You can teach your preschooler by playing games!
When I first heard of the concept of gameschooling, I honestly thought it sounded crazy.
I can just sit around playing games with my daughter, and she’ll learn? That’s not possible!
But the more I read about gameschooling, and how it can work in homeschooling, I decided to become more purposeful about playing games with Little Miss, even as a preschooler.
And do you know what? We both love it!
Today I want to give you a little glimpse of what gameschooling preschool can look like in your home.
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What is Gameschooling?
So what exactly is gameschooling, you might ask. Gameschooling is using games in addition to, or even, in place of, your homeschool curriculum.
Why Are Games Great Teachers?
When I was a classroom teacher, I loved using games to teach.
It was quite challenging to play many games with a classroom of 25 kids, but with the much smaller teacher-to-student ratio that homeschooling provides, gameschooling often happens in our house.
Kids Naturally Learn Through Play
Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.-Mr. Rogers
Think about it, when your toddler first learned about gravity, did he crack open a textbook and read about it, or did he start dropping things from his high chair? (And every other high place he could find for the next four years.)
Now take that into the school years. What’s more fun, learning about adding and subtracting from a workbook, or by playing a game like Sum Swamp?
At least in our house, Sum Swamp wins every time.
Games are a Less Threatening Way to Learn
Little Miss hates to be wrong. Even more than being wrong, Little Miss hates being told that she’s wrong. She takes it personally.
That’s a tricky concept for young kids that are learning new things all the time, and consequently, being wrong all the time.
Part of learning is being wrong.
But for some reason, when you’re wrong while playing a game, the blow is softened.
Games Don’t Feel Like Work
If you were a child and had the choice between doing sight word flashcards or playing the SpringFlower sight word swat game, which would you choose?
Both options involve sight word practice, but one feels like work, and the other is just play.
Which one do you think will be met with groans? It depends on how you do your flashcards, but I imagine hitting sight words with a fly swatter is way more enticing.
Games Can Be Adjusted
It’s tempting to look at the age range recommended on the box and immediately dismiss a game for your preschooler.
But one of the best parts about gameschooling is that you can adjust the rules or objectives of the game to fit your kids.
Some of the games I’ve listed below are intended for ages older than preschool, but I’ve made some adjustments to the rules.
I’ll mention a few of the adjustments we’ve made in our house down below.
Troubleshooting When Playing Games is Hard
Preschoolers Aren’t Great Losers
Oh, the tears that a preschooler can turn on when they lose a game.
Losing isn’t fun for anyone, but it’s a reality of life. We’ve spent the better part of the last year helping Little Miss cope when she loses games.
We have modeled losing ourselves, we’ve focused more on effort than the final result, and we’ve made sure to practice good sportsmanship after every game.
It’s taken some time, but we’ve made headway in the sore loser department.
If you’re looking for additional ideas for dealing with a child that is a poor sport, check out this article from Verywell Family.
Dealing with Little Siblings
Nothing can ruin a board game quite like a toddler running in and knocking the game board over. Or landing on it. Or taking a game piece and running.
Ask me how I know.
When it comes to playing games when there are younger siblings in the house, I have a couple of recommendations. Play high up where they can’t reach or wait to play when they are napping or occupied.
Games for Preschoolers
Now we’re to the fun part of this post- the games for your preschooler!
You’d be shocked at how many skills can be mastered simply by gameschooling preschool.
Down below, you’ll find games that cover language arts, math, science, social studies, card games, and games that are just fun!
All of the games I mention are games that we have either played (and probably own) ourselves or that have come highly recommended by people I trust.
I’ve also had Little Miss vote on her very favorite game in each category, just for an almost-five-year-old perspective.
Language Arts Games for Preschool
Learning to identify letters, sounds, and ultimately, to read can be pretty intimidating for a young child. But put those skills into a game, and they’re not so scary!
Here are some of our favorite games for beginning readers.
Blah Blah Blah – I love this game because it packs quite a punch for a small box.
With three levels of difficulty, you can tailor your gameplay to your child’s level of phonics knowledge. Don’t forget to have your child sound out the words to get that extra bit of “hidden” learning in!
The game is essentially UNO, but with letters rather than numbers and colors.
Now, I’ll mention, there are A LOT of “wild” cards, but you can easily take several out and still have fun.
The focus of this game is helping kids increase their image and word recognition, matching, and memory.
Plus, pulling the “Zinger” to reveal the game tiles is almost as fun as finding a match!
This game can be played in two different ways depending on your child’s age and ability.
For beginners, the kids match the letter cubes to the letters on each card.
Once your child gets the hang of that, you can cover the letters on the card and work on sounding out words and remembering how to spell them!
SpringFlower Sight Word Game – This is such a fun way to work on sight words! It sure beats drilling them with flashcards!
The SpringFlower game includes 224 sight words from the Dolch sight words list, and they are color-coded by level (pre-primer, primer, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade).
A great way to make this work is to begin with the pre-primer words and then slowly add in new words from the other lists.
You can even play with kids in different grade levels and tell them which colored bugs they’ll be looking to swat!
Because this game is meant for beginning readers and spellers, the pieces are all lowercase letters, multi-colored, and there are even some double pieces with common letter pairings and word families.
Start with CVC (consonant/vowel/consonant) words and build your way up from there!
Kid Pick: SpringFlower Sight Word Game
I’m pretty sure this was her favorite Language Arts game because she gets to hit things with a fly swatter, but that’s what my little kinesthetic learner needs!
Math/Logic Games for Preschool
The preschool years are full of new math skills, and games are the perfect way to ease into that learning. Here are a few of our favorite games for gameschooling preschool math.
Sum Swamp – This has been a favorite in our house. Sum Swamp is one of those games where your child is learning and doesn’t even know it!
We’ve used this game to introduce the plus sign and minus sign and introduce the concepts of addition and subtraction more concretely.
For preschoolers, it’s great to use some kind of counters (we just use unifix cubes) to make the equation as you add or subtract.
Monkey Balance – We don’t own this game, but it’s on my list!
This game is excellent for the beginning math concepts of identifying numbers and matching those numbers to a group of objects.
Once your child masters those concepts, you can use Monkey Balance to begin addition and subtraction.
Q-Bitz Jr. – Q-Bitz Jr. is a beautiful game for spatial reasoning, pattern identification, and attention to detail.
Here’s another one of those games that has a “Junior” version of the grown-up game. While we’ve never played the original Q-Bitz, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we get it!
Little Miss loves matching the cubes to the pattern cards, and I love that she has to pay attention and think about what she’s doing. It’s a win-win in my book!
Blokus – I’m going to be honest here. I have absolutely no idea how to correctly pronounce this game’s name. I’ve always used a short o, like in block, but I’ve heard others say it with a long o, like in bloke. If you have an opinion on this, I’d love to hear it in the comments!
Now, onto the game.
We love Blokus! I wasn’t sure if this one would be too tricky for a preschooler, but Little Miss picked it up quickly and beat me in the first two games. And I was trying.
Blokus is a fun puzzle/spatial game, and you have to think ahead to plan out your moves.
Rush Hour – This is an excellent one-player logic game, although you’ll probably have to sit with your preschooler to play in the beginning.
With four levels of difficulty, Rush Hour will keep everyone in your house, young and old, busy trying to get the little red car out of the traffic jam!
Once we got Little Miss to understand that she couldn’t pick the cars up and move them wherever she wanted, I was surprised at how quickly she picked up the concept of Rush Hour.
Kid Pick: Blokus
When asked which was her favorite game in this category, Little Miss chose Blokus very quickly. Not only does she enjoy the challenge of the game itself, but she also likes creating patterns and pictures with the different colored blocks.
Social Studies/Science Games for Preschool
We haven’t dug too deep into the social studies or science realm of preschool gaming, but there are plenty of them to choose from!
I’m just mentioning a couple here to get you thinking about how you could hit some social studies and science through games.
The Scrambled States of America Game – This probably isn’t your typical preschool game, but it certainly is in our house.
About a year ago, Little Miss went through a phase where she was all about the states. Like, all the time.
One of the resources I came across was the book, The Scrambled States of America. She LOVED it!
And then we found the game, and it was love at first play.
This game is one we have definitely modified to fit a preschooler. I took out several cards that were above her knowledge level, but there were plenty that she could do on her own.
By playing this game, she learned her cardinal directions and has cemented her understanding of where the states all go.
Ticket to Ride: First Journey – This is another game we don’t own…yet. It’s just a matter of time, and I’ve heard fantastic things about it.
The original Ticket to Ride is one of our very favorite games, so I was super excited to hear that they were making a kids’ version!
I’m sure we will have to modify it a little bit to make it a preschool-friendly game, but I imagine it will be an immediate hit around here.
Bird Bingo – I have a bird-loving little girl in my house. We watch birds all day, and she can identify many of them.
This game is the next logical step for her love of all things bird!
Kid Pick: The Scrambled States of America Game
This wasn’t a hard choice for my little U.S. geographer. I’m pretty sure she would play this game every day if I didn’t suggest other things.
Just For Fun Games for Preschool
I would argue that you can learn valuable skills from pretty much any game out there, but some are more educational than others.
Here are a few tried and true, fun preschool games that you probably grew up with, and one you maybe have never heard of.
Guess Who? – This game is excellent for learning to ask relevant questions, narrowing down possibilities and using descriptive words
Candy Land – Oh, Candy Land. Every child loves it. Every parent tolerates it.
Candy Land is how we first began teaching Little Miss to follow game rules and take turns.
It may not be my favorite, but Candy Land is a great first game for preschoolers.
Hi Ho! Cherry-O – The joy of filling your basket and the despair of having to dump it back out. That’s how I remember my childhood and Hi Ho! Cherry-O.
And now I’m passing on those highs and lows to my kids.
Connect Four – The logic and strategy of Connect Four can be pretty tricky for a preschooler, but we all have to start somewhere.
If nothing else, it’s fun to make patterns with the pieces!
Fish Feud – Here’s one you might not have heard of.
Little Miss received this game as a birthday present, and we’ve had a lot of fun with it!
The object of this game is to launch your squishy fish through the big fish’s mouth before your opponent. So basically, fish are flying all over the place.
The biggest lesson in our house from this game (other than some physics) has been how to lose gracefully.
Kid Pick: Candy Land
Because of course, she picked Candy Land!
Card Games for Preschool
What game list would be complete without card games?
Card games can get a little bit tricky with preschool kids because their hands are smaller, and it can be challenging to hold all of the cards. Don’t worry- I’ve got an idea for you down below!
Go Fish! – Here’s another game from my childhood that I’ve enjoyed playing with Little Miss. Although I’m pretty sure we played with a plain deck of cards and hers have actual fish on them.
This is a great game to boost memory and matching skills and discuss the concept of pairs.
Blink – I had never heard of this game until just recently, but it’s something that Dillon and I even enjoy playing!
The concept of this game is matching, and you can start just matching one category: color, shape, or number. By the time you’re playing by the full rules, the goal is to get rid of all of your cards by matching any of the three categories.
It makes more sense when you have the cards in front of you, I promise!
Blink has made Little Miss slow down and pay attention, which is a skill she tends to forget a lot.
Uno – Here’s another matching game, but with wild cards thrown in for good measure.
Uno is one of those timeless games, so I’m not going to go into much detail here.
I will say, with younger kids, you might want to start with very few, or maybe even zero wild cards. Let the kids get the hang of matching numbers and colors before you’re making them draw four more cards.
Kid Pick: Go Fish!
We play Go Fish several times per week at our house, so this wasn’t a shocking choice!
Gamewright Little Hands Playing Card Holder – Remember how I talked about card games being tricky with little hands? This little gem has come to our rescue!
Now Little Miss can hold all of her cards instead of laying them on the table while I pretend that I can’t see them all.
She feels more independent, and it’s more fun for me because I can play without knowing which cards she has.
Photo case to hold card games – We haven’t gotten to the point of needing one of these for card games yet, but I do have one for some Bible manipulatives that we use, and I love it!
A case like this would be great to organize all of your card games in one place instead of having multiple decks all over the house or game closet.
Is Gameschooling Preschool Right for You?
Wow, that was a lot of information! If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with me!
Now that you’ve read about what it means to gameschool preschool and you’ve seen some examples with real games, do you think this is something you’d do with your kids?
Maybe you think this thought is crazy, and that’s ok too.
But if you’re intrigued by the idea of homeschooling with games in the preschool years (and even beyond that), tell me about it in the comment section below.
What game will you start with?
Did I leave out your favorite game? Let me know! I’m always looking for new game recommendations!
P.S. You can also check out my Pinterest board for Gameschooling.