Games My Kids Play (ages 2 and up)
Graham
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Warren
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The purpose of this geeklist is to serve as a log of my children's gaming experiences. I plan to include an entry on this geeklist for each game we have played. As we continue to introduce new games to the kids, I will continue to update this geeklist. My hope is that other gamer parents will find this helpful as their children become acquainted with the hobby.

Background Info:

I have two children, both boys.

My oldest (D) is 5 years old and has been playing games since his second birthday. Prior to that, he was (and still is) really interested in jigsaw puzzles. He has since developed quite a fondness for board games.

My youngest (G) is 3 years old and is developing a taste for games as well. He started participating in some of our games at around 20 months. Although he has limits on what games he can fully grasp, he often surprises us with a shrewd move here or there in games that are designed for older children.

Rating System and Age Ranges:

I included the manufacturer’s suggested age range along with the BGG user suggested age range. I will also include my own suggestion based on my experience with D and G. My own suggested age ranges will be a work in progress since the boys are still young and haven't outgrown many games yet.

Very strongly recommended for children in the age range
Probably worth looking into if you have children in the age range
Not really necessary, but the theme or bits may have appeal for some children
Not very good, probably best to avoid
No redeeming qualities whatsoever

As usual with these sorts of things, the ratings are based on my own perspective and your mileage may vary.
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1. Board Game: Go Away Monster! [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 3+
BGG Suggested Ages: 2-5
My Suggested Ages: 2-4
Gaming Elements: drawing tiles from a bag, managing a player board, taking turns



Summary
In Go Away Monster, each player has their own board which represents a bedroom. Each bedroom has four outlined empty spaces which are to be filled with a bed, a lamp, a picture, and a teddy bear. Players take turns drawing cardboard shapes out of a bag which may be any of the four missing bedroom items or a monster. If a player draws a bedroom item, they either place it on their own player board in the appropriate space or if they already have the item, they can give it to another player. If a player draws a monster, they say “Go away, monster!” and place the monster in the game box. Play continues until all players have filled their player boards.

D’s Experience
D received Go Away Monster as a gift for his 2nd birthday. It was an immediate hit. With very little coaching, he was able to understand exactly what to do during his turn. After repeated plays, he really seemed to get a handle on how taking turns worked. He still requests it every now and then and we usually bring it out when other young children are visiting. It will definitely be the first game we introduce G to.

Update: At 4½ I think D is on the verge of outgrowing this game. He will still play from time to time, but on several recent occasions when G and I invited him to play, he declined and asked us to let him know when we were going to play something else.

G’s Experience
G has recently taken an interest in the games we play with D. At about 20 months, we started including him on our games of Go Away Monster, which has gone pretty well. He gets a little impatient between turns, and often pulls more than one piece out of the bag at a time, but he has the general idea. I was especially surprised by how well he made the connection between the bedroom items and the appropriate places on the player boards (although, he frequently puts the bed in upside down).

Update: Now that G has several rounds of this under his belt, he is a lot better at exercising some patience while waiting for his turn and only pulling one piece at a time. He requires very little coaching these days and seems to genuinely enjoy the experience.

My Thoughts
Go Away Monster is an excellent introduction to gaming for very young children. It’s very short and easy to understand, but includes some basic gameplay elements that are found in a variety of other games. The only negative aspects that come to mind are that there are no decision points and no winning or losing, so like many games geared toward very young children, it’s not really a proper “game.” Because of this, Go Away Monster can become tedious and repetitive for many parents after several plays.
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2. Board Game: Snail's Pace Race [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Warren
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 3+
BGG Suggested Ages: 2-5
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: die rolling, color matching, moving game tokens



Summary
In Snail’s Pace Race, there are six different colored snails competing on a race track. Players take turns rolling two six-sided dice, with each side of each die having a color that corresponds to one of the snails on the track. The player then identifies the two snails who match the color shown on the dice and moves each of them one space closer to the finish line (or in the case where both dice show the same color, the matching snail moves two spaces). The instructions also have the players guess which snail is going to finish the race first as well as which snail is going to finish the race last.

D’s Experience
D received Snail’s Pace Race for his 2nd birthday. Although he enjoyed playing with the bits, getting through a game required constant adult direction, which understandably got frustrating for him. Matching the colors to the snails was pretty straightforward, but D had a hard time understanding how to move them. As he got closer to 3 years old, he required less and less direction and now at 3½, he has it more or less figured out. Even so, we don’t really bother picking which snail is going to win and he rarely has the patience so see which snail comes in last. We do typically encourage him to stick with the game at least until the first snail reaches the finish line, even if he is bored.

My Thoughts
The components for this game are really nice for young gamers. The snails in particular are big and chunky. The game itself is a bit on the boring side and lasts longer than you might expect. Also, the movement does not seem to be terribly intuitive for young gamers and it gets complicated further by the fact that the snails’ bases are larger than the spaces on the track. The game just seems to be a little too complicated and a little too long for what it is. That said, I am still glad that we own it, and it does get played from time to time.
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3. Board Game: Memory [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Warren
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 3+
BGG Suggested Ages: 3-10
My Suggested Ages: 2+
Gaming Elements: memorization, matching pictures, taking turns



Summary
In Memory, a several matching pairs of tiles or cards are laid out face down (typically in a grid pattern). Players take turns revealing two of the face down tiles at a time. If the two tiles do not match, the tiles are turned back down and the next player takes a turn. If the tiles do match, the player collects the matching tiles and takes another turn. After all of the tiles have been collected, the player with the most tiles wins.

D’s Experience
We have had several different flavors of Memory kicking around the house for a while. The set we started D with was a generic food/animal/household item type set. We started playing this with him shortly after his 2nd birthday with six pairs of tiles, arranged in a 3×4 pattern. We quickly increased this to eight pairs arranged in a 4×4 pattern. He caught on to the basic idea of the game very quickly, but it took quite a while to break his habit of going for a third tile immediately after he noticed the first two tiles didn’t match.

My Thoughts
Memory seems to be simple enough that very young children can play without much coaching. It’s also nice that the length and difficulty of the game can be adjusted by how many pairs of tiles are laid out. While it’s not the most exciting game in the world, it is one of the few genuine “games” (complete with meaningful decisions and winning/losing) that can be played with children as young as 2.
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4. Board Game: Blokus [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Warren
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 5+
BGG Suggested Ages: 6+
My Suggested Ages: ? (as a puzzle/toy, 3+)
Gaming Elements: spatial skills



Summary
In Blokus, players take turns placing Tetris-style pieces onto a square grid with the objective of playing all of their pieces. Each player must place new pieces in such a way that the new piece touches one or more of the player’s old pieces on the corners, but not along any edges. Once there are no legal moves left (due either to players running out of pieces or available locations to play pieces), scores are determined largely by how many pieces each player has left. Generally, the person with the fewest pieces left wins.

D’s Experience
While D has not come close to playing any version of Blokus by the actual rules, he has really enjoyed playing around with the pieces of the original Blokus, as well as Blokus Duo, since he was about 2½. Eventually, we ordered Blokus Junior so that he could have his own set, which he was quite happy about. D doesn’t play with it so much any more, and we have not yet tried to play the game properly with him, but I suspect it will make a comeback sometime in the next year or so.

My Thoughts
I can’t vouch for Blokus as a children’s game (at least not as it was intended to be played), but it does make an interesting sort of free-form puzzle. It is worth noting that there are many small pieces involved, so adult supervision would be wise for any child who is still putting things in their mouth.
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5. Board Game: Dotty Dinosaurs [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Warren
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 3+
BGG Suggested Ages: 3-6
My Suggested Ages: 2+
Gaming Elements: die rolling, color matching, shape matching, managing a player board



Summary
Dotty Dinosaurs includes two functionally identical games, one emphasizing colors, the other emphasizing shapes. Each player has a dinosaur shaped player board with six spaces for cardboard tiles of various colors (or shapes). During a player’s turn they roll a six-sided die that has a different color (or shape) on each side. If the player has not yet collected the color (or shape) that matches the die, they take the appropriate color (or shape) and add it to their player board. The first player to collect all six colors (or shapes) is the winner.

D’s Experience
D received Dotty Dinosaurs as a Christmas gift when he was about 2½. At the time, dinosuars were pretty much his favorite thing, so this one went over very well. He had an easier time with the color game than he did with the shape game, but it didn’t take too long before he had them both figured out. We still play it occasionally, but not nearly as much as we did when he first received the game.

My Thoughts
Dotty Dinosaurs touches on a lot of different skills that are useful for playing other games, but it’s not very fun and tends to really drag at the end due to the shrinking probability that you will roll something you actually need. I think the theme can go a long way with kids that are interested in dinosaurs and it’s an easy game for younger children to figure out, but if you don’t need another game with no decision points, you may want to consider passing on this one.
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6. Board Game: Angry Birds: Knock on Wood [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Warren
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 5+
BGG Suggested Ages: 5+
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: none



Summary
In theory, players construct a variety of scenarios out of blocks and figures based on a deck of cards. Once the scenario is in place, a player is charged with knocking down all of the pig figures using a slingshot-like contraption and a fixed number of angry bird figures (usually 2 or 3).

D’s Experience
D was really taken in by the extreme level of Angry Birds themed merchandise available in mid to late 2011. He didn’t know anything about the video game, but he really liked the look of all the Angry Birds stuff. He was very happy to receive Angry Birds: Knock on Wood as a Christmas gift when he was about 2½. A few months later we ended up picking up Angry Birds: On Thin Ice. When we “play” Angry Birds, it usually involves me constructing an elaborate scenario using every single block from both sets and letting D shoot birds at it. He usually gives up after half a dozen tries and either takes matters into his own hands, or asks me to continue launching birds until the structure is dismantled. He has always enjoyed getting this one out, just to play with the bits.

My Thoughts
As a game, this totally fails. The bird launcher is not at all built for accuracy, yet the scenarios require a great deal of accuracy. The scoring seems kind of arbitrary and it’s hard to imagine getting much pleasure out of playing the game as designed. The reason I didn’t give this a one star rating (and the reason we bought a second box of this stuff) is that it actually makes a pretty entertaining toy. If you can build a structure big enough and you are allowed to launch bird after bird after bird, it can be a lot of fun, but it isn’t going to do much for your children as gamers.
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7. Board Game: Hi Ho! Cherry-O [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Warren
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 3+
BGG Suggested Ages: 3-5
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: counting, spinner, symbol interpretation



Summary
The most recent version of Hi Ho! Cherry-O includes cooperative rules which closely resemble the rules for Orchard. Players take turns spinning the spinner and following the instructions that come up. The instructions include taking pieces of fruit from the trees and placing them in the baskets, taking pieces of fruit from the basket and putting them back on the trees, or adding one piece to the nine-piece bird puzzle. The objective is to get all of the fruit off of the trees before the bird puzzle is complete.

D’s Experience
D received this game a few months before he turned 3. Right from the start, he was pretty excited about it and enjoyed playing. He needed a lot of help with the counting and interpreting the results of the spinner early on. Because of his love for jigsaw puzzles, he mostly roots for the bird, even though it is technically the lose condition. Even after the game is won, he normally insists on completing the puzzle anyway.

My Thoughts
While there is nothing truly outstanding about this game, it does offer several elements that aren’t found in most of the other games for young children. It gives kids a lot of practice applying small numbers (1-4) to actual objects that they can physically manipulate. It’s also one of the few early childhood games that require some level of interpretation beyond simply matching colors or shapes.
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8. Board Game: Chutes and Ladders [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Warren
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 3+
BGG Suggested Ages: 3-8
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: die rolling, moving player tokens, counting



Summary
Snakes and Ladders is a very old game that has more recently been popularized as Chutes and Ladders. On a player’s turn, they roll a standard six-sided die and move their pawn the number of spaces indicated. If the pawn finishes at the bottom of a ladder, the player moves the pawn to the top of the ladder. If the pawn finishes at the head of a snake, the player moves the pawn to the tail of the snake. The first player whose pawn reaches the end wins.

D’s Experience
Over the span of a few months around his 3rd birthday, D used to ask to play this one a lot. He never quite got the hang of moving the appropriate number of spaces, but once we helped him figure out where his pawn should go, he had no problems understanding the snakes and ladders. This was also the first game where he began to display an aversion to losing. He wasn’t a particularly sore loser, but he would say things like, “No! I want to win!” and we would have to explain that maybe he would have better luck next time. He hasn’t really outgrown this game, but there are quite a number of games that seem to be more popular with him lately.

My Thoughts
There are no decision points in this game. It really just plays itself. It does offer a good introduction to roll and move mechanics, but there isn’t anything to make this an essential part of any game collection (a child’s or otherwise). The version of Snakes and Ladders we have is a really low budget implementation. The pawns and die seem incredibly cheap, which isn’t a huge problem, but the board is really flimsy warped posterboard, which won’t lay flat unless someone holds it down. If you do decide to purchase this game, I would recommend getting a reasonably well produced version.
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9. Board Game: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Match and Munch Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 3+
BGG Suggested Ages: N/A
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: hand management, drawing and discarding, set collection



Summary
In The Very Hungry Caterpillar Match and Munch Game, players are trying to collect a winning combination of five tiles. Each tile depicts a particular food item featured in Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. To begin the game, each player is dealt five random tiles. Players take turns drawing a random tile and either replacing one of their five tiles or discarding it. There are three winning combinations and several of the food items act as wild cards. Once a player achieves a winning combination, they are awarded a butterfly token and a new round begins. The first player to collect three butterfly tokens wins.

D’s Experience
D has always been into the Eric Carle books, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar is definitely one of his favorites. He first starting playing this a little before his 3rd birthday and he really enjoyed everything about the bits, from the caterpillar shaped bag to the butterfly tokens. The game itself seemed difficult for him to get the hang of. He understood the mechanics well enough, but he had a hard time grasping the objective. I think the wild cards may have been a bit of a confounding factor. We haven’t played it in a while and it probably deserves to be revisited now that he is a little older.

My Thoughts
This is a nice little game and it does offer some unique gameplay. If your kids like Eric Carle, they will probably be pretty enthusiastic about this game on theme alone. My biggest complaint is related to the relative arbitrariness of the winning combinations. I understand that they tried to link the combinations to the story, but I think the way they did so is going to be over most children’s heads. Complicating this is the fact that the wild cards are not one specific type of food, but an entire collection of food items including a pickle, swiss cheese, sausage, chocolate cake, a lollipop, and several other items. Again, it seems that this is an attempt to tie the game to the story, but it further complicates what should be a very simple game. I think most of this can be overcome with a few rule tweaks and maybe eliminating some of the tiles from the pool, but we haven’t found the best way to do this quite yet.

Update: Removing the wild cards seems to help make this game go much smoother for D. We also added a Rummy-like rule which allowed players to pick up the most recent discard rather than drawing a random card from the stack.
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10. Board Game: Perfection [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 4+
BGG Suggested Ages: 5-10
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: shape matching



Summary
Perfection is a single-player puzzle type game where the player has a limited amount of time to try to fit 25 unique shapes into their proper receptacle on a 5×5 grid. When time expires, the entire board springs upward and all of the shapes are ejected from their receptacles.

D’s Experience
We didn’t have any intentions of introducing this game, but when D was about 2½, he saw it sitting on the shelf and thought it looked interesting. I was a little concerned about all the small pieces, so I made sure to keep a close eye on him while he was playing, but he did a really good job putting the pieces in the proper locations. I think his enthusiasm for this game extends from his love of puzzles, but he also likes to set the timer after all the pieces are in place for a big exciting finish. We never really set the timer for him while he is working out where the shapes go. It usually takes him a few minutes to get them all in place, which is longer than the timer allows, and I think he would get frustrated if all the pieces got messed up halfway through.

My Thoughts
Perfection is much more of a puzzle than a game, but if your kids like puzzles, they will probably enjoy playing with this. Keep in mind that there are 25 small pieces, so it’s not a great game for a child who is still putting things in their mouth.
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11. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 8+
BGG Suggested Ages: 8+
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: tile placement, feature matching, (light) area control



Summary
Carcassonne is a tile placement game where players attempt to score points by controlling and completing various features on a central, continuously growing board. Each turn, a player draws a random tile which may feature a portion of a road, a city, a field, a cloister, or some combination thereof. The tile must be placed next to already placed tiles in such a way that any features match up with the features of any adjacent tiles. The player then has the option of placing one of their followers (or meeples) on one of the features of the tile they just played, provided it is not already controlled by another player. Points are scored when features are completed and partial features are scored at the end of the game. The player with the most points wins.

D’s Experience
I remember introducing this to D when he was about 3 years old. My wife was out running errands and my 1 year old was napping. The first time we pulled this out of the box, we didn’t bother with the meeples. We just constructed a landscape and talked about the different places that each tile could go based on the features it had. It really didn’t take long before D was genuinely playing the game (minus farmers) with us and our friends. He doesn’t have a good handle on strategy or scoring, but he has the fundamental game mechanics down to the point that he corrects other players if they make an illegal tile placement or try to put a meeple on an already controlled feature. I haven’t asked him directly, but I think this is currently his favorite game. If he requests a game, more than half of the time, it’s Carcassonne. For what it’s worth, D always plays basic Carcassonne with no expansions (the only exceptions being that we occasionally use the sixth player and some of the additional tiles from Carcassonne: Expansion 1 – Inns & Cathedrals).

My Thoughts
As soon as my wife got pregnant, I was biding my time until I could get a game like My First Carcassonne and play it with our kids. As it turns out, it wasn’t necessary to get the simplified version. All kids are different, and my sample size at this point is only one, but Carcassonne seems to be really intuitive and easy for a child to understand. It’s also easy for grandparents to understand, so D normally brings it along if he is going to spend a significant amount of time at my parents’ house.
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12. Board Game: Candy Land the Train Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 3+
BGG Suggested Ages: N/A
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: die rolling (so to speak), color matching



Summary
The objective of Candy Land: The Train Game is to collect tokens depicting different types of candy. On a player’s turn, they move a plastic train that covers a 12-sided die to a station that corresponds to a token they would like to collect. The motion of the train along the bumpy train track causes die to roll. Once the train arrives at the desired station, the player reveals the die and if the color shown on the die matches the station, they collect a token. The first player to collect a token from each station wins. There are also rules for an “advanced” game, where play continues until every token has been taken. In the advanced game, the player with the most pieces of candy depicted (1-3 per token) on their tokens wins.

D’s Experience
D received Candy Land: The Train Game for his 3rd birthday and has really enjoyed playing it. We normally opt for the advanced version of the game, even though they take a bit longer. There isn’t a whole lot to this game, so he hasn’t had any trouble grasping the rules. I think the train theme goes a long way with him and he really likes driving the train around the board.

My Thoughts
This game isn’t terribly interesting or unique, but the bits are nice and children seem to enjoy it. One neat feature of this game when compared to similar games is that the advanced version does offer a (very) constrained space for tactical decision making. While there are never any particularly great moves available, there are frequent opportunities to make less than optimal moves. I don’t know how much of this (if any) will translate to more complicated games, but it is a nice change from the games that have absolutely no decision points. I should mention that on occasion, a string of unlucky die rolls can really cause this game to drag.
 
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13. Board Game: Hisss [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 4+
BGG Suggested Ages: 3-10
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: tile placement, color matching



Summary
Hisss is a game where players place tiles to create snakes of various lengths. Each tile may have the head of a snake, the tail of a snake, or a middle section. A snake is considerd to be complete if it has a head, a tail, and at least one middle section. On a player’s turn, they draw a tile and match the color to any of the incomplete snakes on the table. If the tile does not match any of the existing snakes, the player lays the tile down by itself to begin a new snake. If a player’s move results in a completed snake, the player collects the completed snake which will count toward their final score. After the last tile is placed, players count up each tile from their completed snakes. The player with the most tiles wins.

D’s Experience
Whether it is a toy or at the reptile house in the zoo, D has always been interested in snakes. When he received this game for his 3rd birthday, we could tell he was fascinated. The gameplay was really easy for him to understand (although, there is a rule about combining snakes that he didn’t really get at first) and he really enjoys the game. It doesn’t always happen this way, but usually, the tiles run out while there are still a few incomplete snakes on the table. This seems to bother D a little bit because he feels like we left something unfinished. He seems to be getting used to it the more we play.

My Thoughts
Although there isn’t much in the way of meaningful decisions and I can’t imagine ever choosing to play this with adults, Hisss feels a lot more like a real game than most early childhood games. There is a lot of luck involved, but it doesn’t cause the game to drag like a lot of the dice matching games do. It also seems pretty intuitive, especially for children who have already been exposed to gaming.
 
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14. Board Game: Cootie [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 3+
BGG Suggested Ages: 3-6
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: die rolling



Summary
The objective of Cootie is to be the first player to finish building a plastic insect. During a player’s turn, they roll a standard six-sided die, collect the corresponding piece of the insect, and attach it to the pieces they have already collected. There seem to be a few minor variations, depending on the version of the game, but in most cases, the body is required before the head can be collected, and the body and head are both required before the antennae, eyes, tongue, and six legs can be collected.

D’s Experience
My mother-in-law has an old Cootie set that D had regularly been playing with long before he actually played the game. When he received his own set at about 3½, it was pretty easy to teach him the rules. He definitely likes the bits and requests this game somewhat regularly. One thing I have noticed is that he does get a little possessive about which color body and which style of appendages he wants.

My Thoughts
Cootie is one of those games that you just sort of watch unfold before you. The only decisions points apply strictly to the appearance of a player’s insect and have no impact on gameplay. This one can get especially tedious because of the specific order of a few of the body parts as well as the fact that a player must collect six legs to win.
 
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15. Board Game: Go Fish [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 4+
BGG Suggested Ages: 4+
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: cards, set collection



Summary
There are several versions of Go Fish with various themes and the game can even be played with a standard deck of cards. The version we have been playing has around 40 fish-shaped cards in a variety of colors. Each player gets dealt a hand of seven cards. Immediately, players may place every matching pair of cards from their hands into their respective score pile and the game begins. On a player’s turn, they reveal a card from their hand and ask another player if they have a matching card. If the asked player has a matching card, they must give it to the player doing the asking, who adds the pair to their score pile and takes another turn. On the other hand, if the asked player does not have a matching card, they respond with “Go fish!” and the asking player draws a card. If the newly drawn card matches a card already in hand, the player may place the pair in their score pile. Whether a match is made or not, this ends the turn. Play continues until one player runs out of cards. The player with the most pairs in their score pile wins.

D’s Experience
D received Go Fish as a gift when he was about 3½. He really seems to enjoy the game and asks to play often. I am not sure how much of a difference the fish-shaped cards make, but I don’t think it would be quite as popular with him if we were using a standard deck of cards. One thing that is interesting with this one is that D doesn’t seem to care much about winning or losing, but he is really interested in making pairs. He will even say things like, “Ask me if I have a red fish,” when he has a red fish in hand. Even when he runs out of cards (and has technically won the game), he usually wants to draw more cards so that we can continue playing until the deck is exhausted and all cards are paired up.

My Thoughts
Like most children’s games, Go Fish is largely luck driven. Occasionally, there are circumstances where a good memory can be helpful, but usually players are just blindly guessing what their opponents might have in their hands. From a gaming with kids perspective, the best quality of this game is that it exposes young gamers to cards in a way that isn’t too complicated or frustrating, which is really nice.
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16. Board Game: Loopin' Louie [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 4+
BGG Suggested Ages: 4+
My Suggested Ages: 2+
Gaming Elements: timing, (limited) dexterity



Summary
Loopin’ Louie is a children’s action game somewhat similar to Hungry Hungry Hippos, but with a bit (okay, a lot) more elegance. Each player starts with three small discs, which represent hens, atop their barn. Each barn has a flipper attached to it. When the on/off switch is engaged, a motorized plane (Louie) circles the playing area. If left alone, Louie will knock one hen off of each barn each time he passes. Players use their flippers to both protect their own barns and send Louie hurtling toward other players’ barns. The last player with any remaining hens is the winner. There are at least two clearly distinct versions of Loopin’ Louie as well as a few very similar games with different themes (Bobbin' Bumblebee, Barn Buzzin' Goofy, Buzz to the Rescue). Our version is the most recent (2011 or 2012) edition that seems to have pretty good availability in the US.

D’s Experience
D received Loopin’ Louie for Christmas at about 3½. He was able to understand the game and play somewhat effectively as soon as we set it up. D really likes to bring this one out when friends come over, but it gets played pretty regularly with two players as well. Occasionally, he will even play it by himself. D also has an interesting take on the victory condition - if the nominal winner of the game loses their last hen before someone can flip the on/off switch, he will inform them that they didn’t win because they don’t have any hens left.

G’s Experience
G started “participating” in our games of Loopin’ Louie when he was about 20 months old. He loves hitting the flipper and often hits it so hard that his chickens bounce away long before Louie has a chance to knock them off. Even so, he really seems to have fun and it doesn’t really disrupt any of the other players.

Update: At 22 months, G requests this frequently. He still doesn’t really play the game as intended, but he really enjoys setting it up, getting the chickens ready to go, and flipping the switch to start the game. He will occasionally hit the flipper, but he mostly seems interested in waiting until the game is over so we can set it up again.

My Thoughts
Loopin’ Louie is a fun little game that seems to go over well with gamers of all ages. Our games are typically over within a couple of minutes, so it’s hard to get burnt out on it, even after repeated plays. Loopin’ Louie doesn’t involve much in the way of typical game mechanics, but there is a good amount of timing and finesse involved with sending Louie on his way to an opponent’s barn. A really nice feature of our version of the game (which may very well be common to all versions) is that the flippers have two modes, one easy, one difficult. This is a nice way to help level the playing field between young children and adults.
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17. Board Game: Pop the Pig [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 4+
BGG Suggested Ages: NA
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: die rolling, number recognition (1-4), counting



Summary
In Pop the Pig, players take turns feeding hamburgers to a plastic anthropomorphic pig. On a player’s turn, they roll a six-sided die. They then choose a hamburger that matches the color shown on the die (or skips the rest of their turn if there is no matching hamburger). Each hamburger has a number (1-4) on the bottom which determines how many times the player pushes down on the pig’s hat, which causes its belly to expand. Eventually, the pig will throw up its arms and its coat will pop open. The player who “popped” the pig is the winner.

D’s Experience
Pop the Pig was at the top of D’s Christmas list when he was about 3½. He had seen a television commercial for it and was hooked. He really enjoys playing the game and aside from pushing the pig’s hat, he can play it without assistance. It probably helped a lot that we had been working on recognizing numbers for some time before he received this game. He always wants to play this with his friends, but several of them don’t know their numbers yet.

My Thoughts
From a gaming perspective, Pop the Pig is nothing special, but the bits seem to have that cartoonish appeal for kids. It may be useful to give kids repeated exposure to number recognition, but the numbers are limited to one through four. One thing that is a little bit frustrating is how difficult it is to push the pig’s hat. Most young kids need to put all their weight into it and it isn’t always clear if each push was successful or not. This can be mitigated by having an adult help push the hat down.
 
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18. Board Game: Chameleon Crunch Game [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 4+
BGG Suggested Ages: NA
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: none



Summary
In Chameleon Crunch, players race to toss their plastic insects into the mouth of a motorized plastic chameleon. The chameleon wanders around the floor in circles and occasionally stops to open its mouth and/or eject pieces from its mouth. Eventually the chameleon stops and the player with the most insects still in the chameleon’s mouth wins.

D’s Experience
D received Chameleon Crunch when he was about 3½. At first he was kinda scared of the Chameleon, but he seemed to like the idea of the game enough that he would sit on a couch (out of the chameleon’s reach) and ask other people play. He seems to have gotten over his fear of the chameleon and will participate in the “game” occasionally, but usually when he gets this game out, he just plays with the plastic bugs and leaves the chameleon in the box.

My Thoughts
I really don’t like this game. First of all, the chameleon requires a large, open area to play, so even fairly large tables are inadequate. Second, the chameleon doesn’t seem to move properly on anything other than tile or hardwood, which leaves our kitchen as the only place that really works. Third, the game itself is just poorly implemented and not much fun. I can’t think of any rule tweaks that would substantially improve this game. Last, there is nothing about this game that translates well to any other game or is educational in any way. At best, it gives young children a poor excuse to run around when plenty of good excuses are readily available.
 
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19. Board Game: UNO Moo! [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 3+
BGG Suggested Ages: 3-6
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: color matching, wild cards, (very mild) player interaction



Summary
Uno-Moo! is played very much like a simplified version of UNO. Each player starts with a collection of plastic animals of various species and colors. On a player’s turn, they play an animal that either matches the color or species of the animal played on the previous turn. If they do not have an animal that matches, they must draw a random animal from the barn. The first person to play all of their animals wins. There are two animals with special rules. When a skunk is played, the next player must immediately draw two new animals. Farmers are wild and may be played after any animal, in which case the person who played the farmer chooses a color for the next player to match.

D’s Experience
Uno-Moo! was another Christmas gift that D received at about 3½. He asks to play this pretty frequently. D understands the fundamental concept of the game, but he sometimes needs to be reminded that he can’t just play any old animal. When we first started playing this game, he would get a little upset if someone played a skunk on him, but he seems to be more accepting of this as of late. Somewhat surprisingly, he completely understands how farmers work and how valuable they can be.

My Thoughts
Uno-Moo! offers a type of gameplay that does not seem to be readily available in other children’s games. The bits are brightly colored and fun and the barn that serves as a discard/draw pile is also the game box. That said, there are a couple of issues that complicate the process of faithfully executing the rules. For one thing, the only way to remove animals from the barn is to open the lid, which exposes all of the animals in the barn. This makes drawing random animals a bit of an exercise in discipline (“don’t look in the barn!”), especially for a 3 year old. This is further complicated by the fact that each animal type has a unique model, so you typically know what you are pulling out of the barn before you see it. The other thing that strikes me as silly is that the Uno-Moo! rules preserve the rule from Uno where each player must announce “uno!” when they only have a single animal remaining. This would be all well and good except that each player’s animals are hidden behind a cardboard screen, so we don’t even bother with this rule.
 
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20. Board Game: Zooloretto Junior [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 7+
BGG Suggested Ages: 5+
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: tile placement, set collection



Summary
Zooloretto Mini is essentially a simplified, portable version of Zooloretto. Each player has their own zoo, composed of three identical enclosures, which they fill will animal and landscape tiles as the game progresses. When each round of the game begins, there are a number of empty trucks equal to the number of players. During a player’s turn, they must either draw a random tile and place it on a truck of their choice or take a truck and add any animal or landscape tiles on it to the enclosures (or the barn) in their zoo. Each truck can hold up to three tiles. Once each player has taken a truck, all of the trucks are placed back in the center of the table, and the next round begins. When a player places a fertile female in the same enclosure as a fertile male, a single offspring tile is immediately produced (whether desired or not) and is placed in the same fashion as tiles taken from a truck. Play continues until a round finishes with 15 or fewer tiles remaining (marked by an adorable panda token). Once all trucks have been taken and tiles placed, scores are calculated. In general, players score more points for full enclosures and variety of landscape tiles, but lose points for tiles in the barn.

D’s Experience
D was first introduced to Zooloretto Mini when he was about 3½. He picked up on the rules for the game very quickly, although he sometimes needs to be reminded that a tile he draws goes on a truck, not directly to his zoo. He doesn’t have a good handle on any strategy, but he does try to avoid having animals in his barn. For the most part, he just enjoys building his own zoo and a lot of times I will place animals on trucks in a way that will help him get the sorts of animals he wants. He recently noticed an advertisement for several other Zooloretto games on the Zooloretto Mini box and is very excited to try out the other games in the series.

My Thoughts
Zooloretto Mini is a nearly perfect introduction to the Zooloretto family. Almost all of the primary game mechanics of the original are preserved faithfully and the money aspect has been entirely replaced by a rule that allows one special action whenever a player fills an enclosure. Another feature that makes this game great for young children is that parents can easily adjust their level of play without making it terribly obvious that they are going easy on the kids. I expect this one will continue to hit the table regularly for quite some time.
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21. Board Game: Gulo Gulo [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 5+
BGG Suggested Ages: 3+
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: moving player tokens, color matching, dexterity



Summary
In Gulo Gulo, players race along a path composed of tiles of various colors. At the end of the path is a vulture nest filled with wooden eggs of various sizes and colors. Also in the bowl is a thin wooden post with a weight on top which is balanced somewhat precariously between the eggs which functions as an alarm for would-be egg thieves. Each turn a player either chooses a tile on the path ahead of them or chooses to flip over the next face down tile. In either case, the player must pull an egg that matches the color of the chosen tile out of the vulture nest without causing the alarm to fall and hit the table. If the egg is successfully removed from the nest, the player moves ahead to the next tile that matches the color of the egg, otherwise, the player moves backward to the previous matching tile. Once a player reaches the end of the path, they have an opportunity to rescue “baby Gulo.” This usually involves removing several eggs from the nest in series without tripping the alarm. When a player successfully rescues baby Gulo, they win.

D’s Experience
D was first introduced to Gulo Gulo when he was about 3½ and he liked it right from the start. He doesn’t spend much time thinking about what might be the best move, and even if he did, it seems like the temptation to flip a tile is too great for him to resist. Fortunately for D, sub-optimal moves do not have as much of an impact on gameplay as the dexterity portion does. Even though he is pretty careless when he goes for an egg, his small fingers give him enough of an advantage to keep things interesting. He also really likes the wolverine-shaped player tokens and makes a big deal about which player is going to use which token.

My Thoughts
It is a true shame that this game is out of print. We were very fortunate to find it new in shrink at one of our local game stores for the MSRP. The production on the game is excellent and it is a lot of fun to play. If it weren’t so hard to find, I would say it definitely belongs in every child’s game library. As it stands now, I would just recommend that parents keep an eye out for it and keep their fingers crossed for a reprint. It’s worth mentioning that this game contains choking hazards galore, so be careful to keep the bits safely out of the reach of very young children.
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22. Board Game: Chuck-It Chicken! [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 4+
BGG Suggested Ages: 3-10
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: moving player tokens, die rolling, symbol matching, action game



Summary
In Chuck-It Chicken, players each control three chickens, one with a football helmet, one with a baseball cap, and one with a safari hat. On a player’s turn, they roll two dice. One die has symbols depicting the three different types of headgear, the other die is similar, but has rooster symbols as well as headgear symbols. For each die that comes up with a specific type of headgear, the player moves their matching chicken one step up the pile of straw. When a rooster is rolled, the player has an opportunity to roll an egg down the steps in an attempt to knock opposing chickens further down the pile. The first player to place a chicken at the top of the pile wins.

D’s Experience
D received this game about a month before his fourth birthday. He was very excited about trying it out as soon as he laid eyes on it. At first he had some trouble matching the symbols on the dice to the appropriate chicken, but after a few plays, he started to get the hang of it. He really enjoys rolling the egg and knocking down the opposing chickens. He requests it fairly frequently, but in his own words, “This game is not as cool as Loopin' Louie.”

My Thoughts
One thing that struck me about D’s behavior while playing this is that he loses very gracefully. I am not sure if this is due to something about the game itself or if he is simply becoming a better sport. As for the game itself, it’s essentially a roll and move, but it manages to keep things from getting too stale by being quite short and offering some choice in the positioning of pieces to help avoid getting hit by the egg. It’s certainly nothing groundbreaking, but it’s pretty good for what it is and offers a change of pace compared to D’s other favorites.
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23. Board Game: UNO [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 6+
BGG Suggested Ages: 6+
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: color matching, wild cards, player interaction



Note: Our Uno set is Batman flavored, so each card number and effect is associated with a specific character from the Batman franchise. This removes the requirement for number recognition during gameplay (for better or worse).

Summary
In Uno, each player starts with a hand of cards. There is a draw deck in the middle of the table and a face-up discard pile. Cards are numbered 0 through 9 and come in four different colors. In addition to the numbered cards, there are wild cards and cards that have some direct effect on the game. Each turn a player must discard a card that matches some feature (color, number, or effect) of the top card in the discard pile. If a player does not have a matching card, they must draw a card from the draw deck. The first player to empty their hand wins.

D’s Experience
I can’t remember where or when we got this game, but D first started playing it at around 3½. We don’t play it all that frequently, but when we do, we normally play several rounds. D picked up the rules to this game pretty quickly and although he knows his numbers, we tend to default to the character depicted (e.g. “You need to play a green card or a Riddler”). I am not sure how much the Batman theme factors into D’s enjoyment, but I don’t think he would be quite as enthusiastic if it was a plain Uno set.

My Thoughts
There is nothing truly outstanding about this game, but it is a nice short card game that is pretty easy to understand. To make the obvious comparison to UNO Moo!, I feel like the card game is the way to go. The only drawback is that managing a set of cards is more difficult for little hands than manipulating plastic animals behind a screen. Aside from that, the card game is better in nearly every way, not least because of the wide variety of character tie-ins available.
 
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24. Board Game: Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Who Shook Hook? [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 4+
BGG Suggested Ages: NA
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: dexterity, moving player tokens, spinner



Summary
Who Shook Hook? is a light dexterity game where players compete to remove treasure from a hammock where Captain Hook is sleeping. Each turn, a player spins and moves the appropriate number of spaces. The space they land on determines either which sort of treasure they must attempt to take or which tool they must use to take it. Once all the treasure is removed, the game is over and the player with the most treasure wins. The game also ends if Hook falls out of the hammock. In that case, the winner is the player with the most treasure other than the one who caused Hook to fall.

D’s Experience
D received this game for his 4th birthday. He seems to really like it and quickly recognized that the tweezer-type tool is most reliable. In fact, he holds the tweezers throughout the majority of the game, only relinquishing them if someone needs them or he is required to use a different tool. He does get a little bit frustrated if he can’t quite get the treasure he has targeted, but the frustration is mostly short-lived. It's worth noting that he isn't a huge fan of the Jake and the Neverland Pirates television series, but he does like pirates in general.

G’s Experience
G started participating in our games of Who Shook Hook? when he was about 2½. He needs a fair amount of coaching to get started each turn, but once he lands on a space and understands what tool he needs to use or what sort of treasure to collect, he does a surprisingly good job of not dumping the hammock. However, he has accidentally knocked Hook out of the hammock several times during other players’ turns either by pointing or jumping up and down near the table.

My Thoughts
This game is surprisingly fun and unpredictable. Some games will be relatively uneventful and all the treasure gets collected. Other games will result in an unexpected flip of the hammock. I like that parents can handicap themselves in inconspicuous ways by choosing less than optimal tools or going for treasure in more precarious positions. The player markers are just shaped cardboard pieces in plastic stands, but all of the pieces involved with the dexterity portion of the game are very nicely produced. I was a little hesitant to give this a 5-star rating, but I can’t really think of another game that fills this niche and is so easy to get a hold of.
 
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25. Board Game: Feed the Kitty [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Graham
United States
Warren
Michigan
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Mfg Suggested Ages: 4+
BGG Suggested Ages: 3-6
My Suggested Ages: 3+
Gaming Elements: die rolling, symbol interpretation



Summary: Feed the Kitty is basically LCR with cute bits. Each player begins the game with set number of mice. Each turn a player rolls two dice and carries out the results. Possible die results are put a mouse into the bowl, pass a mouse to the player on your left, take a mouse from the bowl, or do nothing. Players may only roll dice if they have at least one mouse, but a player who runs out of mice might still get a mouse passed to them later in the game. When only one player has any mice, the game is over and that player wins.

G’s Experience: G received this game for his 2nd birthday. He frequently asks to play it, but he needs a lot of coaching. He definitely enjoys the die rolling and executing the results, but he doesn’t seem to have made the connection between the two. At the end of the game, regardless of who wins, he cheers and claps his hands.

D’s Experience: D doesn’t request this game, but he is normally interested in playing if someone else suggests it. He understands more than G about the link between the dice and the results, but I don’t think he would play properly without a little help.

My Thoughts: Although the bowl is somewhat similar to a disposable plastic dish, the rest of the bits are really nice. The mice are chunky wooden pieces and the dice are on the large side and engraved. The game itself is pretty boring due to the lack of decisions, but it’s tolerable in small doses. We normally only start with three mice each instead of the higher numbers recommended by the rulebook to keep the length of the game reasonable.
 
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