I strongly dislike enacting imaginary fight scenes with action figures, playing hide and seek or climbing the playground with my kids.
I’m a big proponent of letting my kids entertain themselves and letting them be bored, but I find this works best when they still get their fill of quality interaction with me during the day. I look at it like filling up their gas tank so they can wander off and play independently when we’re done.
Because I strongly dislike the aforementioned activities, I have to find other ways to play with my son. Since the birth of his sister and his twin brothers, he’s had to share me, so it’s important to me that we have our time to play together, just the two of us. But our playtime will not involve Thanos taking over the universe while Iron Man tries to thwart his evil plans (that’s what he does with his Papa). Our playtime is all about board games!
I like to play board games with my son because they’re a fixed length (usually … not all games have a clear end, of course), they are educational (former teacher here) and I can play them at the table while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee and balancing a twin or two on my knee. As long as we give his 3-year-old sister some random pieces to play with, she’ll usually let us finish a round without too much interruption.
Here are our favourite games to play together, which, roughly translated means “games I can play multiple times without wanting to rip my hair out.”
This game is certainly not marketed to the kindergarten crowd, but if you’re OK with fart jokes, then most 5 and 6 year olds can totally play it. The bonus is that you can also play it with other adults and have just as much fun. Thanks to a quick YouTube clip, the rules are easy to learn, so you can get down to playing in mere minutes.
This is the game I find the most fun to play with my son. Although there’s writing on the cards, it’s by no means necessary to know how to read to play. Your goal in the game is to avoid picking up the Exploding Kitten card. We’ve been playing since Christmas, and I have seen a vast improvement in Cub’s ability to strategize and plan his turns ahead of time.
The game is described as a “card game for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats,” which describes most, if not all, 5-year-olds I know.
Although it’s fun to set them up and knock them down, it’s also fun to actually play dominoes. We use the set from my childhood, and games are quick enough that we can squeeze in a game or two before bedtime.
I’ve realized there are quite a few different domino variations and ways of keeping score. We just play so that the first player to use up all their dominoes is the winner.
This game (also called Chutes & Ladders) is a really easy one to use as an introduction to board games, dice rolling and turn taking. It’s great for practising counting and requires no strategizing. Whether you win or lose depends solely on the numbers you roll. This is good and bad … since sometimes I would prefer my son just win so I don’t have to deal with an “I WANTED TO WIN!” meltdown. Yes, he still has those. Yes, we’re working on it. The only downfall of Snakes & Ladders is that the game can go on for quite a while if you both keep landing on snakes and sliding down the board.
Guess Who? is a classic from my childhood! Remember the commercial where all the faces talked? I like how the new version has a couple of different cards, so you can play using foods, pets and sea creatures as well as the traditional faces. There are also thematic versions with kids’ favourite licensed characters.
This game works on reasoning and deduction. We played it last summer on our road trip to Vancouver, since you do not need to be sitting facing each other, and there are no dice or small pieces floating around. I like that it works on language, and we can play in French to help his vocabulary.
Oh yes, the Pop-o-Matic bubble! Although my Trouble board was a lot sturdier than the versions sold today, there’s also a thematic version for whatever your kid is into. We have the Avengers version, so Hulk and Black Widow get to roam around the board on their way to home base.
Like Snakes & Ladders, you don’t need strategy, just good luck when rolling the dice. The only struggle is that you need to roll a “6” to get started, and sometimes it can take forever to finally pop a 6.
Our Monopoly Junior is slightly different than the one I remember playing as a kid. I am pretty sure mine had all the denominations of paper money, and you still got “deeds” to the properties. The version Cub got for Christmas is simpler and cuts down on the need to read and do math, so that’s either a pro or a con, depending on your purposes.
Because the play money is just dollar bills, it’s easy for Cub to count out the money, and he doesn’t have to make change. The “Chance” cards are also simple enough that he has memorized what most of them mean without reading them.
The game can progress relatively quickly (compared to regular Monopoly), especially if you establish that the winner is whoever runs out of money first. [Insert tears and begging to take more money from the bank here.] To up the ante, you can totally bring in the wheeling and dealing and trading and IOUs associated with regular Monopoly if you’re so inclined!
Yes, this classic game is totally fun for kindergarteners! I can’t believe how quickly my son picked up the strategy of “sacrificing” one of your players knowing he would be able to capture more of mine on his next turn. I love how this game is teaching him to plan ahead. The main issue with the game is that near the end, you can wind up just moving infinitely around the board unless you “accidentally” move your remaining player into your child’s sights.