Top Ten Games for Three Year Olds
Top 10 Games for 3 Year Olds
Recommending games for a specific age range is hard, especially for very young children. “Three years old” encompasses a very wide range in a young child’s life; a 36-month-old toddler is much less skilled than a 47-month-old preschooler, although they’re both three.
But within this year, most kids can*:
- recognize color differences, even if they can’t name them
- sort items by size
- Begin to understand “before” and “after”, sequencing actions together
- Count to four
- Play pretend
- Stack blocks or toys
- Draw a simple line or a circle after being shown how
And their typical attention span for a single project is under ten minutes.
So we’re recommending games that emphasize turn-taking, stacking, memory, and pattern matching. Here are our favorite games that work within this skill set.
Our Top Ten Games for 3 Year Olds
1. Roll & Play
This just-barely-a-game is perfect for toddlers. Roll the big squishy die and find the matching color card. The Thinkfun set (on Amazon) has several card options, so kids can make animal noises, identify body parts, and more.
2. My Very First Games: Rhino Hero Junior
Kids love stacking the tower and knocking it down. How much do they love it? I’ll tell you in 15 seconds:
There’s not a ton of “game” here, either, but it’s a step above the Roll & Play because of the matching and stacking elements. Even older kids may enjoy the challenge of mixing up the “floors” to build a tower that’s less stable.
See our review of My Very First Games: Rhino Hero Junior or find it on Amazon.
3. My Very First Games: Animal Upon Animal Junior
Just like its “big brother” Animal upon Animal, this is a game all about matching and stacking, but with big chunky pieces that will be less frustrating for kids who are still working on their fine motor skills. The instructions include ways to play cooperatively or competitively.
See our full review of My Very First Games: Animal Upon Animal Junior or find the game on Amazon.
To be fair, this is a whole category of games rather than one specific game, and a skill that gets less exercise once children are strong readers – which means that kids can often beat their adults at these games. What a confidence boost!
Our kid tester loved Smoosh and Seek Treehouse, although the squishy dough means that this game probably won’t age well. Our sons loved Chicken Cha Cha Cha (now sadly out of print). Parents and children will both enjoy the cuteness of the Ecologic Memory games. Get a theme that interests your child (such as any of these picks on Amazon) and be ready to play it over and over again.
5. Don’t Break the Ice
Although this game can be very noisy (hello, plastic hammers), it teaches cause and effect. Kids start to learn tactical decision making as they decide where to hit the blocks and how hard. It’s also a game that kids can play together with minimal set-up help from mom or dad. (Find it on Amazon)
6. Spot It
This classic speed-matching game will be challenging at first, but with encouragement and practice, most 3-year-olds can focus on the cards and find pictures that match. (Find it on Amazon)
Our kids played Kingdomino at three years old, but mostly because Dragomino was not around yet. This “my first” version is a better choice to introduce the concepts of matching the terrain dominoes and getting something when you do – cute baby dragons!
There’s a lot more luck in this game, which helps level the playing field when playing with very young children. And since dragon eggs aren’t evenly distributed, seasoned players will begin to learn the probability of drawing a baby dragon egg vs. an empty shell.
See our full review of Dragomino or find the game on Amazon.
8. Dragon’s Breath
More cute dragons show up in this dexterity game. It requires better fine motor control, as players carefully remove a single “ice ring” to release sparkly stones in different colors. Three year olds can be assigned a color randomly, but older children can take turns to pick which color they want before pulling the ring. This game will grow with your children, and the best part is that it cleans itself up as you play!
One caveat: this game is not for children who still put things in their mouths. The sparkly stones are too small and too tempting for toddlers to resist.
See our review of the award-winning Dragon’s Breath or find the game on Amazon.
9. Suspend Jr.
A friend showed us Suspend when our youngest child was 3 ½. He took to it right away, and we bought Suspend Jr. to play at home. This is a stacking dexterity game with an obvious goal (hang your pieces) and teaches natural consequences (if a piece falls down, I have to keep it and try again later).
The plastic pieces are the only thing that changes from the original Suspend; the shapes are still challenging for adults. If your kids like this game, you can keep playing it for many years.
Find Suspend Jr. on Amazon.
10. Turtle Splash
The most recent release in our list, Turtle Splash combines dexterity and memory in a way we hadn’t seen before. Older children and adults will probably be better at flicking the little turtle disc into the “pond” to gain more chances to flip memory tiles; but this game provides myriad ways to adjust the difficulty across ages – even in the middle of the game.
See our Turtle Splash review or find the game on Amazon.
Some of our kids’ favorite games are no longer in print. But if you can find any of these in a thrift store, snap them up for your favorite toddler or preschooler!
Go Away Monster
Now get out there and play games with your kids!
* List of what a typical 3-year-old can do resourced from the CDC and Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
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