3 Games I’m Enjoying with my 4 (almost 5) year old

I know there is fun to be had in unstructured fun – climbing, running, throwing and catching.  I also know that having some games to help structure fun when you’re too tired or trapped inside can be very useful.  With that in mind, I offer three games that Son1 and I have been enjoying recently.

1. Tantrix


This is a game that I played a while back and then Kath and I found in a shepherd’s hut we stayed in before the boys joined our lives.  It is a quiet, slow game with adults – allowing conversation and thinking while this goes along in the background.  You can also use it to play on your own as a type of solitaire.

Son1 and I have mostly been matching colours and making paths.  It helps to build problem solving, strategy and thinking skills.  It can build patience as well as it is not always straight-forward or possible to find the correct piece for the gap left in the pattern.

Son2 tries to get involved but mostly enjoyed turning the tiles over and bashing them together.

2. Rory’s Story Cubes


Kath and I discovered these when we were first married.  I read about them on a blog and then we found them in a bookshop in Belfast.  Oh, the days of quietly browsing bookshops!

We bought these for our godson but he didn’t really like them.  Son1 though has really enjoyed them.  Each face of the 9 cubes have a picture on.  The idea is to roll a selection of these and tell a story using the pictures – directly or tangentially.  Each picture could be used to mean several things, which is great, and there are also extension cubes for various things like knights and jungle and adventures.

Son1 loves nothing better than having me or Kath sit down with a large piece of paper while he dictates a story for us to write down for him.  Our collection is getting quite large here – maybe he should publish.  It is funny hearing words, phrases, names and situations from books we have read recently be jumbled up and reordered by Son1.  This is a really cool way to get an insight into his inner world.

Son2 mostly likes rolling the dice, collecting them in the box, stacking them and describing the pictures on each side.

3. Jungle Speed

jungle speed

I feel that this game should come with a health warning.  Kath and I have used this on summer camps with 18 year olds and with adult friends – I think I remember a lost tooth and some competitive sulking but maybe I’m exaggerating.

This is a bit like snap for more than two players.  The ‘totem’ sits in the middle, people take turns showing cards and if they match then there is a race to grab the totem.

When we first started using this game with Son1 we just matched the colours and we ignored the other cards but recently we have moved into matching shapes.  The challenge of matching shapes is that there is a lot of cards that are almost the same but not quite.  Son2 joins in when we are matching colours but will often get bored and go for a wander.

This game helps with matching, with reflexes (Son1 is very quick in snatching the totem), co-ordination and friendly competitiveness.  I definitely have to work hard at modelling kindness and fair play in this game as the temptation to win is quite hard to fight.

Over to you …

What games do you recommend?  We are heading off on a month long motorhoming adventure (follow us here) and would love ideas for smaller games that could help with entertaining our boys on wet days when we may be stuck indoors.  We want to travel as light as possible and these three games will probably make the cut.  Maybe you could suggest something better though?

2 thoughts on “3 Games I’m Enjoying with my 4 (almost 5) year old”

  1. Beetle is old fashioned but a nice mixture of reassuringly simple and competitive. A different set of coloured insect parts available for each player and the assembly depends on the role of the die in turn. You can wait for ages for a 1 to start and then the 2 for the all important body. It teaches patience, that a fast beginning doesn’t ensure a fast end, and manual dexterity. Suitable for our 9 and 10 year old grand daughters. The 2 year old builds her own version with randomly coloured body parts independently of the die, or can have the role of rolling the die for the players. We play that you must roll the die in the lid of the box.

Leave a Reply to Mandy Cancel reply