Learning through play is a natural, fun way for toddlers to develop important skills. From family board games to physically active activities, games keep little learners moving, thinking and engaged. Get the wiggles out and bring on the giggles with these 10 game ideas tailored for toddlers.
1. First Orchard
Work together to harvest the fruit before the raven gets to the orchard! FirstOrchard from HABA’s My Very First Games line will have toddlers practicing taking turns, following directions, counting and matching colors. With larger fruit pieces than the original Orchard, this board game is designed specifically to engage and entertain the youngest gamers.
Available at habausa.com, $30.
2. Laundry Basket
A laundry basket and a pile of clothes or toys is no chore for a toddler. Show them how fun it is to spill all the items on the ground with a playful “uh oh” as you dump them. Count the items as you put them in. Then dump it all again to repeat the activity. Try different variations, like putting items of a certain color in first.
3. Roll & Play
The award-winning Roll & Play game from ThinkFun provides toddlers with an interactive experience. Roll the plush cube to land on a color. Pick a card from the pile with the corresponding color and follow the instructions. This game will have your toddler roaring like a lion, singing a song, and doing many other activities that encourage creativity and develop motor skills.
Available at amazon.com, $28.
4. Obstacle Course
An obstacle course works for both indoor and outdoor play and builds gross motor skills. For an indoor game, gather up pillows, couch cushions and any other sturdy objects toddlers can climb on, jump over or go under. Set them up in one room or multiple rooms and hallways. A hula hoop or circle made with string works for jumping into and out of, either inside or out in a yard. An obstacle that involves throwing, hitting or kicking a ball can be fun, particularly for an outdoor course.
photo: Mollybee Kids
5. Scavenger Hunt
Make a list with illustrations of common household items for your toddler to seek out. When they find one, they can color in the picture. Bring the game outdoors and, one-by-one, ask your toddler to find a stick, leaf, rock and other items in your yard. Collect them in a pile and let them explore. Or skip the work of creating your own list and use the Toddler Scavenger Hunt Cards from Mollybee Kids. The cards feature brightly colored illustrations of items and activities, like find a book and point to a picture or word.
Available at mollybeekids.com, $13.
6. Odd One Out
Gather a set of items that are all the same except for one. Then have your child find the odd one out. Blocks where the odd one is a different color or shape work well. Crayons of all one color, except for one, are another good option. You can even try putting out nine socks and one shoe. Talk about what makes the odd one out different from the others. Reinforce counting skills by counting the objects as you observe them together.
7. Simon Says
With a group, one person is Simon. The other players follow the instructions when it comes from Simon—“Simon says touch your nose.” They don’t follow the command when the “Simon says” is left out—“clap your hands.” You can eliminate players who don’t follow the rules or keep it casual and not eliminate anyone. A modified version of the classic game can work for two people. Have the grown-up give the commands and the younger player follow them, all while using the same “Simon says” rule.
8. Monkey Around
The whole family can Monkey Around with this interactive board game that includes 40 activity cards, a game board and a bean bag banana. Pick a monkey card, perform the activity, and add the completed card to the tree. With activities for one player or multiple players, you’ll be balancing the banana on your head or turning in circles together.
Available at amazon.com, $19.
9. Bucket Ball Toss
Use tape or chalk to create a line about three feet from a bucket or basket. Have your toddler stand behind the line and try to throw the ball or beanbag into the bucket. Count the number of baskets made. As your budding pitcher gets more skilled, you can move the line back. This simple game is a fun way to encourage counting and gross motor skills.
10. Hot & Cold
Have your toddler pick their favorite toy or stuffed animal for you to hide. As they search around the room, call out “hotter” as they get closer or “colder” if they move farther away from it. If the game feels a little hard at first, leave a piece of the hidden item visible until your little seeker gets the hang of it.