Children’s first games: For when you just can’t face another trip to Candyland

I want to be the mom who sits on the floor and plays board games for hours with her kids, but I usually start losing interest right around the same time my son tries to see how far he can hurl the dice. So we’ve tracked down some fantastic (dice-free) first games for toddlers and preschoolers–because parents cannot live on Candyland and Chutes & Ladders alone. Or, sometimes, at all.

Stock up on a few good games before the holidays and keep the kids entertained. -Christina

One of our all-time favorites, Zingo! from the mom-and-pop run Think Fun! (I know, a lot of exclamation points) is a graphic version of Bingo minus the grannies in a church hall. It’s easy enough for a three-year-old to play, and pretty fun for this parent too. (Find it for under $10 from our affiliate Amazon)

Feeleez Empathy Cards

A beautifully illustrated memory game with a little psychotherapy on the side, Feeleez Empathy Game helps your toddler understand that all feelings are ok. But maybe you can work in a little lesson on the appropriate reaction to “please shut off the TV.” ($20 at Feeleez.com)

eeBoo Birthday Party Game

eeBoo’s Birthday Party Game is a colorful, collect-the-pieces-for-a-birthday-party game, but afterward, our kids free-play with the nice sturdy game pieces while I look around the kitchen for a piece of cake. (On sale for $10.50 at Chittypulga)

Toot and Otto kids' game

Toot and Otto, also from Think Fun! is like Connect Four with O’s and T’s, and is a great way to show the youngest kids how letters come together to form words. We also like that it can be played cooperatively instead of competitively, since toddlers (and some grown ups) have such a hard time losing gracefully. Maybe we’ll be able to play competitively next year. (Under $10 at our affiliate Amazon)

Haba Orchard Game

The lovely, wooden-piece HABA Orchard Game is another cooperative-play game that our editor Liz gives two enthusiastic thumbs up. It’s not inexpensive, but if you can manage to keep all of beautiful wooden pieces in one place, it could become the game that gets handed down to the next generation. ($35.99 at Maukilo)

Cat in the Hat game

Cabin fever makes us all a bit twitchy in foul weather, which is when The Cat in the Hat’s I Can Do That! game comes out. Cards guide the kids (and you) to take turns doing ridiculous things with the included props, like “Take Four Giant Steps” “With The Cake” “Under Your Chin.” Sort of like Clue meets Mother May I. And while 2 year-olds don’t quite get it yet, they can have a great time playing an adapted version with an older sibling or cousin. (Under $20 at our affiliate Amazon)

Hisss Card Game for kids

Explaining the rules to Gamewright’s Hisss Card Game takes all of ten seconds, but don’t let the simplicity fool you. Even ophidiophobics will love seeing how many snakes they can “build” out of the sturdy cards. You can even work together to build the biggest snake ever. Shudder. (Under $10 at our affiliate Amazon)

Cool Mom Staff

We spend our time looking for cool stuff so you don't have to. Hope this one fits the bill.

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