Why board and card games are an important part of a pre-schooler’s playtime

July 25, 2019 Published by

The benefits of board and card games 

Board and card games are a brilliant way for children to have fun with their family, whilst also developing the social skills that are really key during the early years and for becoming ‘school-ready’.

As their understanding of sharing is still improving, children of this age can have trouble handling their emotions and behaviour when playing with their peers. So games that encourage children to take turns - with a relatively fast pace to hold their attention while waiting their turn - can help to develop these important social skills.

Games can also be an excellent way to introduce children to some basic concepts before they reach schools, such as numbers and letters. Mastering new skills like this can help children tackle new topics with confidence later on.

Two-thirds of pre-schoolers don’t play enough board or card games

Despite all of these advantages, our recent survey of 840 parents (in partnership with the Entertainer, Genius of Play, and Theodora Children’s Charity) has shown that toddlers and pre-schoolers aren’t playing enough board or card games.

The research, which compared children’s reported play habits with the balance recommended by Dr Amanda Gummer’s Balanced Play Pyramid , found that almost two thirds (60%) of children aged one to four don’t spend enough time playing games.

Each type of play has different benefits for your child’s development.

For example, imaginative play is great for creativity, and puzzles help to develop logical thinking skills. Because of this, children benefit from getting a good balance of all the different types of play, as shown in the Play Pyramid.

Board and card games are a key part of the play pyramid, along with other types of structured social play, and creative play.

This means that for well-rounded development, children will ideally spend more time doing these activities than playing alone, watching TV, or using apps.

So how do you get more games into your child’s playtime?

A few carefully chosen, high-quality games that can be enjoyed and cherished throughout their early years are ideal for this.

How to choose good board and card games for your pre-schooler

Whether you’re struggling to find the time to play games with your little one, or can’t find something to grab their attention, here are three key things to look for when choosing games for toddlers and pre-schoolers:

1. The game can be made easier or harder.

Although most packaging has an age recommendation on it, children’s abilities - and attention spans! - always vary so much, so this may not always be accurate.

The best games for this age group can, therefore, be simplified when your child is starting out and made more challenging as they become more confident.

A great example of this is Jungle Heads & Tails from Orchard Toys

Jungle Heads & Tails can also be made a little more challenging, by turning the cards over and trying to remember where the matching pictures are hidden. Our testers really enjoyed testing their memory skills and this helped to extend their play further.

2. The game can be played alone or with others.

Some young children are receptive to a bit of friendly competition, others…not so much! This needn’t put you off playing games with your little one though, because a gentle introduction to winning and losing respectfully will come in useful later on when they need to solve disputes with their peers in school.

When buying a first board or card game, something that can be played alone or cooperatively is a great way for your child to learn about friendly competition gradually. Our younger testers loved Smelly Wellies from Orchard Toys because it has really simple gameplay. They very quickly learned how to match the pairs of patterned wellies together, so it was a game they could play alone without needing lots of help.

For a harder challenge, the wellies can be spread out face-down, so children have to remember when their matching boot might be. After choosing their favourite monsters, they can also compete with the other players to see who can dress their monster first!

Older children may enjoy competing against you, and this is the perfect opportunity to show them that failure is not something to be feared. If you lose to them, by modelling a positive reaction, they can learn how to win and lose respectfully in the future.

3. The game can be used to start a discussion.

One of the best ways to engage children in an activity is to get them talking about it and relating it to things in their day-to-day life.

This discussion can help keep your child focused on the activity for longer, improving their concentration skills. It’s also wonderful for developing communication and language skills too.

We found that Shopping List from Orchard Toys , which is based around a familiar trip to the supermarket, very quickly sparked a conversation amongst our child testers about food shopping and healthy eating. To extend their vocabulary further there’s also two expansion packs, ‘Fruit & Veg’ (with the more unusual items, like asparagus and kiwi), and ‘Clothes’.

Some other popular themes for this age group include animals and vehicles - but anything your child is enthusiastic about can be a great conversation starter.


Board and card games are an excellent way to develop those emerging social skills that toddlers and pre-schoolers will need for school and beyond. By finding games that interest your child, you can help them get that healthy balance between games and all of the other types of play in the Balanced Play Pyramid, encouraging well-rounded development.

Sponsored Article: This article may contain links to internal/external content related to our sponsor. All opinions are our own and all products mentioned have been approved by Fundamentally Children through strict, independent testing processes.

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This post was written by Anna Taylor

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