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Tips for Parents

Finding engaging games to play with toddlers and preschoolers that are not excessively tedious for the adults can be a challenge.  Memory, Candy Land, and Chutes and Ladders are classics and likely in any collection with young kids.  I can vouch that they are in my kids’ collection too! There are many more games to choose from that are engaging for young players.  These games have are appealing, have cute themes, and you will enjoy playing with your toddler and preschooler.

Games for Two-Year Olds

By the age of two children are beginning to develop skills that allow them to begin playing board games designed for them. First they have some beginning fine motor skills. Those are skills involving the hands and fingers, such a building a tower of 4 blocks or scribbling with a crayon (hopefully on paper not your walls!) Besides their motor skills two-year-olds can follow directions with two steps (such as, go in the bathroom and get out your toothbrush). These early skills in following directs means they can begin learning games with just a few steps and rules. Other early skills they have that can be incorporated into board games to reinforce and build success include: sorting shapes/colors, counting up to three, simple puzzles, and early problem solving skills.

At this age, children have a very short stamina for activities and also struggle with sharing. The following games are geared for these youngest games and tap into their early skills as well as support skills that need to be developed.

Panda’s Picnic

Panda’s Picnic in the Park is a matching game for players age two and up. The game comes in a picnic basket and players take turns pulling items out of the basket and matching them with things on their plate. There are multiple ways to play. Learning skills include: Color and Shape. Pretend play, turn taking, gross and fine motor skills, and vocabulary building. Buy Panda’s Picnic here on Amazon.

My Very First Games: First Orchard

My Very First Games: First Orchard is a cooperative game where players are trying to collect all the fruit before the raven reaches the end of the path. The game has large brightly colored wooden fruit and a chunky wooden raven.  The path and orchard are easy to set up and reinforces sorting skills. This is a simplified version of Haba’s Orchard game. Buy My Very First Game: First Orchard here on Amazon.

My Very First Games: Animal Upon Animal Jr.

My Very First Games: Animal Upon Animal Junior combines three animal games in one. With chunky pieces and only about a 10 minute playtime, it is a good fit for the very youngest gamers. Toddlers can develop their fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. These gameplay options also help develop observation skills. The rules allow for one to four players which can help provide experiences playing by the rules of the game. Buy My Very First Games: Animal Upon Animal here on Amazon.

Games for Three-Year Olds

Children at the age of three have gained some more skills. There are more options for board games that tap into their skills as well as reinforce skills that may still be challenging. Their play skills have advanced and they are more likely to join children playing rather than playing along side. Three-year-olds are able to follow two to three step directions.

Language skills typically have developed to the point where they can answer questions that include what, when, why, and where. By the age of 3 they are beginning to be able to name their emotions and can tell you if they are sad, happy, etc. Games geared for this age can help develop skills with opposites, matching, and problem solving. Many games for this age tap into their beginning skills and can foster strengthening those skills.

Bandit’s Memory Mix Up

Bandits Memory Mix Up is a game for two to four players ages three and up which challenges memory. This game has players take the spy glass and placed five garden tiles inside then shake it up. Then one player removes One garden tile secretly. The challenge: remembering the removed tile. The first player to identify the missing tile wins. There are also variants which support solo and large group play. Play reinforces the skills of turn-taking, visual discrimination, and memory. Buy Bandit’s Memory Mix Up here on Amazon.

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse

Smoosh and Seek Treehouse is a cooperative game for 2 to 4 players ages 3 and up. In this game players are working together to find all the different Woodland animals playing hide and seek in the tree before Mr. Prickles climbs the ladder. Players worked together to remember the location of the different seekers when they think they have located a seeker they state who they think it is pick up the disk and smash it into the smash to to reveal who’s hiding. If they successfully find a hide or they place a token to show that seekers has been found. Game play reinforces memory, simple strategy, cooperation and fine-motor skills. Buy Smoosh and Seek Treehouse here on Amazon.

Unicorn Glitterluck

Unicorn Glitterluck is a roll and move game with some added components for ages 3 and up.  Players move their unicorns along the path and collect crystals.  If they land on a crystal image they have to roll a special die to find out how many crystals to take.  The player to reach the sun first ends the game and players count their crystals.  The player with the most crystals wins.  The back of the game board also has a counter track so players can lay out their crystals by the player and visually see who has the most. Buy Unicorn Glitterluck here on Amazon.

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game

The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game is where you are collecting acorns to feed your hungry squirrel.  At the beginning of each turn you spin the spinner and that dictated the color acorn you can take or if another event occurs.  If a player lands on a storm cloud their acorns get blown back onto the tree. A sad squirrel means you lose a turn.  The thieving squirrel picture allows the player to steal one acorn from another player. The first person to fill their log with acorns wins. Buy The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game here on Amazon.

Educational Insights have developed a line of games with a squeezer that also include: Hoppy Floppy Happy Hunt, Frankie’s Food Truck Fiasco Game, Shelby’s Snack Shack Game, and Sophie’s Seashell Scramble.

Happy Bunny

“In this cooperative counting game, players work as a team to help the bunny pick the best carrots from the farmer’s garden. Each turn, one player picks a number of carrots from the garden and sorts them into two piles, one for the bunny and one for the farmer. At the end of the game, everyone helps line up the piles for comparison. If the bunny’s line is longer, the players win! The durable carrot pieces are firmly planted inside the box, so the self-contained game helps little hands develop fine motor skills.” Buy Happy Bunny here on Amazon.

Snug as a Bug in a Rug

Snug as a Bug in a Rug is a cooperative game for player ages 3 and up.  The game is also designed with three levels of play to increase difficulty as players get older. The bugs in the game have multiple features.  They are different colors, have shapes, have different numbers of shapes, and have large or small eyes.

The basic gameplay has the players roll the specialized die to determine the attribute they are looking for in their bug and then spin the spinner to specify the attribute.  For example, if they roll the color attribute on the die, the spinner would tell them to find the blue bug.  Once they find a bug with that attribute it goes under the rug (the game board). If there are no bugs that match that feature a stink bug is placed on the rug.  The game ends when all the bugs are under the run, which means players win, or there are three stink bugs on the rug. Buy Snug as a Bug in a Rug here on Amazon.

Count Your Chickens

Count Your Chickens is a cooperative game where you are trying to get all 40 chicks back to the coop before the hen reaches it.  On each turn, the player spins the spinner that has various pictures that correspond to picture on the path.  The player moves the mother hen to the next space with that picture and counts the number of spaces they travel.  The number of spaces is how many chicks they put in the coop. If the spinner lands on the fox one chick is taken out of the coop and put back in the farmyard. Buy Count Your Chickens! here on Amazon.

Games for Four-Year-Olds

By the age of four children have a lot of new skills and abilities which impacts what they can play for board games. Most children have better fine motor skills and can do more precise stacking. Their hands typically can hold a pencil or a crayon with the traditional grip. An important cognitive development for four-year-olds, is they can understand the difference between fantasy and reality, so games can take on a more fanciful themes. This skill also means children begin to pretend to be someone else (such as a chef) as they play. Another skill that can be key to certain games, is they are beginning to understand time. Helpful skills to develop and reinforce include using their imagination, counting simple thing up to 10+, and problem solving. Playing developmentally appropriate games can help with language development, sharing, and taking turns too.

My First Castle Panic

In My First Castle Panic players work together to defend their castle during this cooperative game. The game is for one to four players ages four and up. This is a much simpler version from the original. My First Castle Panic takes away the reading and instead incorporates the early skills of identifying colors and shapes, simple problem solving, and turn taking. The path to the castle is a single path protected by one wall. To defeat a monster a card must be played matching the location of the monster. If the players can defeat all the monster before the castle is destroyed they win. Buy My First Castle Panic here on Amazon.

Animal Upon Animal

Animal Upon Animal has slightly smaller pieces than the First Game version. This game is for ages 4 and up. Players are asked to roll to determine how many animals they are stacking or they may be asked to add a piece to the base adjacent to the crocodile. The dexterity involved is harder than it looks and can be a challenge even for the adults playing too. Buy Animal Upon Animal here on Amazon.

Spot It! Animals Jr

Spot It! Animals Jr is simple, inexpensive, and portable. Oh! And your Preschooler has a decent shot at beating you in it. This is a matching game with multiple variables of play.  There is one matching animal on every card so you are trying to be the first to find the matching animal.  This is great for even the youngest gamers and helps to develop their observational skills. Buy Spot it! Animals Jr. here on Amazon.

There are multiple variations of Spot It. Some of them are recommended for ages 4+ and some are recommending for 6+. Other Spot it versions that are for ages 4+ include:

  • Spot It: 123 (recommended 3+)
  • Spot It Paw Patrol
  • Spot It! Frozen II
  • Spot It! Pixar
  • Spot It! Disney Princess

Kitty Bitty

“Kitty Bitty is a remake of the beloved Blue Orange classic, Froggy Boogie. This adorable wooden game has little minds use memory and color recognition to help their kitten make it around the yarn balls and back to the basket. Each turn, players need to find the correct mommy cat. Then pick up one of her eyes; if it’s blank they can move on to the next yarn ball. If there’s a kitten printed on the bottom they stay put and it’s the next players turn. The first kitten that makes it around all the yarn balls and back to the basket wins!” Buy Kitty Bitty here on Amazon.

Hoot Owl Hoot

Hoot Owl Hoot! is a cooperative game to bring the owls back to the nest.  The goal is to get all the owls back before the sun comes up.  Each player has three cards dealt in front of them.  Players choose a color card to pla, and draws a card to refill at the end of their turn.  With a color card, the player selects an owl and move it to the next corresponding space of that color. If a player has a sun card they must play it, and the sun moves one space on the tracker. The difficulty can be increased by adding more owls to put back in the nest. Buy Hoot Owl Hoot! here on Amazon.


Zingo is a bingo game with a few twists by Thinkfun.  The game is for players ages four and up and can play two to six players, and game play is quick and a game take 15-20 minutes. Zingo is a great game to have for young players.  Thinkfun has also created  multiple versions of Zingo published by Thinkfun. They include: Zingo 1-2-3Zingo Sight Words, and Zingo Word Builder.  These can be great ways to develop beginning reading and math skills, and for preschool and primary students the Zingo variations are a great fit.  The random nature of the game allow for play with the whole family.  Buy Zingo here on Amazon.

 Build or Boom

Build or BOOM is a block stacking dexterity game designed to be played by even the youngest member of your family. Check out our review here. Your goal is to race your opponent to complete a tower out of uniquely shaped blocks. Then BOOM their tower to keep them from winning. This game is absolutely playable by everyone in the family. It is designed for kids 4 years old and over, but is still fun and playable by the more mature members of the family. The concepts are simple to understand and no reading is required. The plastic pieces are big enough for tiny hands to manipulate and the towers are challenging for all ages. Buy Build or Boom here on Amazon.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Skylanders was responsible for the birth of the toys to life genre. Kids everywhere asked their parents, Santa, or anyone else who might listen to help them get in on the action. There were six games in the series  and dozens of figures.

It can be VERY difficult to tell them apart. This is especially true now that the figures are no longer sold in stores. The only way to find the characters now is to search at rummage sales, on Ebay, or on the Facebook marketplace.

Fear not! We have a quick and easy guide to figuring out how to tell all of those Skylanders apart and to figure out what games in the franchise you can use them in.

If the figures are in their original packaging for some reason, then your job is easy. You can read the box and find out what game it goes with. You can use that figure with all of the Skylander’s games released afterwards.

The Skylanders release timeline is as follows:

  • Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure (2011)
  • Skylanders Giants (2012)
  • Skylanders SWAP Force (2013)
  • Skylanders Trap Team (2014)
  • Skylanders SuperChargers (2015)
  • Skylanders Imaginators (2016)

Unfortunately, most of the Skylanders you find today will be loose. So you’ll need to find another method to identify them.

The good news is that all you have to do is turn the figure over and look at the either the color of the translucent base or its shape! That detail will give you everything you need to know to figure out where it came from.

Here is a handy chart to help you figure out which games a given figure can be used in:

Elemental Type

Another key characteristic of different Skylanders is their elemental type.  You can find that by looking at the symbol on their base.

The different elemental types are:

Special Skylanders – Giants

Skylanders Giants featured a new kind of figure that was between two and three times the size of regular figures. These characters are used in the game to do things you would expect giants to do like pull floating islands on giant chains and break down walls.

Special Skylanders – Swap Force

Skylanders: Swap Force brings in larger characters that disconnect with magnets at the waist. Their legs each have powers that help unlock new areas. The different movement powers associated with the different members of the Swap Force are listed below:


Special Skylanders – Trap Team

Skylanders Trap Team features special characters are also larger than the common Skylanders and have a translucent weapon or headwear.

The Skylanders line for Trap Team included:

  • 18 Trap Masters
  • 18 New Core Skylanders (Series 1)
  • 5 Returning Skylanders (Series 2-4)
  • 16 Minis

One of the other key components to Skylanders Trap Team is the ability to trap boss characters and use them as characters in the game. There are traps for each element including a trap to help capture Kaos (the final boss) himself!

Special Skylanders – Superchargers

Skylanders Superchargers introduced vehicles for the first time. There are three types: Air, Sea, and Land. There are twenty vehicles and twenty Skylanders available in the line for Superchargers.

It is worth mentioning that you only need a land Supercharger to complete the game, but it is a good idea to pick up and Air and Sea vehicle so that you don’t miss any content.

Traps from Trap Team work with the Superchargers game, but you can’t play as the characters. Instead they provide powerful elemental ammunition for Supercharger vehicles.

Activision also worked with Nintendo to create a pair of Skylander characters that are ALSO amiibo. All you need to do to switch between the two is to rotate the base. The Skylander/amiibo characters are Donkey Kong and Bowser. They even come with their own vehicles (Donkey Kong has a barrel themed racer and Bowser has a plane.)

Special Skylanders – Imaginators

Skylanders Imaginators is the last game in the series. The gimmick for this game is that instead of a large line of new Skylanders figures they released creation crystals for each element. You then use those creation crystals in the game to create custom Skylanders using one of 10 different battle classes. You then customize them with items that you can either find in the game or purchase separately in blind packs.

There are also 31 Sensei figures to purchase. Each of them provides a new power move for your custom Imaginators character depending on their class.

The 10 different battle classes are:

  • Bazooker
  • Bowslinger
  • Brawler
  • Knight
  • Ninja
  • Quickshot
  • Sentinel
  • Smasher
  • Sorcerer
  • Swashbuckler

Hopefully, this guide will help you to understand what Skylanders you are getting!

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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Unlike my parents, I grew up with access to a computer. I’m comfortable with technology. Most parents in my generation are more than comfortable with computers, mobile devices, e-readers, smart home devices, etc. However, there is still one area in the field of technology that has many parents stumped. That area of technology is video gaming, and all the technology that surrounds games. Games are getting more complex. Gamers, in general, are starting at a younger age. And, to make matters worse, many of these young gamers have parents who did not play games at all when they were younger. Talk about a perfect storm!

Gaming has grown so rapidly in the last decade or so that there is a huge population of kids that just don’t have the support that they need from their parents. These parents simply lack the experience needed to be of any real help.

These comments are not intended to be a condemnation of non-gamer parents. A lot of parents in my generation (including me) have been playing games for most of our lives. This gives us a strong base of experience and helps make finding solutions to some game puzzles a relatively easy task. But, my experiences are not necessarily the same as the experiences of all other parents. My wife, for example, was not a gamer as a child. She often gets stumped by the same puzzles my children get stuck on. As I tell her, all is not lost. You CAN find the help you need if your child is stuck. The internet is a vast ocean of information and the answer to virtually any question you can imagine is floating somewhere in it. You just need to know where to look.

I’ve heard too many stories where kids get stuck and their parents can’t help them. As a result their game gets “bricked” (rendered completely useless- the game may as well be built into the wall for all the fun it can bring).

My goal is to give parents who are not gamers a set of tools to help find the answers to their children’s questions quickly and effectively. I know that there are a lot of parents with no REAL interest in games. These parents buy games and let their kids play by themselves, without any engagement. Video games are a perfect babysitter, right? Nope. You really do have to be able to help your children while they play in order to prevent frustration from taking over and leeching any possible enjoyment and enrichment from the experience. This guide will help you ENGAGE with your child and show you several places to find the answers you will need.


1. Your Google-Fu Must be strong

This sounds obvious. Google is supposed to be able to help you find anything right? Yes. But, you can’t just type whatever you want into Google and get reliable information.

First, most games are broken down into levels or stages. You can often find the information you need by searching for the title of the game and the name/number of the stage you need help on. RPGs might be a bit more challenging, because things aren’t numbered, but each town, cave, dungeon, or boss fight will have a name associated with it. It can also help if you type the keyword “guide” or “walkthrough” into your search to help make sure you get assistance as opposed to reviews. For example, searching for “pokemon x gym leader guide” will bring up a list of websites that contain info regarding the different gym leaders and their pokemon in Pokemon X and Y.

Second, check your spelling. You might not know a lot about the game your child is playing, but you need to make sure that you know the correct spelling of things in order to have any luck finding them. Google might correct some of your misspellings, but it is possible to get lost and fail to find the information that you need. Ask your kids, or look at the game yourself to find out what you need to search for.

Lastly, there are a number of websites out their that are designed to lure people using information about popular video games and infect their computers with malware. When you are searching for a piece of information make sure to look at the search results and make sure you are going to a legitimate site before you click. (Pro-Tip: If the site appears dedicated to cheats and/or offers you ways to get ahead in games by downloading an unrelated program… its probably not legitimate. This is especially true with mobile apps.)


2. GameFaqs.com

It is possible that GameFaqs is directly responsible for the longevity of my time as a gamer. Every time I recall finding myself frustrated with a puzzle or battle in a game I turned to one of the walkthroughs on the site and was able to overcome the challenge. I cannot recommend this resource enough.

GameFaqs has been around forever and has several walkthroughs for just about every game you can ever imagine. Each walkthrough is written by a community of dedicated gamers and are rated by peers as they are released.

The only real weakness for GameFaqs walkthroughs is that they are written in pure text format. They do not include images, videos, or sound. They are essentially step-by-step instructions that are painstakingly written out. Fortunately, these documents are searchable (just like most text on the web) by hitting Control-F on a PC and Command-F on a Mac. This will bring up a small search box in your browser. Simply type in whatever you are searching for and it will bring you right there. (Be VERY careful with your spelling here though. Google won’t be able to save you here.)


3. IGN Wikis and Walkthroughs

IGN is a website that covers the video game and popular entertainment industry. They have a significant portion of their website dedicated to providing a home for user submitted walkthroughs, guides, and Wiki pages. These pages function very similarly to GameFaqs, with the exception that they will often include images and video. They even include mobile apps like in this walkthrough for Cut the Rope 2. (This walkthrough was actually written by a talented writer from my home state of CT who also happens to share my name, Stephen Haberman. He is currently working on a site dedicated to “Heroes of the Storm, a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game run by Activision Blizzard. Check it out!)


4. YouTube

YouTube has its share of challenges regarding content for children, but there is a massive community of gamers who post videos of the games that they play. You can find walkthroughs of virtually any game you can imagine here. This is an especially useful resource for parents who need help on action games and platforming games. (Also, some people are simply visual learners and having a video to watch will be of more use.)


These are my some of my suggestions. Where do you get your information? Are there any hidden gems on the web that have helped you find solutions to your questions? Sound off in the comments section!



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