Good building games for a 5-year-old.
March 31, 2011 2:47 AM   Subscribe

What are good building games for Windows PC to play with my 5-year-old son?

I'm looking for Windows-compatible games that have a very simple interface, understandable to a younger kid, but that let you build complex things/worlds. He loved playing with the Just Cause 2 level editor, building random weird landscapes, but we didn't have any fun at all with Crazy Machines 2 - the interface was just too complex. Something like Sim City would also be too complex. There doesn't necessarily have to be an end goal, as with lego, but a puzzle game is OK too. Couldn't find any great options in browsing Steam. Games we can play together, and games that don't rely on a lot of text, are great. Thanks for any advice!
posted by bakerybob to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Jawn at 2:48 AM on March 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

World of Goo? I think that's on Steam.

I think the consensus will definitely be Minecraft though. In Peaceful mode it's basically Lego: The Game.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:52 AM on March 31, 2011

SimCity Societies? It's simpler than SimCity. You can download a free trial.
posted by neushoorn at 3:12 AM on March 31, 2011

Definitely Minecraft. If you feel up to it, set up a Minecraft server and you have a common world to play in at the same time as well. Plus you can mod it as you like, or give out building materials if mining is too much of a drag.
posted by Harald74 at 4:31 AM on March 31, 2011

Minecraft, but for a 5 year old, keep it to creative mode. (survival mode is more geared towards an older crowd and could be upsetting by comparison)
posted by samsara at 5:56 AM on March 31, 2011

Best answer: Linerider! I swear, my son learned how to use a computer from this game.

Fantastic Contraption might be a little hard for a five year old, especially the harder levels, but the two of you can play it together.

There are some domino simulators out there that let you build virtual domino set-ups. My son had some fun with that for a while. Google for "Virtual dominos" or "domino simulator."

Lego has a (free) program called Digital Designer that will let you build virtual models.

As others have mentioned, Minecraft in peaceful mode is a great kids game.
posted by bondcliff at 6:03 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can download The Incredible Machine for free.
posted by JJ86 at 6:18 AM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the ideas so far! I bought Minecraft, so that's one off the list.
Any suggestions for "free design" games, that give you a themed set of building blocks and let you go wild with them? For example, like Sim City but if you could access all the buildings from the beginning, and didn't have to worry about traffic problems - just enjoy creating a city. I think he enjoys the feeling of complete control over the game world that the Far Cry 2 editor (not Just Cause 2, sorry) gives him - being able to make the landscape pop up and down with the click of a button.
posted by bakerybob at 6:42 AM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: After playing Minecraft a little, I realize it's a bit too advanced for him - synchronizing mouse and keyboard movements is still beyond him, so even basic movement is just frustrating for now. Of course it's something he'll get the hang of some time in the future, but it's not a game he can play now. The perfect game would be non-realtime, and would probably involve looking down on a landscape from above, to minimize movement. A god game of some kind, I suppose.
posted by bakerybob at 7:02 AM on March 31, 2011

After playing Minecraft a little, I realize it's a bit too advanced for him - synchronizing mouse and keyboard movements is still beyond him, so even basic movement is just frustrating for now.

It's a bit too advanced for my Dad, too. It's not something that comes naturally no matter how old you are. There are 5 year olds that play minecraft, though. Let him play around with it, he might get used to it faster than you think
posted by empath at 7:40 AM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, the key thing about minecraft for kids and parents, is that it's multiplayer.

I don't know how many computers you have in your house, but you can set one up as a server, and the two of you can share a world together building stuff. Even if you're not on at the same time, you can log in separately and help each other build stuff.
posted by empath at 7:45 AM on March 31, 2011

I remember that my first real sim building game was SimCity for the SNES, but when I was a child I had fun experimenting with the level editor/track builder for the old NES games like Battle City, Wrecking Crew, and Excite Bike. I was about 6 years old at the time, and I remember it was pretty exciting as a kid to realize that some games allowed this sort of freedom.

I couldn't find any videos of the editors in action, but they usually involve just putting up props, obstacles, and/or enemies on the map and then being able to play the level. These editors are pretty limited in comparison to what's out there today, but it was fun to build a level and see how the various elements worked (or didn't).
posted by FJT at 7:48 AM on March 31, 2011

Bridge Builder.
Gary Gadget - Building Cars - although it seems to be mostly unavailable.
posted by Sassyfras at 7:52 AM on March 31, 2011

Rollercoaster tycoon 2 and Zoo Tycoon. My little sister played those at about age 6, although she had been watching her older siblings play for a while before that. And it has a sandbox mode.

Don't get 3, it's in 3D and much more challenging from a basic usability standpoint.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:52 AM on March 31, 2011

My sons has loved playing Roblox for the past few years. He just turned 10...this should fit the bill quite well.
posted by TeachTheDead at 9:09 AM on March 31, 2011

MIT has some software for children.

Rather than building games, they are more like robot builders or beginning programming. You set up objects in a world, then give them instructions to do something.

Review of various games.
posted by CathyG at 11:18 AM on March 31, 2011

Spore Creature Creator?
posted by symbioid at 11:30 AM on March 31, 2011

Black and White, on sandbox mode with no enemy gods. I've spent hours and hours just making towns on it and teaching my creature to help people instead of eating them!
posted by daysocks at 3:02 PM on March 31, 2011

Response by poster: Quick update: Minecraft didn't go well at all at first - he was just frustrated by the difficulty in moving around, which vastly multiplied the time required to do anything. But a little searching online revealed that the original version has Creative mode, which lets you build using infinite blocks. Getting it to run full-screen required downloading the World of Minecraft rebuild of the game, but eventually we got things working. Now we just finished building our first two-storey house.
Sim City Societies is also great. Far too complex for him to control himself, but with a lot of help from me, we're doing OK.
I think we'll work through the others one by one - maybe a new game every month for a while.
Thanks for the help, everyone!
posted by bakerybob at 10:21 PM on April 1, 2011

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