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5-Year-Old Games for Kids

When you think of games for kids, your favorite childhood board games might come to mind. Popular games such as Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Memory and Go Fish have spanned generations of families. They’re the board games children cut their teeth on before playing more complicated games such as Monopoly and Scrabble. But there are also many fun games that don’t come in a box.


Take a look in any kindergarten classroom, and you’re likely to find kids playing a rousing game of Duck, Duck, Goose or Mother, May I? You might spy a group of 5-year-olds in the housekeeping area playing “family” or in the block corner building an entire town together. Look on the playground, and you’ll see them playing tag or running a relay race. Whatever type of games kids are playing, the main ingredient is always the same: fun.


Five is an age when playing games is a means to more than just having a good time. Games, whether they’re structured board games or unstructured dramatic play, provide an opportunity for academic and social growth. When you play Candy Land with your child, he’s doing more than moving his game piece forward or back on the colorful path. He’s learning how to recognize symbols and colors, practicing hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity, and mastering how to take turns and wait patiently. When your daughter plays tag with her friends, she’s using her gross motor skills to run after them. When kids play-act together, they’re fostering their ability to manipulate their environment and the objects in it. For instance, a swing might become a rocket ship to the moon or a cardboard box might become a ship at sea.


Whether playing a board game or putting on a show, it’s important that the activity promotes social interaction and cooperative play. Dorothy Singer, senior research scientist emeritus for the Department of Psychology at Yale University, says children are born wanting to socialize and fit in with their peers. She adds that “cooperation is a key part of relating to others and forging meaningful relationships.” Interactive games, such as “pet shop” or “grocery store” in which young children pretend to be owners and customers, encourage role playing, verbal communication, organizing and taking turns.

Winning and Losing

When playing games in which there can only be one winner, the concept of playing for fun can be lost on a 5-year-old. In an article titled “The Benefits of Board Games,” author Alvin Rosenfeld says that instilling feelings of mastery and self-confidence is more important at this age than teaching rules of fair play and being a good loser. He believes it is OK to amend the rules of a game to help your child win but that you should also talk about the difference between regular rules and cheating rules.


The National Wildlife Federation reports that the average American child spends less than 10 minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play and seven or more hours in front of the television or computer. Push your 5-year-old out the back door, and chances are he’ll use his imagination to come up with his own game. A stick becomes the sword he must use to slay the dragon and rescue the princess, the family dog. The stone path becomes the bridge dangling over the sea of molten lava. You can join in outdoor fun with your child, too. Go on a nature hike and play wilderness I Spy, find shapes in the clouds, or create a backyard scavenger hunt.

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