My big girl just turned 4 years old, and she got several games for her birthday. I’m psyched. I love games. I spent my childhood playing Parcheesi with my father, Boggle with my mother, and cards with my grandmother and cousins. I spent a summer slamming Dominos on a small wooden table in the countryside of the Dominican Republic, and I’m still trying to beat my father at gin.
Armed with these happy memories, I gladly sat down on our living room floor to play Chutes and Ladders with my daughters. Twenty minutes and many, many chutes later, we weren’t much closer to anyone winning, and I was ready to poke my eyes out.
Fortunately, we got a number of other games as birthday presents, and thanks to Hurricane Sandy, we had ample time to test them out. In the event you’re looking for some Hanukkah gift ideas for preschool-aged kids, here are some great games that everyone can enjoy. (Also, none of them require batteries or make noise–an added bonus, in my book!)
1. Ruckus Junior: This is a card game that involves matching and stealing. As you can imagine, my daughter loves the stealing part, and she doesn’t even mind when I get to snag her cards. We’re still playing with our cards face-up, but she figured out the game quickly and it’s a lot of fun. (My 2-year-old plays on my lap, and she can do it with some help.)
2. Hisss Card Game: The premise of this game is very straightforward–you take turns matching colored cards to build snakes of different shapes and lengths. There’s not much more to it than that, yet it’s surprisingly enjoyable.
3. Zingo: It’s just Bingo, but instead of letters and numbers, each card has pictures of easily recognizable images. The little red plastic tile dispenser is easy to use, and even my 2-year-old figured out the game right away. (If the girls could stop fighting over the tile dispenser, they could play it by themselves!)
4. Count Your Chickens: I’d never heard of “cooperative games” before this one, but I like the way they work. The players have a task to achieve together, and either they do it and they all win, or they don’t and everyone loses. In this case, you’re trying to help all of the chicks get back in the coop before the Mama Hen gets there. The game involves a spinner (always fun), farm animals (how can you go wrong?) and lots of counting. My 4-year-old loved it, but it was a little above my 2-year old’s pace.
5. Where is Hello Kitty?: In this game, one person hides the little Hello Kitty doll, and then everyone else uses the accompanying question cards to gather clues as to where it is. There’s a little plastic hourglass timer to limit the search time. The truth is that you don’t need to buy the game in order to play it; you can hide any toy in the house and play a version of 20 Questions to look for it. My girls are disturbingly enamored with Hello Kitty, however, so they were quite pleased with the game.
6. Angelina Ballerina Matching Game: It’s just a memory game, but my daughter loves it, and it goes quickly so I don’t get bored. If dancing mice aren’t your thing, there are a number of different options available.
Those are the games we’re enjoying around our house. What are you playing with your kids?