Games are an important aspect for pulling learning outside of the classroom. Kids love to play and kids learn through play. Games begin as early as birth with nursery rhymes and fun educational games such as peek-a-boo. As the child develops the games become more involved to challenge social and educational skills. When picking out a game for your child focus on where they are developmentally instead of their age.
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Developmental stages for play are:
Observant: Typically up to 12 months of age, this stage of development is for children who are fascinated by observing the world around them rather than engage in play themselves. Children in this stage remain within their comfort area as they explore the world around them.
Solitary: Usually around the time a child becomes independently mobile they start to focus on interacting with their environments. In this stage children are learning about their selves in relationship to their environment and are learning cause and effect.
Parallel: Between ages 2 and 3 children start to become interested in sharing with the people in their environments. Even though children in this stage are still playing independently they are beginning to view themselves as part of a social group. While their thinking is still very egocentric, children in this stage are starting to mimic others and learn the social skills necessary for interaction.
Associative: Around 3 children start to include others in their play through imitation and conversation. Children in this stage are not quite playing together yet, but including others. An example of this would be two children playing blocks. They may both be building identical towers and talking about what they are doing, yet each one of them is building their own individual tower and conversation is more of a monologue than a dialogue.
Cooperative: Around 4-5 children start to actively engage with others in play. Imaginative play in this stage builds through everyone involved, children are better at taking turns, and eventually more complex concepts such as games with rules are able to be peacefully accomplished.
While some of these fun educational games can only be used successfully after certain developmental stages, some have the capabilities to be used outside of their intended purposes to provide developmental challenges.
1. Stack Up: $24.99
This is an awesome cooperative board game that works on developing hand-eye coordination, balance, color matching, and cooperation. This game is best suited for children in the associative developmental stage and up. Intended for use with 2-6 players. With 3 game levels, this game is designed to grow with your child and will definitely be loved by your child.
If you are wanting to start introducing games to your child, this is an awesome game to start with. Forget the rules for a second and look at the pieces. They are chunky which will be easy for little hands to manipulate and they are made of wood which means durable! You could easily use this game to teach your child colors, patterns, cause and effect, spacial awareness, and much more before even taking the game board out of the box!
2. Color Stix: $18.18
Players in this game race the timer to categorize their colored sticks into groups of matching colors. This game challenges speed of thought and spatial learning. While best intended for children in the cooperative developmental stage, just like Stack Up! this game can be used to teach children patterns, colors, cause and effect, counting skills, and so much more. This game is also a perfect game for travel!
3. The Sneaky, Sneaky Squirrel Game: $16.58
I am all for games that are not only fun for the kids, but also fun for the parents. Sneaky, Sneaky squirrel is one of those games! This game is made for 2-4 players and best suited for children in the associative developmental stage and up. The pinchy squirrel is awesome for building pre-handwriting skills and strengthening fine motor development. This fun educational game also works on matching, sorting, hand-eye coordination, social skills, and strategic thinking. It’s durable case does double duty as the game board making this another great game for travel. Not recommended for children under the age of 3 due to small parts.
4. Perfection: $9.46
Perfection is a well loved game from my childhood! Race the timer to get all the pieces into their molds before the timer pops! This is a great game for advancing hand-eye coordination, beginning to teach time concepts, along with teaching patience and perseverance. Recommended for ages 3 and up due to small pieces.
5. What’s in Cat’s Hat: $12.59
Need some rainy day excitement? Invite the Cat in the Hat over for a visit! I am a huge Dr. Seuss lover and this game is a great way to incorporate a game with a book! In this multi-sensory game players collect items from around the house and take turns guessing what is in the Cat’s Hat. A perfect challenge for memory, deductive reasoning, creativity, and social interaction, this game is intended for use for 2-4 players and can easily be modified for any developmental stage.
Is your toddler too young to participate in a Q&A game? Use the Cat’s Hat to work on prepositions as you read the book or hide items inside the hat and let your child use descriptive language to tell you what they are experiencing!
6. Elefun: $19.96
Another classic game, Elefun is a great way to get kids up and moving while encouraging interaction, patience, and following rules. This game is great for manual dexterity, counting, gross motor development, and sharing. This game works well with all stages (Recommended ages 3 and up for game piece sizes). For children in the observant stage, turn Elefun on and let your child observe the butterflies as they shoot out of Elefun’s trunk and twirl to the ground. Children in the solitary stage may enjoy figuring out how Elefun uses air to blow the butterflies out of the trunk! I have seen this game grow with children all the way up to older elementary years with a little use of creativity!
7. Pallina Bamboo Game: $39.98
While this game is a version of Kerplunk, it is designed with the young child in mind. Made with sturdy pieces Pallina is easy for little hands to manipulate. This game is perfect for working on fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and teaching concepts such as strategy and cause and effect. It can even be used to work on counting and colors! The balls in this game are fairly small, so not recommended for children who put items in their mouth.
8. Mindware Imaginets: $25.07
Imaginets is another one of those kids products that falls into my favorite category! This game mixes imagination and critical thinking skills. Children can easily use the magnets to create their own masterpiece or follow along with one of the puzzles to recreate what they see. This set comes with 50 full color designs that are sure to provide a visual challenge for your child.
9. Qwirkle: $19.53
Qwirkle is another game the entire family enjoys playing! My husband is actually known to take this game to game night with the boys. Recommended for children in the cooperative stage and up. With a little creativity and patience this game can easily be played with younger children. This is a fun game to play as a partner with your child until they get the hang of it. The pieces are decent size and chunky making them manageable for little hands. This game could easily be used to work on pattern making, colors, shapes, matching, counting, and much more.
10. Stormy Sea’s Game of Balance: $28.19
Due to small parts this game is not recommended for children who put things in their mouth. This game is definitely a challenge, but not such a challenge it is frustrating. Players take turn rolling the dice and stacking the selected item on a rocky boat. This game can be played with others or alone and works on fine motor skills and spatial awareness. This game is an awesome way to work on counting, colors, sorting, matching, and so much more!
11. Feed the Woozle: $19.99
This adorable cooperative game is awesome for working on body awareness, fine motor skills, turn taking, and counting. This game is great for shared decision making, emotional development, and creative problem solving. In this game all the players work together to reach the same goal which is an amazing way to work on teamwork. My daughter finds Woozle hilarious and loves that like her, he doesn’t believe in the 5 second rule!
12. Hello Sunshine: $17.20
Hello Sunshine is a perfect first game for young toddlers! This lovely plush toy comes with a set of 18 double sided cards that challenge toddler’s to work on their prepositions and vocabulary. My son loves playing hide-n-seek with this friendly lovey. The bright colored illustrations make it easy for young children to understand the directions on the card. This game is bound to bring giggles and smiles as your child explores their environment in search of the sun!