5 Board Games for Kids Under 5

Right around this time of year, I tend to get a lot of questions about good games for kids, so I thought I’d make a few posts that mention games I’d recommend.

One of the hardest groups of people to suggest games for are kids who are ages two to right around five years old. Every child is different and develops along a different time frame, but nowhere is that more obvious than very young children.

The games that I’m going to suggest in those post are more about teaching kids how games work. Mainly, these games will:

  • Teach kids how to take turns.
  • Help develop gaming “skills” – using a spinner, rolling dice, moving the piece, etc.
  • May help develop motor skills, motor planning, and/or crossing the mid-line.
  • May include some other educational component: matching/identifying colors, counting, etc.

In general, for kids of this age, I recommend games that you can’t lose or co-operative games that require little to no reading. It’s much easier to lose when everyone does. At this age, you want to build a love of playing games and kids this age often have a really hard time losing.

5 games that I suggest for this age that follow those guidelines:

1. Feed the Woozle

Feed the Woozle is a cooperative game where the kids are trying to feed a “Woozle”. There are three different levels of play, but the basics are putting the snacks on the spoon, walking across the room, and feeding the Woozle. As the kids get older, it gets a bit more complicated.

This game is particularly fun for younger kids, particularly kids ages two to four. Most “early” five year olds will still find it enjoyable but it does start to eventually get too easy for them. Still, I highly suggest this one for this age range overall.

2. My First Orchard

Kai tried this game at GenCon this year. It was beneath his play level but I immediately thought of a few young kids that I knew would love it.   In this cooperative game, the players roll a die and try to collect all of the fruit before the raven gets to the orchard.

This game is geared especially towards the younger set, up through probably age four or so.

3. Hoot Owl Hoot

This game is the cooperative answer to Candyland, only better. (Candyland is one of my least favorite games ever, but kids love it and it’s good for learning colors.)

The goal of the game is to move the owls along the path to the nest and reach it before the sun rises.

The next two games do not fit the “cooperative” theme but I think they’re excellent starter games for younger kids. Only you know your child. If you don’t think they’re ready to face a loss, I’d stick with some of the others. These are really best for the upper 3/4/5 range.

4. Zingo

Zingo is very much like Bingo. There’s a machine that shows two tiles. Players match them to their card (for this game, it’s best if kids are on a fairly similar level). Over time, kids often pick up on the spelling of a word, but they don’t have to read – they can just match the pictures.

There are a few different versions of this game, including a math one.

5. Feed The Kitty

This remains a game that Kai still enjoys very much. I imagine that’s because he loves cats so much (even though, in the game, you don’t actually really deal with a cat!).

This comes with a bright green bowl, purple wooden mice, and two dice. Players roll to determine what they do – pass a mouse, put one in the bowl, take one out of the bowl, or do nothing.


Now, let me be frank with you: Two to five is a REALLY big age range. Or, rather, a really big ability range… right? So, here’s the deal. Your three year old may be ready for the last two games but your five year old might have trouble with them. Age range is only a suggestion.

You know your child best! Please keep their strengths and weaknesses in mind when choosing a game.

This post includes affiliate links to Amazon, primarily because I wanted to make sure the games were easy to find. I would never recommend a game that I think is not a good game. Whether I had the affiliate links or not, these are still games I would recommend.

We don’t study history.

Soldiers and Sailors Monument

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

In my family, we don’t study history.

We do, however, love learning about specific time periods or the history of specific things. In the last few years, we have intensely learned about ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, the American Civil War, and World War II… and several other time periods:

  • Kai has recently learned a lot about the Oregon Trail. I think that came about because I saw a graphic novel (at the library) about the Oregon Trail and thought Kai would like it, so I checked it out.  He’s read it a few times. We’ve talked quite a bit about it. I even found a website where he could play the old Oregon Trail game.
  • He became interested in ancient Egypt – primarily mummies – because we were at the science center in Seattle one day and Kai saw small sarcophagus and mummy figurine. He asked if we could buy the “Zommie”. We talked about how it was actually a mummy and discussed them quite a bit. We watched the Reading Rainbow episode about mummies. He wanted to know more. We read a ton of books about both the time period and mummies specifically. We watched a ton of things on Netflix about ancient Egypt and about mummies.  We also went to go see the traveling King Tut exhibit – even though he was only four and we knew he’d not remember much. (He still talks about the “kitty sarcophagus”.)
  • The American Civil War became an interest because one of our groups went to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument and the Indiana War Memorial right after we moved to Indiana. While Kai knew a bit about the time period before (and, in fact, it had started to kind of come up as interest to him right before this). We checked out a ton of books about the civil war and watching some things about it. We also ended up in the 1863 Civil War Journey area at Conner Prairie, a local interactive history park – which was pretty neat and very informative.  It’s been much more relevant here in Indianapolis, an area where the effects of war were very personally experienced and the fighting was up close and person. In Seattle, the fighting was far away (and Washington wasn’t even a state yet).
At the Indiana Bicentennial Train

Kai and a friend at the Indiana Bicentennial Train

That looks a bit like “traditional history studies”. But we’ve learned a lot about things that look less like “traditional history”.

  • The history of the internet and computers. My husband, Joe, and I talk to Joe a lot about what the internet used to be like, bulletin boards (the kind you had to dial into) and how you used to get online (I remember back when we had to lift the phone off the receiver and set it on top of the modem to dial out). We’ve talked about old games we used to play on the computer (like the earlier example of the Oregon Trail).
  • We’ve listened to the Beatles, went to see Beatles laser shows, played The Beatles: Rock Band, and talked a lot about them, their lives, the deaths of some of the group members, and some of the controversy surrounding certain aspects of the band.
  • We play a game called Timeline  (I included an affiliate link to Amazon here but that’s more so you know what it looks like than anything else). With Timeline, you have to build a timeline from cards that have various different things (like the discovery of something or the invention of something).
  • One of our homeschooling groups recently went to the Indiana Bicentennial Train. We spent a good amount of time learning about the history of Indiana through some activities including a walk through the history train (where we looked at a few old objects and pictures of things throughout the history of the state), talked about the preservation of old photos and watched a living history actor who talked about what “his life” was like during the centennial, when he worked on the trains.

Besides, who decides what is important to study? Even in public school, it varies. In every area I’ve lived in, the focus was often more localized. Different people I know studied things in-depth in school that my school barely touched on.

What even “counts” as history? In school, I often had history AND social studies. But that never made sense to me. I remember distinctly becoming annoyed that we learned about Greek mythology in one class but ancient Greece in another. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to study them together? But the study of the mythology wasn’t considered history. It was social studies.

One of the great things about unschooling is that we don’t have to separate things out by subject, there are no specific things one must learn, and we don’t have to stick to a schedule.

So when Kai was absorbing everything he could about World War II, we didn’t have to say, “Okay. That’s enough. Onto another subject.” We didn’t have to say, “Studying these planes? They weren’t in the curriculum, sorry.”

We just encouraged him to love learning and helped support his interest.

But we didn’t “study history”.

Don’t let it happen to you: 7 tips to help prevent your child accidentally being left in the car.

It happened again. Another baby was left in a car and later died.

This is so sad. But this guy doesn’t need any judgment. His baby is dead. She’ll never be alive again. He needs compassion. Already, I’ve seen nasty things posted about this. Even the article says he ‘forgot’ to drop his daughter off at daycare – the quotes being theirs.

Help from a toy: Keep a stuffed animal in your child's car seat when they're not in the car. Move it to the front when they're strapped in.

Help from a toy: Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat when they’re not in the car. Move it to the front when they’re strapped in.

But, as I read the article, I saw was looking for something. And I found it, at the end of the article:

“The father told police that he does not typically drop the baby off at daycare.

On Thursday, he told officers, he was not operating in his normal routine.”

Almost always, there’s a change in routine. We do so much on auto-pilot. We don’t want to think so, but it could happen to most people. But there are are a few ways to help remind yourself that there’s a baby in the backseat:

  • If possible, put the baby seat or booster seat behind the passenger’s seat. You have a better chance of seeing the carrier there.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in the car seat when it is empty. When the child is in the back seat, the stuffed animal comes up front.
  • If you have a diaper bag or backpack for your child, put it in the front passenger’s seat, where you’re more likely to see it.
  • Speaking of the back seat, if you have anything that you will need at your destination – even if it’s just your wallet – stick it in the backseat. When you go to get it, you’ll see the child.
  • Make it a habit – even when the child is not with you – to check the back seat. It only takes a quick glance, but the habit will save you. Again, the number one reason children get left in the car is that there was a change in routine. If your routine includes looking back there,
  • If there’s often a change in routine (for example: one day dad drops the child off at daycare, the next day mom does), ask the daycare to call you anytime your child is more than fifteen minutes late to drop-off.
  • If none of those appeal to you, a simple solution is to keep a set of sticky notes and a pen in the car. If the baby’s in the back seat, write yourself a note and stick it on the steering wheel, over the horn.

I’d also encourage everyone to read an article called Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime? I will warn you: it was a difficult article to get through. But it entirely changed how I look at these tragedies.

Most people think it can’t happen to them. Or that it only happens to bad parents. Or forgetful ones. Statistics tell us that’s not true. It happens to people from all walks of life.

When these stories appear in the news, don’t use them as an opportunity to judge. Use them as an opportunity to remind yourself to be vigilant.

photo credit: MRBECK via photopin cc

The Giant Concrete Prairie Dog

Feeding Prairie Dogs

Giant Concrete Prairie Dog… and Kai.

After we left the Badlands, we stopped at a little place called “The Ranch Store” where you can buy nuts and feed them to the prairie dogs.

Prairie dogs, by the way, are really darn cute. Especially when they’re eating nuts. That I’ve fed them.

Just saying.

Kai went around putting a nut in each prairie dog hole, as a “surprise treat” for them.

After that, most of the rest of our trip was pretty… flat? uneventful? full of cornfields and wind turbines? Maybe we were just exhausted, but it was not an exciting drive. The only “exciting” part was that, somewhere along the way, Kai started breaking out in hives from the hotel bedding (we use special detergent at home) so we had to have him sleep on top of one of our blankets from home.

Feeding Prairie Dogs

Feeding Prairie Dogs

Feeding Prairie Dogs

Feeding Prairie Dogs

Feeding Prairie Dogs

Feeding Prairie Dogs

Feeding Prairie Dogs

We WERE excited to get to Indianapolis, though. And now, we’re exploring the area, joining homeschool groups, slowly making friends. It’s different, for sure, but living here is going to be another big adventure.

The Badlands

Doesn’t that name just sound cool? “The Badlands.” It sounds like something straight out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie.

We spent two or three hours driving through Badlands National Park after we left Wall. The canyons and landscapes we saw were absolutely beautiful. Kai and I went into the center there and got to see some archaeologist working. But the beauty of the place… I don’t even have words for it, so I’m just going to leave a whole bunch of pictures (Clicking on any of the pictures will take you to bigger versions. Worth it for the panoramics.)

I hope you enjoy them.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

The One With The Giant Heads

Originally, when my family started talking about moving to Indianapolis, we asked Kai if there was anything he’d like to visit. His request? Mt. Rushmore.

We started planning how we could get that in. Then, Kai found out that they don’t have really big glasses. And decided he didn’t want to go. If you’re confused, don’t feel bad. I was at first, too.

Blame Phineas and Ferb.


We decided to go anyway. Then, we had the incident with the cat and the gas station. And we’d decided we couldn’t go. Then, when we were on our way to Wall, we discussed how it really wasn’t that far away.

So, during late lunch/early dinner, we decided we’d drive out there to see Mt. Rushmore. Mt Rushmore

I still think it’s pretty incredible that someone saw a mountain and decided, “You know, I’d like to stick a few faces on it.”

We went, we took a few pictures, watched a short film about it, and headed back. I enjoyed going. You can see it pictures and everything but you don’t realize how huge it is until you’re there and realizing, “THAT’S HUGE.”

We got back to the hotel late-ish that evening. The next morning, we set out for the Badlands.

Mt. Rushmore

Sacrificial Celebration Cake to honor one month in Indianapolis.

Making cake

Mixing the ingredients.

A month ago today, our family arrived in Indianapolis. We wanted celebrate somehow and when Sandra Dodd brought up her page on cake as sacrifice, a page I’d read before but particularly spoke to me this time, we decided to make a cake today. We’ve been calling it the “Sacrificial Celebration Cake”.

This cake was a bit of a sacrifice. Kai put in a lot of hard work making this cake (I helped, but only minimally). And then, there’s the cost of the ingredients (because, with our food allergies, cake is not cheap – and money is tight right now). But also, there’s the concept doing something specifically to honor something that’s pretty big for us.

Making cake

Decorating the cake.

Note: this is not in any way a “religious offering”, but I do think that it does people to good to honor and celebrate things – big events, rites of passage, even just the passing of time. So we’re celebrating. Because we can and because it makes us happy.

Sacrificial celebration cake

Happiness is making a Sacrificial Celebration Cake… at least it is today, anyway.

And even though we’ve had some struggles getting here, we’re happy to be here.

The One With The Jackalope and The Giant Dinosaur Head

After we finally got some sleep in Missoula, we rearranged our trip. We realized that the cats could probably take no longer than six or seven hours in the car, so our trip lengthened a few days. Jackalope at Wall Drug Store

Missoula was beautiful. I loved our view from the hotel. It was really the first place I thought, “Wow. There’s so much sky!” There was also a really awesome dinner place called “Fat Cat” that able to accommodate our food allergies and sensitivities. I had a french drip for the first time in YEARS. We ate there for dinner after we woke up.

The next day, we set out for Billings. So, the thing about Billings is that there’s really nothing for me to say about Billings other than I wasn’t a fan. It was very industrial and our hotel staff was rude. The hotel was kind of cruddy itself, too. It was a place to rest our heads after driving across Montana. (Montana’s a really big state!)

After Billings, we headed out for Wall, South Dakota. On our way, I kept seeing these billboards advertising “Wall Drug Store”. Two things were weird to me about the billboards. One thing was that, in Seattle, most billboards have a “frame” around them and are high up. Probably because traffic is so bad, they want you to actually see it! The second thing was that they were all really kitschy. Things like “FREE ICE WATER” or “COFFEE 5 CENTS” and signs with dinosaurs or cowboys. Dinosaur at Wall Drug Store

We DID end up going to Wall Drug and it was so completely… an experience all unto itself. They have a huge animatronic head, lots of shopping areas, a restaurant area or two, and… a jackalope. That was kind of fun!

The other thing that Wall itself had was… Wait. I should back up: While I was booking hotels, I noticed that the ones in South Dakota were oddly expensive and oddly full. Then, once we hit South Dakota, I notice that, gosh, there sure were a lot of bikers out and about. Maybe they had nothing better to do? Maybe they were camping or something?

Well, at some point, Joe mentioned. “Oh. Sturgis is nearby.” Thanks to the power of internet on our phones (truly, that is an awesome invention), we discovered that we were going through South Dakota right during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. They have right around 400k people attending annually. We saw lots of them on the road. All the bikers I met were really nice (I’ve had some biker friends and they’re almost always super-friendly).

As we were eating a late lunch at Wall Drug, we made a decision to go see something we’d previously decided not to see (although we’d originally planned to see it before we’d rescheduled our trip)… Mt. Rushmore.

Covered Wagon at Wall Drug Store Riding Toy at Wall Drug Store

The One With The Cat Crap And The Really Scary Gas Station

We had planned on taking three days to drive across the country. Joe and I would switch off driving every three hours. He’d take the first morning shift every day because he’s the morning person. I’d end up with the late shift that way, which works well because I’m the night person. We decided that we’d try to have the kitties take bathroom breaks on the road, whether it was in a bathroom or just at a rest stop and bought a suitable plastic container for the litter. We researched. We booked hotels ahead of time. I knew, roughly, where we’d be taking our breaks every day.

It was perfect.

It was doomed to fail.

In retrospect, I don’t know what we were thinking. We wanted the cats to be upset as little as possible, but our plan put the cats in the car for sometimes as much as twelve hours a day. And Parker… well, we knew he “didn’t travel well.” But that’s actually part of WHY we tried to push so hard, so he’d have to deal with it as little as possible.

The problems started, actually, on the day before we left. We rented a truck to move our things into a impossibly tiny small moving crate that would be shipped across the country. Both rentals were from a company that rhymes with “You-Stall” and I’m calling it that because when you use them, you stall your progress on your move. Or, at least, that’s what happened with us.

Unloading the truck

Kai, unloading the moving truck.

We lived roughly ten minutes from a You-Stall location. So, that’s where we ordered the truck and the box and that would have been fine. Only… it wasn’t. It REALLY wasn’t. They called to let us know that, hey, the box we ordered? It wasn’t there. They had one across town, though, so we could use that.

That’s a problem. A really big problem. Because getting across town in Seattle is often difficult. Traffic is never what I’d call “good” and often what I’d call “not moving much” or “hellish”. Guess how traffic was that day? HELLISH.

So, after we loaded the truck, which, of course, took longer than we’d thought, we spent an hour sitting in an area locals often “The Mercer Mess”… and THEN we hit freeway traffic. And then, when we got to the facility, they informed us that, oh, hey, we were told your order cancelled so we don’t have a crate out. It’ll be a bit.

Dinner at Denny's

Kai and my mom, at Denny’s.

Then, the loading… took longer than we hoped. And it was hot. And not everything fit, so we had to make some heartbreaking decisions about what to leave behind. Additionally, by the time we were to that point, the facility was about to CLOSE so we couldn’t unload and reload it in a better way, based on what we were leaving behind.

After that ordeal – and quite an ordeal it was – we tried to return the truck there. No can do. Apparently, it was a “local truck” which means it had to be returned to the facility. Once again, traffic was bad. Our phones, which we were relying on, were dying. My mother, who had come to help us, had some blood sugar issues and her phone was dying and she doesn’t actually spend a lot of time in the city, so I was worried about her when she went to get something to help her blood sugar.

By the time we dropped off the truck, it was late-ish. We needed food. But with food sensitivities and allergies, the places we could go were somewhat limited, unless we wanted to spend a lot of money. So we drove across town to one place we thought would work. We paid for parking and… they were closing early due to something that happened down the street (or something).  So we drove, again, across town, to a Denny’s, because we know that although the grease can cause us issues, we typically don’t have some of the other issues that we have from a lot of restaurants.

Then, we drove home, said goodbye to my mother, and went to bed.

So, that was “the day before”.

Mt. Rainier July 2014

Mt. Rainier.

In the morning, we woke up late. Because we were out late the day before. And we still had cleaning and such to do because the stuff the day before took ALL DAY. So we didn’t get on the road until late afternoon. This would have been fine… except that we had a long way to go. The first day, we had planned to drive from Seattle, WA to Missoula, MT. And late afternoon means rush hour in the Mercer Mess.

Sunset on Mt Rainier July 31, 2014

Sunset on Mt. Rainier.

Remember when I said I knew Parker didn’t travel well? He cries most of the way. He will, even under sedation, bash against the carrier trying to get out. He has BROKEN CAT CARRIERS. Impressive feat for a cat who, until recently, was very tiny. Before we even moved them to the car, Parker was crying. Sometimes, his crying encouraged the other two to join in. We were serenaded by a cacophony of cat cries.

Bathroom on Mt Rainier

The tiny bathroom.

On Mt. Rainier, we stopped and brought the cats into a bathroom, hoping they’d go. Of course, the didn’t. I think we tried again later, but I can’t remember for sure. We knew they weren’t going to go in the litter box while on the road. We ended up trying to drive as much as possible without stopping for breaks until absolutely necessary. It was helpful that Kai drifted off to sleep and the kitties slept some, too.

At roughly 1:30 a.m., we were on the road in Idaho, when suddenly, a cat starts mewling, horrendously. It’s Parker. Soon, he’s joined by two other kitties. Just a Kai start going, “UGH,” the stench hit the front seat. Parker had had an accident. We’d planned for wet accidents. We hadn’t counted on cat crap.

We pulled over at the first available exit and pulled into a gas station. Without a doubt, this was the CREEPIEST gas station I have ever been at. It was dark. The gas station was closed and there was only one main light on. It was in the middle of some woods in the middle of nowhere. There were no lights ANYWHERE nearby. The whole time we were there, I was certain something awful was going to happen to us.

It was creepy. It was so creepy. Did I mention that it was THE CREEPIEST GAS STATION EVER? It was like the beginning of a horror movie, when something breaks down and the main characters end up somewhere they didn’t mean to be. Like a dark gas station. In the middle of nowhere. With a cat that runs off…

Parker in the crate

Parker in his crate.

We take the cats out of the car and start trying to get them to use the litterbox while Joe is cleaning out the box. There were a million paper towels used. Luckily, we had a spray to work on cleaning the box with.

Then, Hanners, who has always been pretty skittish, managed to slip out of her harness and run under the car. Lots of worrying and trying to coax her out ensued. Finally, she came out for her favorite human, Joe. (Thank goodness… she could have ran off into the woods and been gone for ever. She’s the only one of our cats with no claws and she definitely wouldn’t be okay on her own.)

Eventually, we were able to get back on the road. After a time change and a bunch of construction and what has to be the WORST freeway ever (I-90, I’m looking at you) and some extra stops so really sleepy drivers can trade off, we finally arrive in Missoula…

…at about six in the morning.

View from our hotel in Missoula

The view at the hotel, later in the day. Missoula was gorgeous.

So, Joe checked us in and booked an extra night. The “next day” (really, it was later the same day), we would re-arrange our trip and rebook all our hotels.

Until then… sleep.

We’ve moved to Indianapolis!

At the end of July, we packed up our home in Seattle and drove across the country to Indianapolis.

Trip from Seattle to Indy by car. July/Aug 2014.

A map of our trip across the country in July/August 2014.

The original plan was to do it in three days. The original plan… got changed. It ended up taking longer than we anticipated, but in some ways, that made our trip better.

I’ll go into more detail about why it ended up taking us long and what we did during the trip on other posts, but I wanted to let everyone know that we’re here in Indiana, we have an apartment, and we’re starting to settle in. Even the kitties have calmed down and settled in (the poor things hated the car).

I’m looking forward to seeing what Indianapolis has in store for us.