teaching Little Brother how it works. Soon he’ll be ready to play his own hand and we can all hide our cards again.
When played the correct way–with each player hiding their cards–this game is fantastic for strategy and problem-solving.
6. Yahtzee Jr. was another gift to Older Brother a while back. Once again, it requires no reading. The only reason I’m picturing the Toy Story version is because it’s the version we own. I believe it comes in a variety of formats.
This is a simplified version of Yahtzee in which the players take turns rolling the dice and placing each of five character markers on the board, according to the combined number they roll.