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The Best Board Games For 3-Year-Olds of 2020


Most kids can start learning the skills of taking turns and following rules of playing a board game as a 3-year-old. You can also sneak in some academic skills, like counting or matching, while you play together.

I’ve compiled my favorite games to play with my own preschooler plus other parent-recommended options to help you find the best board game for your 3-year-old.

Best Board Game for 3-Year-OldWhy It's BestMom Rating
Hasbro Gaming Candy Land Kingdom Of Sweet Adventures Classic game, color matching, fun setting♥♥♥♥♥
Hasbro Gaming Chutes and Ladders Counting and number practice, realistic scenarios♥♥♥♥
Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Fine motor skills, matching♥♥♥♥♥
Wonder Forge Richard Scarry's Busytown Eye Found ItCooperative game, fun illustrations♥♥♥♥♥
Hasbro Gaming Don't Break the Ice GamePractice strategy, takes time to set up♥♥♥♥
Wonder Forge Disney Classic Characters Matching GameQuick to start playing, practice memory and matching♥♥♥♥♥

The Best Board Games for 3-Year-Olds and Preschoolers

Hasbro Gaming Candy Land Kingdom Of Sweet Adventures Board Game

Image of the Hasbro Gaming Candy Land Kingdom Of Sweet Adventures Board Game For Kids Ages 3 & Up (Amazon Exclusive)

The Hasbro Gaming Candy Land Kingdom Of Sweet Adventures Board Game For Kids Ages 3 & Up (Amazon Exclusive) is such a classic game for young kids, you probably have fond memories of it from your childhood. Up to four players move their pieces through a magical land of sweets to try to reach the castle first.

It is a great first board game because there is no reading (or even counting) required. Cards show a color or character, and players move their piece to the next space of that color. Character spaces are throughout the path, so they may give you a big boost or send you back toward the start.

Some newer versions of Candy Land have a spinner instead of cards, but I prefer the cards, even with the extra work to clean them up.

With the cards, there is only one chance to get sent to each character space each time through the deck (so maybe once or twice a game). With the spinner, there is a chance to get each character every turn. That results in more kids getting upset about moving backward (at least at my house!).

Some parents think the newer board design here is not as good as previous versions, with a harder-to-see path and stereotypical characters. Others think those complaints are overblown.

If you are looking for a more classic version of Candy Land, check out Candy Land Retro 1967 edition.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Matching colors 
Players: 2-4

Chutes and Ladders Board Game

Image of the Chutes and Ladders Board Game for 2 to 4 Players Kids Ages 3 and Up (Amazon Exclusive)

Another classic option is Chutes and Ladders Board Game (Amazon Exclusive). It is for two to four players as they try to get up all the ladders to the top of the board while avoiding the slides down.

This game uses a spinner to tell players how many spaces to move. It requires no reading, but it gives preschoolers practice counting.

The ladder spaces also show kids doing good deeds, so you can talk to your child about the benefits of helping others. The chute spaces show consequences of poor decisions, too.

This game might be a little tough for a child who just turned 3, unless he or she is a great counter already. But the spinner numbers only go up to six, so if your older 3-year-old can count to six, this a good option to try.

Some parents preferred an older version of the game board and found the spinner and player’s pieces flimsy.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Counting up to 6, consequences of actions
Players: 2-4

Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Board Game

Image of the Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Toddler & Preschool Board Game

A newer addition to preschool games is the Educational Insights The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Toddler & Preschool Board Game. Two to four players compete to see who can fill their stump with acorns first.

There is no reading required. Players spin a spinner to see which color acorn to pick up with their squirrel tongs. They may also spin to pick an acorn, steal an acorn, or lose an acorn.

Gameplay reinforces colors, matching, and hand-eye coordination in a fun way. It is also quick and easy to set up and begin playing. The acorns are bigger than the cherries in Hi Ho Cherry-o, which makes cleanup a bit easier as well.

Parents and grandparents say children love this game (even some older kids), but some report getting bored having to play it with their child so many times. If your child still puts things in their mouth often, you may want to skip this game since the acorns seem small enough to choke on.

A few users reported having pieces missing or a damaged box or spinner. But the vast majority were happy with their purchase, and the manufacturer has a one-year guarantee.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Colors, matching, fine motor skills
Players: 2-4

Don’t Break the Ice Game

Image of the Don't Break the Ice Game

The Don’t Break the Ice Game is another one I remember from my childhood. It is for two to four players who use small hammers to try to tap out “ice” blocks without letting the penguin on the ice fall down.

Instead of relying on the chance of spinning or drawing a card, this is more of a strategy game, as players decide which block to tap out next. This could be a fun way to introduce strategy games to your 3-year-old, but if your child may get frustrated at losing often to an older sibling who understands the strategy better, it might not be a good pick.

This game also takes some time to set up as you have to fit in all the blocks of ice into the frame before you begin (and between rounds), so be prepared to help your child set up as much as they play the game. Some people have had trouble with the legs staying on the frame of this version.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Strategy, fine motor skills
Players: 2-4

Wonder Forge Disney Classic Characters Matching Game

Image of the Wonder Forge Disney Classic Characters Matching Game for Boys & Girls Age 3 to 5 - A Fun & Fast Disney Memory Game

Your kids are sure to love seeing some of their favorite characters in Wonder Forge Disney Classic Characters Matching Game.

This is a classic memory matching game where one or more players attempt to turn over two matching cards from a large group. This game will help your child strengthen matching and memory skills. This version has 72 cards (36 matches).

While it comes with so many cards, you certainly don’t have to use all 72 to play. I liked to get out 10-20 cards to play memory with my youngest when she was 3. As long as you make sure they all have matches, it works well with fewer pairs.

A few parents were unhappy with the mix of characters included in the game, so if your child is picky about their Disney characters, there may be a better set for them.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Matching, memory
Players: 1 or more

Hasbro Hi Ho! Cherry-O Board Game

Image of the Hasbro Hi Ho! Cherry-O Board Game for 2 to 4 Players Kids Ages 3 and Up (Amazon Exclusive)

The Hasbro Hi Ho! Cherry-O Board Game for 2 to 4 Players Kids Ages 3 and Up (Amazon Exclusive) is a fun way to practice counting and basic addition and subtraction with your 3-year-old. Players spin a spinner and attempt to pick all the fruit from their trees.

It’s a little different than the version I remember because each player has a different kind of fruit: cherries, blueberries, apples, or oranges. While variety is nice, I can see this inspiring fights among children to get their favorite if you have multiple kids playing.

There are also two versions you can play: competitive or cooperative. In competitive, players aim to clear their tree before anyone else. In cooperative, the players work together to clear all the trees before a puzzle is completed.

The fruit pieces are small and easy to lose and also could be a problem if your child puts things in their mouth often. But this preschool game is a fun way to practice counting.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Competitive or cooperative modes
Skills: Counting, addition, subtraction
Players: 2-4

Hasbro Elefun and Friends Elefun Game

Image of the Hasbro Elefun and Friends Elefun Game with Butterflies and Music Kids Ages 3 and Up (Amazon Exclusive)

If sitting down to a game isn’t your child’s idea of fun yet, you can try Hasbro Elefun and Friends Elefun Game with Butterflies and Music. Players use nets to try to catch the butterflies shooting out of the elephant’s trunk. The person with the most butterflies wins.

It’s a game for up to three players, as it comes with three nets. You will need C batteries to start the fun.

Though kids seem to enjoy the game, many parents were not as impressed. There aren’t many butterflies included (though you could make more out of paper or tissue paper), and they all shoot out rather quickly when it is working well. That means Mom and Dad spend a lot of time setting it up again.

Some parents found it challenging to set it up just right to get the butterflies to come out at all. But many families have found it lots of fun.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Motor skills
Players: 1-3

The Ladybug Game

Image of the The Ladybug Game | Great First Board Game For Boys and Girls | Educational Game | Award Winner

My kids love The Ladybug Game, which was invented by a first grader. Two to four players move their ladybugs across the board to return to their home in the Rose Garden.

Players move after drawing a card with instructions. While there are words on the cards, they are designed to be easily used by non-readers as well.

The number is the main focus of the card, and most cards say to move that many spaces ahead in green type. The cards that indicate to move backwards have the words “move back” in red for easy identification. So if your 3-year-old knows numbers up to six and has help to learn which cards are move ahead and which are backward, he can play this game.

As you move around the board, you also collect aphids. At one point in the game, you are required to give 10 aphids to some ants to move forward. If you don’t have ten, you have to loop back around part of the board. This part can get frustrating to get past, especially if you move back past it and have to collect 10 more.

There are few complaints about this game, but some arrived without instructions. Some parents report their kids get frustrated or bored with the game. But most families (including mine) enjoy it.

Fast stats:
Reading required: Some, but color-coded for young kids
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Counting
Players: 2-4

The World of Eric Carle Let’s Feed The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game

Image of the The World of Eric Carle Let's Feed The Very Hungry Caterpillar Counting Cards Kids Game, Fun For Preschool Children Ages 3 & Up

The World of Eric Carle Let’s Feed The Very Hungry Caterpillar Game is based on the classic children’s book. Two to four players move their caterpillars around the board to collect pieces to make a butterfly puzzle.

Players draw cards with numbers on them to move any direction on each turn. So your child will need to know numbers to easily play. The winner is the person to get all the fruits on the puzzle pieces first, so it’s not about getting to a finish line like many games.

Being able to move in any direction around the board adds some strategy into the mix, but winning is still dependent on drawing the cards you need. And if the decision making or consequences of it were hard for your 3-year-old, I think you could make a house rule that everyone moves clockwise.

Most families really enjoy this game and say it has held up pretty well. Some find it too repetitive and say their child got bored with the gameplay. Also, be careful as you unfold the board as some users say it tore easily.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Strategy, numbers
Players: 2-4

Uno Moo

Image of UNO: MOO Game

UNO: MOO Game is another game my family has used. It is similar to Uno, but it uses farm animal pieces instead of cards.

When it is your turn, you have to play an animal that matches the color or type of the one currently on the barn door. There are also farmers that are wild “cards” and skunks that act as a skip.

The version my family had a few yeard back came with cardboard haystacks that hid the animal “cards” in your hand behind so other players couldn’t see them. But the current version doesn’t have those, so your animals are exposed. I don’t think that hurts the game for preschoolers, but older kids will take advantage of knowing others’ “cards.”

While my kids did enjoy this game, I would caution parents to be very watchful when your 3-year-old has the pieces out. The animals definitely fit inside little mouths. None of our kids choked, but we worried about it.

Also, sometimes my children had more fun toting the barn with the animal pieces around instead of actually playing the game. Then pieces would get lost. We had to put an end to that, but if you only get it out for them to play well-supervised, it is a fun game.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Matching
Players: 2-4

Wonder Forge Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Eye Found It Game

Image of the Wonder Forge Richard Scarry's Busytown, Eye Found It Toddler Toy and Game for Boys and Girls Age 3 and Up - A Fun Preschool Board Game

Another game related to familiar books is Wonder Forge Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Eye Found It Game. While we don’t own this one, my kids played it at an extended family gathering and really enjoyed it.

This is intended as a cooperative game rather than a competitive one. On each player’s turn, they spin a spinner to find out if they move ahead, remove food from the pigs’ picnic blanket, or draw a card and search for the item on it. Everyone works together to find the items, and however many the group finds is how many spaces everyone gets to move.

Players move onto a boat, and when everyone is on the boat, everyone takes turns spinning to move the boat to the finish. The game is over when the boat reaches the finish or the pigs’ food is gone. So there isn’t one winner.

The board is six feet long, so it may be a better floor game than a table game unless you have a large table. Many parents liked the cooperative nature of the game and the familiar Busytown characters.

Some parents thought it was too easy for their kids to memorize where the hidden items were and found their kids argued about who found the most, even though that’s not part of the game.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: No
Skills: Observation
Players: 2-4

ThinkFun Heads Talk Tails Walk Preschool Game

Image of the ThinkFun Heads Talk Tails Walk Preschool Toy and Game for Boys and Girls Age 3 and Up - A Silly Game of Sounds and Movement

The ThinkFun Heads Talk Tails Walk Preschool Toy and Game for Boys and Girls Age 3 and Up – A Silly Game of Sounds and Movement is a fun game that incorporates movement and is sure to get your family laughing.

Two to five players try to match animal body cards with the correct animal head card. Any time the cards don’t match, all players have to walk around the circle like the animal body showing while making the noise of the animal head. For example, you may have to walk like a horse while making monkey sounds.

If you do have a match on your turn, you keep the cards. The player with the most matches at the end wins.

Parents love that this game is easy to understand and get playing right away. Games are fairly short, which is great for 3-year-olds. The frequent movement helps squirmy preschoolers stay engaged.

Kids have to use critical thinking skills to decide how to act like two different animals at once. And they will practice their matching as well.

Of course, part of the fun for your kids will be seeing you acting silly, so if you don’t want to participate, it might not be as big of a hit with your kids. 

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Matching, critical thinking, movement
Players: 2-5

The Floor is Lava

Image of The Floor is Lava - Interactive Game for Kids and Adults - Promotes Physical Activity - Indoor and Outdoor Safe

Another game that requires movement is The Floor is Lava – Interactive Game for Kids and Adults – Promotes Physical Activity – Indoor and Outdoor Safe. While the manufacturer suggests it is best for kids 5 and up, I see no reason a 3-year-old couldn’t join in to play with a group.

As the name suggests, this game involves up to five players finding a safe spot to stand when the floor turns to lava. It comes with 25 foam “stepping stones” to put on the floor or the ground outside. A spin of the spinner determines which color stone the players need to get to without touching the floor.

After each round, one stone of each color is removed, making it a bit like musical chairs as everyone scrambles to get to a stone before they are full.

There are also challenge cards to require moving in a specific way (waddling, spinning), which helps keep everyone moving and having fun. This would be great for a day when you are stuck inside but the kids need to run around a bit.

Parents report having a great time playing this game with kids as young as 2 and 3. Some modified the rules a bit for the younger kids, like not removing any stones as you go. Users also reported playing with fewer than 5 people seemed to work better.

Some people said the pieces didn’t hold up very well, and several said the foam pieces smelled terrible when they first opened the box. The manufacturer suggested they needed to air out for the smell to dissipate.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Movement
Players: 2-5

Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat Card Game

Image of Wonder Forge Dr. Seuss Cat in The Hat Card Game

If your family loves Dr. Seuss, you will probably enjoy Wonder Forge Dr. Seuss Cat in The Hat Card Game. This game also involves silly movement and challenges.

It is for two to four players, ages 3 and older. Cards contain instructions for a physical challenge. While there are pictures to give clues to the words, some reading will probably be necessary at least the first few times through.

Players turn over three cards to discover a unique challenge, like put the cardboard fish under your elbow and tiptoe to the sink and back. If you can do the challenge you turn over, you keep the cards.

While there is a competition to keep the cards, parents say kids are more interested in cheering each other on through the challenges than beating the other players.

Since you turn over different cards each time, there are a variety of combinations in the challenges. Even so, some parents say the game gets too repetitive and they wish there were more cards included. It sounds like younger kids may continue to enjoy it longer than older siblings might.

Fast stats:
Reading required: Yes
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Movement, critical thinking
Players: 2-4

Ravensburger Snail’s Pace Race Game

Image of Ravensburger Snail's Pace Race Game for Age 3 & Up - Quick Children's Racing Game Where Everyone Wins!

The Ravensburger Snail’s Pace Race Game for Age 3 & Up – Quick Children’s Racing Game Where Everyone Wins! is a cooperative game for up to six players.

Six snails of different colors have a race across the board. All the snails are used no matter how many players you have. Players take turns rolling colored dice to move the matching snail closer to the finish line.

While players guess which wooden snail will win, there isn’t a human winner as everyone works together to move the snails to the end of the game.

Many parents and babysitters say this is a great first game to introduce turn-taking and following the rules without adding the competitiveness in. Others thought it was boring and quickly outgrown. 

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: No
Skills: Colors, matching
Players: 2-6

Orchard Toys Shopping List Children’s Game,

Image of Orchard Toys Shopping List, Children's Game, Multi, One Size

The Orchard Toys Shopping List, Children’s Game, Multi, One Size is popular in the UK and features recycled and recycleable materials in the board and packaging.

Two to four players compete to see who can fill their shopping cart with the items from their grocery list first. The grocery lists feature words and pictures to encourage (but not require) early reading skills.

There are two levels of play. Cards can be set up face down, much like memory. Then one card is turned over on each player’s turn; if it doesn’t match their list, other players try to remember where the item is for their turns. Or cards can be placed face up so younger kids can easily match what is on their list.

To increase the fun, there are booster packs for fruit and vegetables or clothing.

Some parents thought the variety of shopping items wasn’t great, but the vast majority said their young children (and even older siblings) really enjoyed the game.

Fast stats:
Reading required: No
Competitive: Yes
Skills: Matching, memory, reading
Players: 2-4

ThinkFun Roll and Play Game for Toddlers

Image of ThinkFun Roll and Play Game for Toddlers - Your Child's First Game! Award Winning and Fun Toddler Toy for Parents and Kids 18 Months and Older

For a young (or developmentally younger) three-year-old, the ThinkFun Roll and Play Game for Toddlers is a good option.

The game comes with a big plush die and 48 game cards. Your child rolls the die and you ask them to do the action on a matching color card. Examples are: sing a song, find something red, or roar like a lion.

The cards have pictures and words. You will probably need to help your child read the cards, at least until they are familiar with the actions.

It is intended for ages 18 months and older, but many parents report their 3-5-year-olds enjoy it as well, especially with another child.

The only negative comments were that some parents got cards in Spanish instead of English. I think even if the cards were in Spanish, you could figure out what action went with the picture or at least come up with something similar. Treat it as an opportunity to practice bi-lingual learning!

Fast stats:
Reading required: Yes
Competitive: No
Skills: Counting, colors, movement
Players: 1 and up

Board Games for Similar Ages

How We Selected Board Games For 3-Year-Olds 

Board games with no reading

Games that require little to no reading rated highly on our list, since most 3-year-olds aren’t reading yet. When games require reading, it can be frustrating for your child (and you) to play the game together.

Games with skills like matching and counting

Three is a great age to practice skills like matching and counting. I found many games that will allow your child to practice these skills.

Attention span of 3-year-olds

These games were chosen to match the shorter attention span of toddlers to preschoolers. Sitting still for a 45-minute game would be tricky for most 3-year-olds.

Fun for the whole family

As a mom with a preschooler and older siblings, I know it is important to find games they all will enjoy. I tried to find games that would be a hit with older children as well.

FAQs About Board Games For 3-Year-Olds

What are good games for 3-year-olds?

There are many good games for 3-year-olds.

Matching and counting games are some categories that most 3-year-olds will find fun. Games that are relatively short to play and require no reading will be good for children this age.

When can a child start to play board games?

It depends on the individual child, but most children can start to follow the rules of a board game at ages 3 to 4.

Start with something simple and see how long your child is interested. It may take a few tries for your child to be fully engaged. If they still aren’t interested after a few tries, wait a few months before you try again.

Are apps good for 3-year-olds?

While your child may enjoy many apps at this age, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than an hour of high-quality screen time a day for ages 2-5.

Board games are a great way to entertain your 3-year-old throughout the day. They include social interaction with a parent or siblings and teach skills that on-screen games won’t be able to do.

Wrap Up

While there are many board games that are great for beginners, Candy Land Kingdom Of Sweet Adventures Board Game is one of the best board games for 3-year-olds. The rules are easy to understand, there is no reading required, and it usually doesn’t take long to play a game. My kids love playing Candy Land, and I have fond memories of playing it as a child myself. Grandparents will also enjoy returning to a game from their childhood.

Another highly recommended game is Wonder Forge Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Eye Found It Game. This game fosters cooperation rather than competition, so your kids will work together to win. It features familiar Richard Scarry characters and encourages observation skills.

Megan Ryan
Megan Ryan
Megan Ryan is a stay-at-home mom to three kids in elementary school. She is also freelance editor who enjoys editing novels and Christian books. She still has a lot to learn about being a mom, but she's happy to share the lessons she's already learned.

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