Games for the Whole Family (and How to Adapt for the Younger Players)

Playing games is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family, but what do you do when you have two children at different developmental stages?

In our house that means adapt.


Some basic game rules in our house that we stand by and don’t change are:

  • Use gentle reminders to take turns.
  • Encourage playing by the rules. (If the rules are too complex for the younger child, give just the younger child one or two rules to follow or the entire family can play by the adapted rules.
  • Have fun!

There are quite a few games out there that I have found to bridge the age gap and allow for everyone to have fun at the table.

The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game


Picture via

The most wonderful game! The kids learn to take turns, identify colors, use fine motor skills and handle disappointment. This game took a few times for my son, 2 1/2, to grasp the concept of this game but now that we have played it so often he understand how to wait his turn. My daughter, 4, knows her colors but gets extremely excited when she spins and say the color name. After spinning the kids get pick up acorns out of the box with squirrel shaped pinchers. My son at first picked up the acorn then placed it in the squirrel’s hand, now he can just use the pinchers.

The last skill that I find very important is learning how to handle disappointment during the game. When the arrow on the spinner lands on the tornado you have to empty all of your collected acorns. This was very hard for my daughter. She very much wants to win but we made it fun. I scream, “oh no! Not the acorns!” And start laughing she then lightens her mood and begins to get a bit silly and forgets about loosing and focuses on the fun.

A great adaption for a younger player is still to have them wait their turn, but when it is their turn let them pick up whichever acorn they want. Make sure to ask them the color and if they don’t know if remind them and ask them if they can say it.

Let’s Go Fishing 

DSC03114This is an oldie but goodie. My kids love playing this game together or by themselves. Both kids get a little frustrated with the swinging fishing pole so we let them “cheat” by letting them direct the fishing pole into the fish’s mouth. No matter how you play the game there is serious hand eye coordination involved.

To be honest we have never played by the rules in this game. We just try to get as many fish out that we can. Usually we are giggling as we are trying to block others from getting fish or trying to get the same fish at the same time. Rarely do we ever even count the amount of fish that we caught, playing the game is always entertaining.

Don’t Break the Ice


Picture via

We all know this game. It’s the same game we had as kids and nothing has changed. I have a love hate relationship with this game. When my son just discovered it I would set up all the blocks and he would immediately smash the ice out, then expect me to set it up again. I admit I gave in for a few games. I could only do this so many times before I wanted to throw the entire game out. Eventually, I focused on making him take turns and reminded him to only hit ONE piece. This was no overnight win, but he liked to play so each time he brought out the game I required just a tad bit more of his attention. It’s been a few months but now he is able to take turns follow most of the rules.

We have a few more games we play on a regular basis but these are the ones that get pulled out most by my kids. Remember the most important thing is to teach your child to have fun playing the game. Bonding time with the family can’t be replaced with video games or television and playing by the actual rules of the game can come later when the “fun” has been established.

Written by Jamie Jackson


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