A Parent’s Guide to the Best Beginner Board Games

Remember the days when Candyland and Chutes and Ladders were the only two board games available? Now, there are so many games to choose from it can be overwhelming. And as a parent, you want a game that not only your child can play over and over, but also one that you wouldn’t mind playing as well.

Believe it or not, board games aren’t just fun and games. At the preschool level, they help with skill acquisition (like identifying colors or counting), fine motor skills such as hand-eye coordination and dexterity, and perhaps the most important, social-emotional development such as turn taking, following the rules, and learning how to win or lose.

Here are some of the tried and true board games in our home geared toward the preschool age.

Best Starting Game: Pengoloo by Blue Orange Games

A multiple award wining game, and arguably one of the cutest games as well, this simple memory game requires merely color recognition. It can be adapted to younger players by leaving out the dice portion (and the stealing portion) of the game and added in later for more advanced play. Pengoloo helps develop memory, color identification, fine motor skills, and strategy. This quality game has all brightly colored wooden pieces and is a favorite among everyone.


Age: 4+ (although most players report that 3 year old’s can easily play)

Players: 2-4 (so you can play with just your child, or include other friends or siblings)

Game time: 10-15 minutes

Other Great Blue Orange Games for Preschoolers: Bubble Stories (can be played solo!), Chickyboom (a fun, high energy chicken balancing game)a

Best (Affordable) Travel Game: Ready, Set, Sloth by Ravensburger


This simple game is fun for both younger and older kids as your sloth races to be the first to the top. Try to avoid falling asleep or, even worse, a broken branch!  This can be played at home but is also a great travel game for long car rides. Promotes counting, turn taking, and fine motor skills. Fun for the whole family!


Age: 4+

Players: 2-4

Game time: 15 minutes

Other Great Ravensburger Games: Big City Builders (a game and puzzle in one!), Rainy Ranch (a fun game for age 2 and up!)

Best Game(s) for Kids Who Can’t Handle Losing Yet: Dinosaur Escape by Peaceable Kingdom

Winning and losing is a big part of the learning process, and sometimes your child may not be ready to handle all those emotions. Or maybe you just want to have a game that helps build teamwork? Either way, Peaceable Kingdom games provide cooperative board game fun for kids as young as 2. Work together to help your dinosaur friends escape the island before the volcano blows! The game promotes strategy, cooperation, planning ahead, and social skills. Dinosaurs not your child’s interest? Peaceable Kingdom has games for everyone including Hoot Owl Hoot, The Fairy Game, and Mermaid Island.


Players: 2-4

Game time: 10 minutes

Other Great Peaceable Kingdom Games: Snug as a Bug in a Rug is for ages 3+ and its active game play incorporates colors, shapes, sizes, and numbers, making it a great educational game. And Gnomes at Night, a cooperative search and find maze game, provides a secret board with two sides.  Simply by using descriptive language, players help one another race to find the treasures that were stolen from the castle and return them by morning.  Feel free to ditch the timer if needed and have fun on the adventure.

Best Game for Older Preschoolers or for a Challenge: Outfoxed! by Gamewright

If your child has played many of the younger preschool games and is ready for a challenge, or if your child is nearing kindergarten, Outfoxed! is a classic, cooperative “whodunit” mystery board game. Winner of multiple games awards, players are detectives searching for suspects and clues for which of the 16 suspects stole the pie. Working together, they must beat the fox before it escapes. This slightly more challenging game includes deductive reasoning, observation, and collaboration for problem solving. This game is fun for the whole family!

Players: 2-4

Game time: 20 minutes (slightly longer play time)

Other Great Gamewright Games:  In OctoPie, players work to gather eight matching arms for their octopus.  Players can swap with each other or even find an arm holding a pie for extra points! Be the first to complete your octopus! And in Hedgehog Roll, players roll a fuzzy, adorable hedgehog across to pick up as many forest treasures as possible. Able to be played cooperatively or competitively, children will love rolling the hedgehog and moving their pieces home.

Bonus Buy: A Must Have Item – The Original Little Hands Card Holder

Whether you are playing Go Fish!, Old Maid, or Uno, nothing is more frustrating to a child than not being able to hold their cards in their hand. The Little Hands Card Holder is a MUST BUY. This inexpensive item prevents meltdowns from little ones and can be used for multiple years. A no-brainer addition to your game closet.


Rachel Schulte
Hi! I'm a former English Literature teacher and Kansas City transplant with 3 boys - 8, 6 and 3. I've fallen in love with the city and its people and enjoy exploring the area's coffee shops, libraries, art museums, and gardens when I'm not wrangling my three little ones. Raising a child with autism has given a passion for connecting with and providing resources for other moms with neurodiverse children. On a regular day, you can find me with my nose in a book, coffee in hand, and probably trying to take on WAY more than I have time for. I'm passionate and love finding other moms who are here to do life together and make the world better.