Top 10 Games for 4 Year Olds
Top Ten Games for Four Year Olds
What can a typical four year old child do? Between 48 and 59 months, most children learn to:
- distinguish different shapes (and know some shape names)
- identify colors by name
- Narrate what they’re doing and what they did in the past, although their sense of “how long” is not good.
- Count to ten
- Build with blocks (not just stack them)
A four year old’s attention span (focus on a single project) is still only about 10-15 minutes. So games should be short, although they may ask to play the same game over and over again in a single session.
You’ll notice our top choices in games share some overlap with our recommended games for 3 year olds. But we’re less wary of small pieces, since most four year olds will no longer be tempted to put game pieces in their mouths.
1. My First Castle Panic
We were shocked from the first time we tried this game. It really dials in the interest and difficulty perfectly. Play it together as a family, matching colors and shapes to put monsters in the “dungeon” (printed in the box). But if your kid is anything like ours, you may find them playing it independently before too long!
2. Disney It’s A Small World
A twist on the typical memory-matching game. In this one, you can move around the table to find the scenes that match your cards – and physically move the 3D walls to find what’s on the other side!
It’s a Small World is played as two teams and is about the same length as a typical memory game. But the tactile, moving walls, sturdy game pieces, and cute multicultural scenes will appeal to both children and adults.
3. Silly Street
Four year olds will still want to play games with adults or older kids most of the time. In Silly Street, you draw a card then move ahead on the (giant) board, much like Candy Land. But here, each card requires you to do silly things (which an adult will need to read).
There’s a lot of body movement and an emphasis on sharing victory or all making it to the end of the board so players can have a “dance party”. This is a game that will help kids learn how to be a graceful winner or loser.
If your kid is very interested in racing, Monza is a great choice. On your turn, you roll six dice and use them to move your car ahead on colored spaces on the track. While they’re racing, your child will also be learning sequencing (how to string actions together). Monza also allows for up to six players, while still being a nice, short game under 15 minutes.
We recommend Dragomino even for three year olds, because it’s appealing even to young preschoolers. You match together domino-style tiles to get “dragon eggs”. But 4 year olds can begin to understand that some color types will be more likely to yield “full” eggs and others will be more likely to be empty.
6. Dragon’s Breath
More cute dragons appear in this game of dexterity and prediction – along with beautiful sparkly stones. By age 4, most children can choose which color stone they’d like to collect on each new player’s turn, and also choose how they want to remove rings: slowly? quickly? straight up? sliding off to the side?
As parents, we love how this game grows in skill with our kids, and also how the act of playing cleans up the game.
7. Turtle Splash
A game that combines dexterity with memory. Flick the turtle token down the ramp to the “lake”, then choose animal tiles to flip over, hopefully matching the next animals that are waiting in line on your player board!
Turtle Splash is a memory game at its core, but there are all kinds of ways to adjust the difficulty to keep it interesting for all players.
Mmm! is one of Anitra’s favorite multi-generational games. Players cooperate to cover food items with dice and keep the cat from moving forward along a path.
A two-sided board and some variable rules makes this game approachable by four year olds but can grow with them all the way up to adults (Anitra likes to play it solo in the most challenging mode).
9. Gnomes at Night
This cooperative game will be challenging for four year olds. It requires true cooperation through communication and fine motor skills. Two players (or two teams) must work together to navigate through a vertical maze – that isn’t the same on both sides of the board – while hunting for specific treasures.
We find that this game teaches kids control (you can’t move the gnomes too aggressively or they’ll fall apart) and enhances their communication skills. Even if they don’t know “left” and “right”, kids can point in the direction they need help.
10. Robot Turtles
Robot Turtles can be played as a game or as more of a puzzle toy.
A parent or adult sets up a maze for 1-4 kids to navigate, each with their own turtle. Children play cards with instructions like “turn left” or “move forward” or “fire laser” (to melt ice). Adults can create progressively more challenging mazes and also help children to move from basic sequencing to more complex programmatic thinking.
Find Robot Turtles on Amazon.
But Wait! – Unexpected Games
Many four year olds can play some games that are typically more “adult”. Three that had great success in our family are:
Kingdomino – Slightly different from Dragomino and more challenging. Kingdomino will begin to teach multiplication skills, and last your family a long time.
Mountains – Anitra was really surprised how well this worked for a young kid who was willing to be a little patient (it takes about 30-40 minutes). It’s 1 part press-your-luck, 1 part deduction, and 2 parts memory, with a semi-cooperative theme and no reading. A word of warning: there’s a stamp and an inkpad, so don’t play this on a carpet or a tablecloth with young kids!
Drop It – we started playing this game when our youngest kid was four, and discovered that it’s easy for little kids to understand the basics of how the game works (don’t let the piece touch the same color or same shape) while adults help them keep score. There are also “joker” tiles that can be used to let players score a few times even when they mess up.
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