10 games to play with your children (3-5 years)

Games are one of children’s favorite things, even more so if they can share the experience with other children or parents. Children who have parents who play with them are usually happier. Through play, children experience, learn, have fun, communicate and grow. Games are also a very effective socialization tool. 

Be prepared, none of the tasks that are described below require you to sit comfortably on the sofa and watch your children play; the goal is to share the joy of playing and have fun together!

This list is structured so that there are games that require the least physical effort are at the end of the list, to help you continue as your energy dwindles … and also to limit your guilt.

(If you are already tired, you should start with number 6!)

1. Make a playlist and dance like nobody’s watching!

For me, there is nothing more fun! You can choose any songs you would like. It can be great to choose one that is well suited to your children! Try choosing a classic (like the “the Bird Dance”) or a song from a cartoon (the current favorite in our house is “I like to move it move it” from the animated film Madagascar). You can also just enjoy unbridled dancing to the music from the past. Often I’ve come home and found my husband and my two daughters dancing to “Let’s Twist Again”!

Okay, dance choreography isn’t really one of the best games to play with children, but dancing is a lot of fun, you have to admit it.

2. Let’s do gymnastics together

If you have not already done so, you should try it out at least once in your life (I assure you it’s a hoot!) I tried it after being misled by those wonderful videos of an athletic and slender mom who effortlessly trained her daughter… For us it was a disaster! But it was perhaps one of the most enjoyable days of my life.

3. Hide and seek

A timeless ally of parents: when you can’t think of another game, hide and seek always works. Indeed, I think that among the games to play with children it is always the most effective.

4. Red Light, Green Light

I admit that explaining it to children is not easy (at least for us it wasn’t!) I needed the collaboration of their father, but in the end, maybe it was more fun to play when we didn’t respect the rules!

5. Seek and ye shall… find!

This game has two versions. The first is that you ask your kids to find objects that share characteristic(s) (“Find as many blue things as you can”, “Find something green and fluffy”, etc). The second is to hide an object in the room. To help your kids find it, tell them if they are “warmer” (closer to the hidden object) or “colder” (further away from it). 

6. I draw, you guess

Here, at this point I guess you’re a little tired. In the words of Forrest Gump, why don’t you sit back, relax for a moment, and take out a pen and paper.

My daughter loves this game! It’s kind of a kids DIY version of Pictionary. You can use a small whiteboard, but sheets of paper are equally fine. You need to draw something (it doesn’t matter if the drawings are not perfect) and your child has to guess what it is. Then it’s their turn!

7. Playdough (timeless)

All you need is playdough, salt dough or, better yet, pastry (which can then make cookies or biscuits). Just smoosh, cut, and touch and make a mess (or a smess, as my little one says!)

8. Interpret a book or a nursery rhyme

I assume by now that you are mildly tired, but not too much. You might then choose a set of books of stories or rhymes and interpret them as if you were the characters in the story. For example: if I were reading Little Red Riding Hood, I could imagine myself as the wolf, the gran or Little Red Riding Hood and tell the story from a different perspective.

An alternative version, that requires even less energy, is to replace the names of the characters with those of your friends or family (I assure you that you will have fun!)

9. Apps for kids

Thank goodness for technology! We interact with it in countless ways during the day (for example, I’m writing this article on my cell phone while I’m in bed … I felt inspired!) In the app store, there are entertaining, educational apps and many games that you can explore with your children. You will find it fun and relaxing and they will be more than happy to share the search expedition with you.

10. Whoever falls asleep first WINS!

When you just can’t take it anymore, this is the only game I can suggest to you! It was taught to my husband by his mother and it was handed down from generation to generation before that. Now, I’m sharing it with you … I’m pretty sure that in this game you will always win!

Whatever gaming activities you choose, don’t forget the rewards! Whether they followed the rules of the game or not, or that they won or not, kids always need bonuses. So be sure to congratulate them warmly!

For the rest, there are no rules. Or rather there is only one: have fun! This implies not being too strict in running the game. It doesn’t matter if the final result is a complete disaster, the only important thing is that it is a pleasant way to spend time together. 

If your choice is for activity number 9, apps for kids, they should be stimulating and fun. Read the funny stories from Smart Tales with your child. Choose a story about an ocean or a forest and help with interactive logic and counting activities. 

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