Face it. 4-year-olds aren’t ready to play a hand of hearts or Michigan rummy. Still, there are a lot of games out there, designed for the preschool set, that can provide many benefits. When you play a game with your little one, you are helping them to develop their language skills, improve visual reasoning, learn turn-taking, and even improve their imagination! We use a number of games when we do speech therapy and occupational therapy activities at home and on the boat.
First, let me share some of my favorite games to play with the Bean.
Hungry Hippos is a classic! The game play is simple. Children learn to follow steps in sequence: line up the marbles, release them one by own, make the hippos “eat” them, then line them back up. We also practice making our hippos go “faster” and “slower.”
Memory is another great game. At first, the Bean just liked looking at the cards and naming what was in the picture. Now, she likes to flip the cards over, see where everything is, then flip them back upside-down and match them.
Lucky Ducks is a game that involves memory and shape matching. When we’re done, the Bean likes to act out scenes with the ducks.
Cariboo Island is another memory game, that involves unlocking doors with a key, to find balls that are hidden throughout the board. This uses a great deal of fine motor skills, and it is a favorite during OT sessions!
Barnyard Bingo is the Bean’s absolute favorite game to play during speech therapy. It’s a matching game that also can help build vocabulary. The Bean has gotten much better at following multiple-step directions, thanks to games like this.
Here are some suggestions to help game time with your preschooler go smoothly:
1. Start out with just the two of you playing. Other kids will lead to disputes over rules, so it is best for your child to get used to playing first.
2. Don’t worry if they don’t follow the rules exactly. Let your child explore the game first!
3. Try playing one-player, with you helping your preschooler.
4. The goal isn’t to win, especially at this age. The Bean gets excited when she completes the task!