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"What Are the Best Game Recommendations for 5-Year-Olds?" Mimosa Jones Tunney, Founder of TSH, and other experts weight in on Care.com.



Experts share their favorite entertaining and educational games for 5-year-olds, perfect for learning while having fun.


by Josie Powell of Care.com (FULL ARTICLE HERE) Published on: May 4, 2024


Keeping kids in the 5-year-old set entertained isn’t always easy, but games are a great way to engage kids and encourage all kinds of learning. Games for 5-year-olds don’t have to be on screens — in fact, there are plenty of fun, engaging games that will support their development without involving a phone or tablet at all. 


“Play is integral for child development, and games facilitate play at all ages,” says Dr. Puji Jonnalagadda, a board-certified developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Pediatrix Developmental Medicine of San Antonio. “Games grow imaginations, cognitive skills, teach how to be social with others and can even help with language skills,” she adds. 


“Until 2 to 3 years of age, children are mostly playing by themselves or alongside other kids while they explore toys and the world around them,” explains Jonnalagadda. “After that age, they start to engage in more elaborate and back-and-forth play,” she says, highlighting the importance of finding age-appropriate games as they hit age 5. 


Fun games for many 5-year-olds can be anything from classic board games to exciting new math and learning-based games. Here are 21 fun game recommendations from child development experts, preschool teachers and pediatricians that can be perfect for kids at age 5 (give or take). 

“Games grow imaginations, cognitive skills, teach how to be social with others and can even help with language skills.”— Dr. Puji Jonnalagadda, developmental-behavioral pediatrician

Board games for 5-year-olds 

1. Chutes and Ladders 

Image via Target

“This is a great age to introduce simple board games,” says Jonnalagadda. “These introduce concepts of turn taking, help increase attention span and make counting fun,” she explains. 

Where to buy: Chutes and Ladders ($9, Target) 


2. Candy Land 

This 5-year-old favorite seems simple, but Candy Land can teach important early math skills, like matching colors. Plus, it’s another chance to practice turn-taking, counting and strengthening attention spans. 

Where to buy: Candy Land ($20, Walmart)


3. Sequence for Kids

Recommended by Mimosa Jones Tunney, founder and president of The School House, a private elementary school in New York City, this popular animal-matching game is fun for all animal-loving 5-year-olds. It also teaches matching skills and logical strategizing. 

Where to buy: Sequence For Kids ($22, Amazon) 


4. Story Time Chess 

Think 5-year-olds are too young to play chess? Think again! “Kids can learn the basics of chess and strategy through engaging stories,” says John Bianchette, vice president of education and training at Mathnasium in Los Angeles. He recommends Story Time Chess as an engaging introduction to the game. “Students as young as 4 or 5 can learn the basics of the board and how the pieces move,” he says. 

Where to buy: Story Time Chess ($85 for 3-pack, Amazon) 


Educational games for 5-year-olds 


5. ABC Trinkets 

Learn the ABCs with this adorable game, recommended by Tunney. Kids can place tiny objects in bags, based on the starting letter of the object name, strengthening their phonic skills. 

Where to buy: ABC Trinkets ($30+, LearnandPlayBoutique/Etsy) 


6. Memory Matching Game 

Practice memory and matching with this cute wooden game, recommended by Tunney. “This one is great because it isolates difficulty, meaning that it doesn’t combine different colors with different patterns,” she explains. 

Where to buy: Memory Matching Game ($23, Smiling Tree Toys)


7. Wooden Reading Blocks

Five-year-olds can practice spelling and reading simple words with this game, another recommendation from Tunney. Start by spelling a word for them, helping them as they learn to recognize the word and match it to the correct picture. When they’re ready, kids can start writing words themselves.

Where to buy: Wooden Reading Blocks ($20, Amazon) 


8. Small object matching 

Matching objects or little toys is a great way to introduce an early math concept. “Kids this age love small objects,” says Tunney. You can use any tiny objects you have around the house — as long as you have a pair, you can hide one and have kiddos find the matching object. Animal figurines or erasers work great for this game, too! 


9. Ladybug’s Garden Memory Game 

A garden-themed option for teaching important memory skills, recommended by Tunney.  

Where to buy: Ladybug’s Garden Memory Game ($20, Fat Brain Toys)


10. 52 Essential Life Skills 

This game was designed by Harvard-trained educator and former Montessori preschool director Dr. Jenny Woo in Irvine, California, in order to “help preschoolers learn practical life skills while boosting confidence through playing,” says Woo. The cards can be used to play classic card games like “Go Fish” or as a chore chart, encouraging important life skills, like taking care of others and eating healthy foods. 

Where to buy: 52 Essential Life Skills ($25, Amazon)


11. Sight Word Bingo 

Five-year-olds who are learning to read can practice sight words with a game of word bingo, as recommended by Jonnalagadda. “They can make practicing speech sounds, alphabets and writing skills fun,” says Jonnalagadda. 

Where to buy: Sight Word Bingo  ($15, Target) 


12. The Kid’s  Bingo (with pictures)

Not ready for word bingo? Try picture bingo! Instead of reading practice, picture bingo gives 5-year-olds the chance to work on matching pictures together. 

Where to buy: The Kid’s Bingo ($13, Amazon)


Math games for 5-year-olds 

13. Zingo! 1-2-3

Zingo! 1-2-3, another game recommendation from Bianchette, incorporates number recognition, counting and matching. “Early exposure to math-focused games fosters numeracy skills, promoting fluency in basic arithmetic operations and a love for learning and exploration,” he explains. 

Where to buy: Zingo! 1-2-3 ($24, Think Fun)


14. Coin play 

Playing with real or pretend coins is a great way to teach early math skills. For 5-year-olds who love pretending to shop, set up a mini grocery store and use coins to simulate purchasing food! Or, Bianchette suggests, “combining coins, comparing values, and adding and subtracting money” as a way of incorporating math into playing with coins. 


15. Number-Bots 

Another Bianchette-recommended game, Number-Bots transforms robots into numbers! The set comes with 10 robots and 5 operations symbols, so kids can make their own equations. 

Where to buy: Number-Bots ($17, Lakeshore Learning) 


16. Clock 

Playing games with a toy or plain old analog clock is a great way to help kids grasp time-telling skills, according to Bianchette. Clocks can also be used to prepare kids for transitions and create routines


17. Magnet tiles 

From my experience as a nanny, I’ve found kids love nothing more than magnet tiles. These magnetic tiles come in squares, triangles and rectangles that kids can connect to create their own architectural masterpieces, building an excellent foundation for future geometry education. 

Where to buy: Magnetic Wonder Tiles Master Set ($120, Lakeshore Learning)


Physical games for 5-year-olds 

18. Jenga 

Not only is Jenga a classic, but it’s also great practice with fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, both very important for physical development! 

Where to buy: Jenga ($16, Kohl’s) 


19. Hopscotch 

Helpful tip: Hopscotch is sure to tire out even the most energetic 5-year-old. Plus, they can practice counting along the way. According to Jonnalagadda, physical games like hopscotch “introduce the concept of rules and help with motor skills, coordination and balance.” All you need is a sidewalk and some chalk! 

Where to buy: Washable Sidewalk Chalk ($3, Target) 


20. Knobs and blocks 

For 5-year-olds working on their fine motor skills, Tunney suggests these knobs and blocks games. “Children are sensory-based during this period, so this gives them an introduction to weights and measures,” she says, suggesting that kids use just one tray at a time, taking them out and putting them back in themselves. 

Where to buy: Montessori Knobbed Cylinder Blocks – Set of 4 ($24, CanmomMontessori/Etsy) 


21. Twister 

Get 5-year-olds moving and giggling with another physical game suggested by Jonnalagadda — Twister! This game supports development of physical skills like coordination and balance while also incorporating color-matching practice. 

Where to buy: Twister ($12, Walmart) 


Tips for encouraging game play and participation


Follow the child’s lead 

When introducing games to 5-year-olds, try finding ways to tie games in with things they’re already interested in. Don’t stress about following the rules exactly — kids will sometimes make up their own ways to play. See what piques their interest and let them explore! 

“Games that are self-correcting are important,” says Tunney, highlighting the importance of children’s agency in the games they play. Let them make mistakes and see how they correct them. That’s what learning is anyways! 


Include kids in setup and cleanup  

Learning doesn’t start when gameplay starts — there are plenty of opportunities to learn in the process of choosing, setting up and cleaning up a game. 

“Make sure the setting up and putting away is done by the child,” suggests Tunney. “[Five-year-olds] are in the stage for cleaning up and order,” she says, referencing the learning that can occur through simple observations, like the order of events. Games are an excellent avenue for reinforcing the concepts of first, next and last. 


Remember it’s fun — with benefits

Game-inspired learning goes beyond educational foundations — 5-year-olds can learn so much about life from playing games. 

As Bianchette says, “Socially, play facilitates interaction and communication, allowing children to learn how to navigate relationships, cooperate and develop empathy.” He adds, “Emotionally, play provides a safe space for expression and regulation of feelings, nurturing resilience and self-confidence.”

Playing should be fun, but don’t forget about the important developmental advantages associated with meaningful play opportunities.


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