Favorite Games for Gameschooling: The Preschool Games

I’m starting a mini-series here on the blog featuring our family’s favorite games, because we really, really love games around here. I was going to do this in one big post, but quickly realized that we just have too many games! So instead, I’ll be sorting the games into (rough) categories and sharing them here over the next couple of weeks.

None of my kids are preschoolers anymore, but I still keep several of our favorites around because I just can’t bear to get rid of them. Also, they do still see play from time to time!

Snail’s Pace Race

So, without further ado, here are our family’s favorite beginner games — the ones that will have a place in our game closet even after they are outgrown (unless they are too worn out to save).  Each one has a special place in my heart and our memories!

Preschool Favorites

 




To be continued, with games that are great for math, logic, and critical thinking skills up next.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Games We Play: Snail’s Pace Race

 

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I came up with the (perhaps preposterous) idea the other day to challenge the whole family to play every game in the game closet at least once before the end of winter (okay, maybe spring).  As soon as I came up with this idea, I realized it was probably virtually impossible, so I amended the challenge to at least two people play each game. Of course, all six of us playing every game would be awesome, but everyone has different schedules and many folks around here have very definite opinions about what games they will and will not play. So the object is just for someone to play the game.

We have quite the game closet, so this will be quite the challenge.  I am thinking this will also be a great opportunity to clean out the game closet ~ if everyone flat out refuses to play a game, I’ll know that game isn’t popular (I’m looking at you Monopoly!). We have quite a few games in there I think the kids have probably outgrown and some that some of them have never really tried, so I think this will be a good opportunity to review the collection.  I plan to post about most games here on the blog ~ not a long post, just a quick little review and some thoughts on each game. For the record, my kids are ages 17, 15, 12, and 9.

 

Okay, on to our first game…Snail’s Pace Race!

 


We have had this game in our closet for as long as I can remember. It was one of the first games that any of the kids learned to play. The recommended ages are 3-7, so obviously all of mine are above that age! This isn’t a game that comes out much anymore, but it was on the top shelf of the closet which was where we had decided to start our challenge, so we gave it a whirl. Snail’s Pace Race is great for beginning gamers, because it isn’t very competitive. First, everyone guesses which snail they think will come in first and which snail they think will come in last. Hint: write down everyone’s guesses so you don’t forget! As a variation,  we have also had everyone guess the order that all the snails will come in (1-red, 2-pink, 3-orange, etc).

To play, everyone takes turns rolling the colored dice and moving the snails accordingly. A pink and red roll means the pink snail and the red snail both get to advance one space. The snail who gets to its matching leaf first is the winner! If anyone predicted that snail would win, they also win. Play continues until the last snail is home and whoever guessed the correct last snail is also a winner.  What is nice here is that multiple people can win. Plus, it’s really the snails playing, not the people, so if you have some kiddos that tend to get a bit upset if they lose (we of course know nothing about that here, ahem) this is a great game.

How long it takes: Snail’s Pace Race takes around ten minutes to play.  To extend it, we created a house rule that once all the snails get to their leaf they have to return to their home space, having another race on the way.

Who can play: Ages 3+ and up to 6 players. Kids can even play by themselves. There is no reading required. Like I said earlier, my bunch is definitely on the older side for this game but they still had fun with it when I broke it out. I will say there was more of a “horse-race” atmosphere going on than I remember from when they were preschoolers, though!  I turned down several suggestions that we bet money on the snails.

What it teaches: This is a great game to introduce the concept of playing a game and taking turns in a low-key way. For the really littles, it also teaches color matching and basic counting, because they’ll want to know how many more spaces “their” snail needs to go.

What I love about it: The wooden snail pieces are so cute, colorful, and sturdy! This is a game I will be holding onto for future generations; it has held up remarkably well after years of use.

Dino Math Tracks Game: a review

Rose and I just started a new math program – we are trying out Miquon. So far it is going great, but I’m going to give it a few weeks before forming any opinion on it. After we finished Math Mammoth 1a, and while we waited for Miquon to arrive, we spent a lot of time playing Dino Math Tracks. I got this game way back when Grace was a kindergartner and it is just as popular with Rose as it was with her older siblings. This game is designed to teach place value skills and it does an awesome job of it. Before we started playing, Rose really did not understand place value at all and she had a hard time reading numbers over two digits. One of the reasons I did not like Math Mammoth for her is that it just wasn’t giving her a good sense of number value; she found any discussion of place value super confusing. After we played Dino Math Tracks twice, she could easily read a 4-digit number and she understood what each number really stood for. Pretty impressive stuff!
 
As you can see, the Dino Math Tracks board is brightly colored and covered in…dino tracks!  Each player (there can be up to four) chooses a dino herd to play with. There are three different dino herds, plus a herd of woolly mammoth. Each of the four herd members is a different color to match the track they will follow on the board.  Your 1000th place dino is blue and follows the blue tracks, your 100th place dino is purple and follows the purple tracks, and so forth. The object is to get all your dinos to the finish line first.
 

On your turn, you roll four dice and line them up on the little place value chart in front of you. The dice can be arranged in any order you wish – their order determines how many each dino will move. The 1000th place dino would move six on this turn! I always ask Rose to read the number she has made out loud.

I really love the dino playing pieces. They are so cute and colorful! They are made of a kind of rubbery material and have a nice feel to them. 

This is a game of strategy too, since you choose the 4-digit number to make.  I had to help Rose with her strategy the first couple of games, showing her how she could put a bigger number in the 10’s spot if that dino was lagging behind, but she caught on quickly.  When two dinos end up on the same space they have a showdown, which involves rolling a special green die to see who gets the higher number. A little extra math practice!

There are several options given to make the game easier or harder. To make it easier, you can play with just the ones or the ones and the tens.  You can up the challenge by adding in the math problem cards, which ask you to solve addition and subtraction problems.  We haven’t tried those yet, but I am sure we will when she is ready.

The only downside I have found to this game is that the board is pretty compact, so if more than two people play it gets crowded. But that doesn’t stop her older brothers from asking to join in. We are still playing Sum Swamp, but Dino Math Tracks is definitely the new favorite math game around here.

Sum Swamp: A Fun Math Game!

I recently ordered Sum Swamp for Rose. She is just starting out with addition and subtraction and I thought something hands-on would help her with the concepts she is learning in her math book. She really loves games and I have not been that good at setting aside math game time for her.  I will admit that I am not always eager to play a board game, but this one is short, sweet, and really helps cement those addition and subtraction facts. She loves it!

Sum Swamp comes with a game board, two number dice, an “operator symbol” die, and four swamp animals.

On your turn you roll all three dice. Then you put them in order- bigger number first, operator die next, then the smaller number-and figure out your answer.  On this turn you get to move six!

The game pieces are so much fun….you can choose a frog, snake, snail, or turtle….

There are a few little twists that add interest to the game. Several squares are marked “odd” or “even”. If you land on “even” you roll one die, then advance that number if the number you rolled was even. There is also an “endless loop” that you need to keep traveling around until you land on the “exit” by exact count. And if you land on just the right square, you get to take a shortcut over the alligator’s back or a hollow log.
The whole game takes about 10-15 minutes to play, so it is easy to squeeze in a game here and there.  This is a great game for an older sibling to play with a younger one if they finish their work early….which is one way we have been using it around here. The only downside I see to this game is that it’s useful life span is fairly limited to 4-6 year olds. But it is pretty inexpensive, so that doesn’t bother me.
We give it two thumbs up!

Professor Noggin Games: A Little Review

Last week I posted about how our family is going to try to do “Fun Fridays” instead of doing our usual schoolwork on Fridays. I had a plan all laid out. Naturally, we didn’t follow it;).

We watched an episode of The Story of Us as planned, but instead of playing Moneywise Kids, we played Professor Noggin’s Creatures of Myth & Legend.  And then, since it was cloudy and cool and we were feeling lazy, we watched another episode of The Story of Us instead of doing nature study. We had a lot of fun though, so I consider it a first Fun Friday success story!

But back to Professor Noggin, which was the whole point of this post. We love, love, love these games in our household. They really are the perfect little add-on, fun homeschool activity. They are cheap (about $8 per game from Rainbow Resource Center), good for a variety of ages, fairly quick to play, and very educational!

There are several Professor Noggin titles, so it is easy to pick one that matches up with your current study (my favorite way to use them). We currently own Creatures of Myth & Legend, Ancient Civilizations, Dinosaurs, Earth Science, Outer Space, and Wildlife Safari. I am planning to get the kids each a new one for Christmas.

These games are super simple to play. You get a die and a deck of cards with a colorful illustration on one side and six questions on the back. There are three “easy” questions and three “hard” questions. Younger kids can play with the easy questions, while older kids and adults try the harder ones. This levels the playing field. When we play with Rose (5), I often ask the older kids to make her question multiple choice. It really makes them think…. and it gives her a better chance at a correct answer.

To play, you just roll the die and read the corresponding question to the person next to you.  If they get it right, they get the card. If not, the card goes back in the pile. Play proceeds around the table until all the cards are taken. Whoever has the most cards at the end is the winner.

Another really awesome thing about these games is that you can play them anywhere- around the table, on the floor, while sitting on the couch, etc.. They are great for travel too, because they take up so little room in a suitcase. 

Yeah, I really love these games, even though I almost never win. 

Till Next Time!