Family Game Night: Best Board Games for 3 Year Olds

Two little girls laughing and playing board game with their mother on the floor

Although it can be tricky to plan for your ever-excitable and distractible three-year-old, setting up a game night with the intention of including your preschooler can have lots of benefits. If you pick wisely, the games you play can provide entertaining and engaging ways for your toddlers to build their socio-emotional skills, while also strengthening their communication, language and counting abilities. Playing with the family during game night can also teach your three-year-old positive behavioral skills like taking turns and sharing with others.  

To help you include your little one in your family game night with the most ease and enjoyment for everyone involved, we’ve put together a list of board games three-year-olds will enjoy, engage with, and learn from. Board games also have the potential to positively affect your child’s development, from increasing their attention span to encouraging resilience.

How Board Games can help with Brain Development

Little girl in a purple striped t-shirt playing with jigsaw puzzles on a table in front of a blue painted wall

Increase Attention Span

When playing a board game, your three-year-old has to understand whose turn it is, count the number of spaces they have to move and the number they rolled on the dice, and generally pay attention throughout the game. Doing so encourages your child to wait their turn and strengthens their ability to concentrate on one activity for an extended period of time, improving their focus and ability to ignore distractions.

Result-Oriented Thinking

Board games encourage a small and healthy dose of competition, or at least the completion of a larger goal. Powering through bad turns or tricky challenges in pursuit of the end result encourages perseverance in your three-year-old child, a skill that will come in handy as they start going out into the world. Resilience also lengthens one’s attention span, strengthening it from another angle!

Specific Life Skills

Depending on the game, toddlers can practice their counting, reading comprehension, or critical thinking skills. Playing with others also teaches your preschooler the value of fairness, how to share, and reacting to a loss with grace, all skills that will positively impact their development and make for a brighter, happier child.  

What to Look for in a Board Game for Your Three Year Old

Little girl in a white t-shirt playing a board game on the floor

Timeframes

As you know, your three-year-old’s attention span can be pretty limited. To keep them engaged, pick games that can be completed in about 15 minutes, so they don’t drag on too long and let your little one get distracted. Short games also strengthen your little one’s resilience because they give them lots of chances to try again and again.

Skills

When picking a game, keep an eye out for the areas of your child’s development that it will strengthen. While some require a lot of hand-eye coordination, others encourage counting or letter comprehension. Knowing your child, what they know, and what they still are working on will help you pick out the best games for the skills they already have and the ones you’ll help them cultivate.

Number of Players

Games, whether they’re played with family or friends, are a great way to make connections and share experiences. After you’ve tried some out at family game nights, invite classmates, friends, or younger neighbors over to play with your little one. Playing with friends not only helps your three year old meet new people, but gives them a chance to stretch their social muscles, from working out conflicts to forging bonds with others.

Attainable Challenges

The games you pick should provide a challenge for your little one, but not one that makes it impossible for them to understand or enjoy the game. Look for rules that are easy to follow, and model a round or two for your child before they start playing. Additionally, tailor your search to your child’s specific age or age group that encourage  skills like language learning or matching.

A Note for Parents

Mom and little boy lying on a bed. the mother is kissing the child

Keep the following in mind when picking games for your three-year-old:

  1. At three years old, a child’s attention span is approximately 6-9 minutes, so expect game night to last only about a half an hour or so. It’s okay if your child doesn’t always finish a game. 
  2. Your toddler will play better and be more interested in the games you choose when they are in the right mood, so set up family game night for a time when they’re well-rested and have a full belly. If the game is going on for too long, insert movement breaks to help get the wiggles out. 
  3. Pick a game that matches your child’s age and interests. A game that’s too challenging can often end in big emotions from your little one. 

Best Games for 3-Year-Olds

Little girl playing Memory Match by Skillmatics on a table. Packaging of the game kept beside her

With all of this in mind, here are our picks for the best games for three-year-olds!

Boom Boom Bingo

Two kids, girl and boy playing Boom Boom Bingo by Skillmatics

In this game, players have to look through their Bingo bag for tiles matching their board, and when they find a match, they have to shout “Boom Boom Bingo!'' The key skills required here are speed and matching as many tiles as possible before time runs out.

Other than being fun, Boom Boom Bingo runs on matching work, which has been proven to further brain development in children. It gives them the opportunity to concentrate, work on their reasoning skills, solve problems, develop memory and much more.

Memory Match

A child

In this game, players match tiles to picture boards, or they can roll the special picture dice and match animals to their habitats. Once again, Memory Match encourages the use of match skills which helps your child build observational, memory, critical thinking and spatial reasoning abilities.

Guess in 10 Junior

A child

In this game, players ask questions to guess the animal on the game card. Beyond developing communication skills, Guess in 10 also strengthens problem solving, decision making, and creative thinking abilities in your child by pushing them to use the information they have to come up with questions that help them get closer to the answer. Guess in 10  also comes with different versions such as Community Helpers, Food We Eat, and Inside My House, letting your little one expand their knowledge of various subjects.

Your next family game night is sure to be a hit with your three-year-old when you take these achievable steps to find games that will develop their mind while keeping them engaged and having fun. Not only will this strengthen their skills, but will allow you to form stronger bonds with them as you walk them through wins, losses, and new experiences together. Once you find the right game, expect your child to ask for it on repeat, much like they do with their favorite book or toy. This is a wonderful development, as repetition has significant positive results on your child’s development.

No matter what you end up playing, as long as they’re learning a little something while having fun, any game will be a win for your three-year-old!