Picture lotto is a terrific game for three-year-olds. After your child has mastered simple matching skills, invent some variations. Divide the cards evenly and take turns being the "caller." The caller turns one card over and announces what card she has: "I have a bird. Does anyone have a bird on their board?" This allows your preschooler to practice her new vocabulary.
Three is the perfect age to begin playing board games and card games with your child—especially if you like these kinds of games, too. Board and card games help teach your child about aspiration, success, and disappointment. She'll gain experience with both winning and losing—and learn that no matter what the result, next time she tries she'll begin again with a clean slate. Games also give you the opportunity to teach your preschooler about rules, about integrity and honesty, and about luck. Games also can help increase your child's ability to focus her attention. Playing board or card games also is a very social occasion. Game playing enables and encourages your preschooler to practice important social skills that she will need to play well with other children. Nearly all games, for example, involve taking turns, sharing dice or a spinner, waiting for your turn, patience, and learning how to be a good sport. (When you play games with your child, try to emphasize the fun of game as much as possible, rather than focusing on "who's winning.")
Besides helping to acquaint your child with "life lessons" and to practice valuable social skills, most good children's games also afford preschoolers the opportunity to sharpen certain academic skills. Most board games for preschoolers involve either counting or color matching, for instance. Similarly, most card games for preschoolers involve matching suits or numbers (Concentration, Go Fish, Old Maid, and Crazy Eights) or comparing numbers (War). Games like picture lotto can help expand your preschooler's vocabulary and give her practice at analyzing and matching pictures.
In introducing board and card games to your preschooler, choose the simplest ones first. If your child has to master a complicated set of rules before even playing the game, she—or you—will soon lose patience with it. Games that involve moving pieces around a board in a race to the finish, spinning a spinner or throwing dice, and counting up as high as six provide the perfect introduction to board games. Some classics include:
|Candyland||Chutes and Ladders|
Similarly, when you deal the cards to your child, start with simple games that involve matching pictures rather than skipping straight to Contract Bridge or even Hearts.