Do you love board games, and can't wait to play with your kid?

You may be happy to learn you can start playing board games before you might think! No need to wait for 3 or 4 or 5 - there are games you can start playing with a 2 year old! (Mine is still under the 2.5 mark.) If you are a board gamer, you may know today's board games are way better than the games we (most of us) knew as kids. (I have heard of people my age who grew up in Settlers of Catan families; I very much did not, and was in the Life/Sorry/Monopoly set.)

Anyways: there are lots of board games for little kids you might not have had as a kid. I remember memory games (match the pictures by flipping over cards) and then later, Hi Ho Cherry-O and Candy Land being my first board games. I don't think my kid could do either of those yet, but she can definitely do the other games I'm about to discuss!

Note: none of these are affiliate links and this post is not sponsored by anyone. I don't care if you buy this stuff except if you do I hope you & the young people you know enjoy the games!

# On with the games

My 2 yo is very into "monkey game" right now, aka the toddler board game Monkey Around. It has cards that tell you to do certain actions, written in words but also represented by a monkey picture on the card. Things like stomp your feet, spin in a circle, give a big hug, balance a banana that came with the box on your shoulder. There's a board where you can place the cards you've done, that we mostly ignore. Sometimes we do the actions; sometimes she goes through her cards or scatters them on the ground and then picks them all back up again. Either way it's a great time, and she asks to play almost every day lately.

We also have "fishy game" (aka Here, Fishy, Fishy), a fishing themed game for toddlers from Haba. Haba seems to be one of the biggest & most reliable players in making actually good board games for little kids; Peaceable Kingdom (maker of monkey game) is another big name.

Fishy game involves thick wooden fishes with a magnet embedded, and a little magnet fishing rod you can use to fish for them. There's a dice with a color on each side that matches one of the fish, so it's great for practicing colors.

We also have Roll & Play from ThinkFun, but it's not what I would get as a first pick for a two year old. It's a similar concept to Monkey Around, swapping a giant dice with different-colored sides for Monkey Around's board for placing cards. You can pick a card that matches the dice roll color and then do the action. Roll & Play's cards are more like oversized playing cards, whereas Monkey Around has more toddler friendly thick pieces. (with monkeys) The stuffed banana that you can involve in an action is way more fun for my kid at this stage (first half of 2 years old) than the giant dice.

Sidenote: I'm not sure "giant" is actually that useful of an attribute for a dice with one color per side! The Roll & Play dice is maybe 6-8 inches tall, and each side is a different color. It's more confusing to say "what color is the dice showing on top" for the Roll & Play giant dice, where you can see all the sides' colors pretty well from any angle, than it is for the chunky & oversized, but only an inch or two tall dice that came with the fish game and serves the same purpose.

# Games we haven't tried but have heard are great:

  • Lots of people love Acorn Soup which seems to be among the most popular games for the 2 year old set.
  • An internet friend says her just-turning-3 kid loves Bus Stop.

# Other neat things

Haba also makes this Kullerbu track system which is like a train set but the tracks are shaped to faciliate dominos or balls to roll down them instead of trains that you push along a mostly flat surface. I have not tried them but they seem SO COOL!

I really like the website Busy Toddler. There are lots of ideas for activities you can do with your toddler with minimal setup & special supplies. The gift guides on the site are also great, and have a philosophy I really jive with: toys are the tools kids use to do the work of childhood, which is to play. Open-ended toys that can be played with in a bunch of different ways are better than something that is guiding kids towards one way to play, and stealing their attention with lights and sounds as they go. Toys aren't limited by gender. The best toys are still going to be useful to your kid for years to come.

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