What’s in a game? Part 2 – Games for Toddlers

Having been an avid board gamer for the past decade, it has been a dream of mine to inculcate that love for board games in my children. I remember shopping online for suitable board games for 2-year-olds when my son was still a baby.

These are two board games that I have personally tried with my son who is now 2 and a half years old, and why they work for this age group.

From left: Einkaufen(To Market), My First Orchard – Both by Haba Games


Game rules give parents one more way to interact with the components and their children. They also encourage ‘loose parts play’ which allows children to exercise their independence. ‘Loose parts play’ theory is the idea that a collection of small objects can stimulate a child’s creativity as they rearrange, tinker and devise their own game rules with the pieces that they have.


Both games include components that are highly tactile. The components are easy to grasp and hold, which helps with the child’s fine motor development. They are also brightly coloured, which helps to capture their attention.


Another key feature of games for younger ages the replacement of the winner-takes-all mentality of more mature board games with cooperative gameplay. In “My First Orchard”, the crow plays the part of adversary and moves down a track every time players get a bad dice roll. If the crow reaches the end of the track before the players collect all the fruits, it wins and eats everything in the orchard. Parent and child are then invited to solve a problem together and win together against an adversary, fostering cooperation.

Incorporating Everyday Objects

Children relate to everyday objects in games better than the many abstract themes such as space and fantasy that populate the mainstream board game scene. Parents can also utilise these objects to simulate real world scenarios. In ‘To Market’, there is a set way to play the game, but the food tokens and coins allow children to replicate a marketing experience. They can even take turns with their parents to be the shopkeeper and the customer.

How does it Apply to Gamification?

  • Intentionally adding ‘loose parts’ to your game can appeal to a younger crowd, especially if it results in multiple ways to experience your game.
  • Cooperation vs competition as a design choice depending on the target audience.
  • Designing a gamified experience for a younger audience requires us to understand their developmental life stage. The part of the brain which helps toddlers understand abstract concepts is not yet developed, so it becomes easier for them to grasp game rules and concepts using concrete, everyday items.

Happy playing,

Wai Hong