Board games for two & three-year-olds that you’ll love too!
We have a few board games for families with toddlers listed on our Best Family Games list, and now we’re expanding on that list! I’ve asked mother of four and veteran board game player, Lorien Van Ness, to make us this list of her favorite board games for toddlers.
Toddler Board Games
by Lorien Van Ness
Nothing brings my family to the table faster than asking, “Who wants to play a board game?” There’s magic in that question and their eyes sparkle when you ask it. My husband, I have always loved games, and we had quite a collection before we even had kids.
When we started our family, we both kind of dreaded the idea of endless games of Candy Land; we had no idea just how many great games there are for young children. YES, even toddlers!
12 years later (on our fourth toddler) we’ve played a lot of games designed for young kids, some with more success than others. Over the years, we’ve learned a few tricks for helping toddlers learn to play board games.
Playing Board Games with 2 and 3-Year-Olds
Learning to play board games requires a lot of different skills: turn taking, decision making, and patience, among other things – none of which likely describe your toddler (it certainly doesn’t describe mine). One way we help our toddlers gain these skills is by starting with games that are not exactly board games.
Two-year-olds are able to practice skills like taking turns and following the rules best when we play games that engage their whole body. There are a number of great games for toddlers that involve using your whole body (and as grown-ups, we even like playing them)!
Are you looking for a great game to give a toddler? Want to find ways to help your toddlers learn the skills they need to join you at the game table? If so, you need this list of games for two and three-year-olds! These are our favorite board games for families with toddlers. Links to games are Amazon affiliate links. Should you purchase through them you, support this blog at no extra cost to yourself.
Our Top Board Games for Two and Three-Year-Olds
Elefun is an exciting movement game. Small butterflies are blown out of an elephant’s trunk, and players must use their net to catch the butterflies. This game is great for capturing and keeping the attention of energetic toddlers. There are a number of ways to play. Encourage turn-taking by filling the elephant and having one person see how many butterflies they can catch before they hit the ground.
You can help your child wait by having them cheer on the person catching and counting how many butterflies they’ve caught. This is also a great way to begin teaching good sportsmanship.
Recommended for ages 18 months and up, this is delightful take on hide and seek. It’s also a great way to introduce or reinforce the concept of following the rules of a game. Hello Sunshine is a plush sunshine that comes with picture cards prompting where to hide it. You and your child can work together initially to follow the directions on the cards. As your child gets the hang of it, you and your child take turns being the “Hider.”
This game can be played alone or with someone else and offers a great opportunity for your child practice taking turns. There are no batteries required for this toddler version of golf. It comes with a clear golf club that holds 3 balls inside as well as a flagged “hole” and a T for the balls to set on.
This lightweight, collapsible bean bag toss game has two levels of play so you can increase the difficulty as your toddler grows. It comes with color-coded numbered bean bags. One color has odd numbers, and the other has even numbers, which naturally reinforces the skill of taking turns.
This game can also be used to gently introduce competition and the concept of keeping score. Our three-year-old doesn’t really care about the competition yet; he just loves playing a game that involves throwing!
Use your toddler’s budding interest in imaginative play to work on using a spinner and following the rules of a game with this fishing game for two. The pieces are made out of wood, and it comes with two fishing rods, 10 fish, a spinner and carrying bag that doubles as “pond.”
Giant cards spread out on the floor make this matching game really appealing to toddlers. There are smaller handheld cards that you turn over to determine which of the larger cards you are seeking. This game perfect for helping your toddler understand order-of-play (that things have to happen in a particular order when you play games).
This toddler board game comes with adorable wooden game pieces, and it’s a great transition to “real” sit down board games for toddlers. The game involves setting up lily pads on a pond board and balancing frogs on top of them. The fact that it can be played in just 10 to 15 minutes makes it an excellent first sit down board game for 3-year-olds.
Another game that makes the transition to board games smooth. With multiple ways to play, you can adjust the game to your child’s ability. Children will get plenty of practice rolling dice and taking turns as they try to match shapes and colors to create a picture.
Evening in the stable will provide plenty of laughs as you try to help Rooster put all the animals to bed. The comical nature of putting animals to bed and your child’s familiarity with bedtime help engage your younger toddler and build their attention span for board games.
Simple pictures are definitely better when it comes to this classic. The farm theme in this set is perfect for toddlers as they learn to sit and focus. This game can also be easily adjusted for ability by varying the number of tiles used. You can start with just a few pairs and increase the number used over time to help build their attention span.
Reasons for Your Toddler to Play More Board Games
There are many surprising health benefits of playing board games for toddlers. Not only do we have to worry about the physical health of our children, but we should also concern ourselves with their mental health and development as well, and board games can play a big role in doing this.
Improved Memory and Increased Cognitive Functioning
Many board games for toddlers have to do with memory, problem-solving, critical thinking, and information retention. When we play board games with our toddlers, we are effectively helping expand their ability to learn and improve their complex functions.
We should be doing what we can to help our young children develop their gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem-solving skills, and social skills.
With board games and cooperative game play, we are allowing them to learn and acquire new skills while giving them the challenge they need to help with their development and sharpen their mind.
Board games will also help your toddler with their verbal abilities, attention skills, and communication and social skills while also teaching the child how to concentrate and focus for longer intervals of time.
Did you know that even grown-ups can benefit from playing these best board games with our toddlers?
Lower Risk for Mental Diseases
The chances of cognitive dissonance can be reduced when we regularly play board games with our toddlers. So, these children’s board games are not only helping our children as they learn and develop, but it also helps us grown-ups keep our own minds active.
Lower Blood Pressure
Want another benefit of playing board games for adults? Alongside laughing with our toddlers and creating memories while engaging in these social activities, we are also building more positive attitudes and encouraging the release of endorphins. When we play these board games with our younger children, we are effectively lowering our blood pressure at the same time!
DIY Board Games for Toddlers
Don’t have a wide selection of board games at home yet for your toddler? No worries. You can create a few easily at home for very little.
You can go online and find printables that you can easily glue to small square pieces of cardboard. When doing this, you can create your own matching game for your toddler to try out. Simply print out the images you want, glue them to cardboard pieces, turn them over, and get playing! The best part? If they get ruined, you can always print more and can even change it up with a different theme each time. You can also switch this up any way you want and can make it a matching game for color recognition.
Number Learning Game
It can sometimes be a challenge to find store bought board games for younger children that are fun, educational, and help with number recognition and counting skills. For this toddler board game, simply place the numbers one through six on a sheet of paper. (this is where you can get as creative and artsy as you want.) You can put the numbers in circles and make a fun design with a start and finish and then use small toys they love as game pieces. Roll the dice for your little one and have them find the number it lands on.
Playing games with your two or three-year-old doesn’t have to be a chore. These games are not only great for helping your toddler learn how to play games but will help you connect as a family as well. What would you add to the list? Have you discovered a toddler game you love?
Find more great family games:
- Ultimate Family Games List of Board Games for Toddlers Through Big Kids
- Top Card Games for Young Kids
- Best Board Games for 4 Year Olds
Lorien Van Ness is the mother of four children ranging in age from age 3 to tween. She’s a freelance writer and regular contributor at Bounceback Parenting and Hands On As We Grow. She’s worked with children from birth through adolescence professionally for more than 10 years. She enjoys helping families create meaningful experiences that foster strong relationships. She grabs any free moment she can to write about life, parenting, and everything in between.
Alissa Zorn is an author, and founder of the website Overthought This. She's a coach and cartoonist passionate about helping people overcome perfectionism and shame to build authentic, joyful lives. Alissa is certified through the International Coach Federation and got her Trauma-Informed Coaching certification from Moving the Human Spirit. She wrote Bounceback Parenting: A Field Guide for Creating Connection, Not Perfection, and is always following curiosity to find her next creative endeavor.