Engaging card and board games I can play with a 3 year old?
September 18, 2014 9:35 AM   Subscribe

I need some recommendations for engaging, inexpensive card and board games I can play with my 3 year old son. Bonus points for any involving trains, building / architecture, plants / gardening, or monsters (not too scary).
posted by ryanshepard to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Hi Ho Cherry-O
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 9:36 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Roads, Rivers and Rails.
posted by michaelh at 9:39 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Busytown is great. You have to get to the picnic island before the piggies eat all the food in the basket. It has a little competition with each other, but then you all end up on a ferry and have to cross together, so you win or lose vs. the piggies as a group.

SMALL PIECES though, I didn't have too much trouble with that but I put it on a high shelf when not in use.


The Eric Carle series is worth looking into as well.

And Uncle Wiggly.
posted by drowsy at 9:41 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Does it need to be a game where he's actually playing? Because my 3 year old adores Ticket to Ride, even though we "play" it with him by looking at the routes and filling in as necessary. Maps and train cars keep him happy for a long time.

We haven't played Fuzzy Heroes yet but a friend of ours has with his 4 and 5 year old and they had a blast. It's on our list.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:52 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

We play Haba's Orchard quite a bit at our house.
posted by steinwald at 9:54 AM on September 18, 2014

Response by poster: Does it need to be a game where he's actually playing?

Yes - he's in a "let me do it myself" phase right now, and will enjoy it a lot more if he can actually play.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:54 AM on September 18, 2014

Fluxx with some of the more complicated cards removed.
posted by miyabo at 9:54 AM on September 18, 2014

Would puzzles work? My 3yo is loving a couple of Melissa and Doug 48 piece puzzles right now.
posted by vignettist at 10:03 AM on September 18, 2014

Max. You might need to talk him through each turn, but three is old enough to give it a try.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:06 AM on September 18, 2014

Count Your Chickens
posted by okay-quiet-time at 10:07 AM on September 18, 2014

Hoot, Owl, Hoot. It's Candyland with strategy. It's a cooperative game, so you all win or lose together, and you can ramp up the number of pieces you use to increase the complexity a bit. This company has several games in a similar vein.

Also Go Fish, though my son has a hard time holding that many cards in his hand.
posted by telepanda at 10:09 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

We played Galloping Pigs when my youngest was 3. It's fun and fast paced, and she had fun even if she was strategizing imperfectly, so to speak.
posted by Lardmitten at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2014

Snap! You can get cards for very young players.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2014

Uno is good game for kids to learn colors, numbers and "rules". There are novelty versions of Uno like Thomas and Friends, Disney Princess, Pixar, etc. They love skipping the adult and making the adult draw four cards.
posted by soelo at 10:19 AM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Zingo and Gobblet Gobblers were big at my daughter's preschool.
posted by mogget at 10:22 AM on September 18, 2014

When my daughter was three, she had the usual fear of monsters at bedtime. We started playing Go Away Monster! It's short enough that you can play a game or two before bed and let the kid sleep, secure in the knowledge that the monsters can be told to "GO AWAY!" And then she started asking for it even before bedtime and making up new rules and coming up with stories about the kids and the monsters and the furniture and suchlike. Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print, but if you find one, snap it up.
posted by Etrigan at 10:27 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sneaky snacky squirrels is my favorite preschool/ toddler game!
posted by missriss89 at 10:29 AM on September 18, 2014

Spot It is great. You flip over two cards, then race to see which number or shape is on both of them. Very fun and replayable.
posted by jbickers at 10:38 AM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Slamwich may work.

A bit more expensive but fun: Railroad Rush Hour (small pieces, so hold off a bit if he still puts stuff in his mouth).

At a similar age, but a lower tech time, at that age we played go fish with cards like these, dominoes with the bigger dominoes or pattern dominoes, pick up sticks, and made card houses with these.
posted by gudrun at 10:38 AM on September 18, 2014

It's more on the DIY scale than an organized card or board game, but what about Monster Dice Fight? (created by a Mefite, though I don't remember her username!) And perhaps Pictureka? It's available in both board game and card format.
posted by Janta at 10:55 AM on September 18, 2014

Ravensburger's Enchanted Forest is good for younger ones, though he might not quite be ready for it yet... and it's an excellent lead-in to their Labyrinth games as he gets older. (Don't automatically assume they'll be too hard in a couple years, it really depends on the kid... one of the best Labyrinth players I knew was a 5-yr-old, though it states it's for ages 8 and up.)
posted by stormyteal at 10:58 AM on September 18, 2014

My 3 year old son really likes flash cards, and any kind of puzzle or building situation. He also really digs hungry hungry hippos and lets go fishin'. He just turned 3, so I've favorited this post as well for new ideas :)
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 11:26 AM on September 18, 2014

Oh my goodness - HedBanz!!!!

I play it with my 3, 6, and 7 year old nephews and niece. It's hilarious. It's set up so each player wears a card on their head and has to ask the others questions in order to guess what it is. I mostly put the card on my headband and ask the kids to describe the picture to help me guess. So much fun!
posted by elvissa at 12:24 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Fluxx with some of the more complicated cards removed.

Family Fluxx is more for kids, but unfortuantely out of print now. I think their Aquarius would also be appropriate (it's kinda like dominoes) and there's a new, more monster-y variation of Aquarius called Seven Dragons.
posted by Rash at 1:22 PM on September 18, 2014

You might like Hiss. I think our daughter was three when we got it for her, and she loved it.
posted by Shohn at 1:33 PM on September 18, 2014

Orchard Toys games are all great - Pigs in Pants is the current favourite. Melissa and Doug games are also very well-received.
posted by goo at 2:11 PM on September 18, 2014

posted by acm at 2:19 PM on September 18, 2014

Came in here to say Roads, Rivers & Rails, but I see it's already been covered. I'm told I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing with it solitaire as a preschooler who loved trains and building stuff. It's like Carcassonne but, you know, for kids.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 3:12 PM on September 18, 2014

Memory. If you're feeling creative, I've heard of people making their own sets.
posted by kjs4 at 4:59 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jenga is fun. You start to play it the conventional way, then it turns into building things with the blocks. :) Either way it can be fun.
posted by hot_monster at 6:47 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

2nd My first orchard - this is the little kid version

animal upon animal

you can get dominoes with pictures instead of numbers

Memory and go fish can be played with the same cards (I made some from trader cards we got from the supermarket)

3 is a lovely age to start with simple puzzles

Sometimes you can find a local organization or the library that will have a lending program for these kind of toys.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 9:43 PM on September 18, 2014

Second vote for SpotIt! It is so easy to play, and it is entertaining for any and all ages playing.

"Left Right Center" is also incredibly easy, and can be made more fun by substituting pennies or dimes for the chips so it adds a 'gambling' element to the fun.
posted by exparrot at 6:09 AM on September 19, 2014

Wig Out! is the game I came to recommend, but Gamewright is a great company, and I would recommend any of their games. Kids do like Hedbanz, though I strongly recommend a themed version with very little players so you have some idea what you might be guessing. :)
posted by epj at 3:06 PM on September 19, 2014

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