A passion like gaming has to be shared. Gaming allows us to explore new worlds and become new characters. We want others to experience the wonder that we have. When those others happen to be our kids it becomes difficult to find quality age appropriate games that do not feel like nails on a chalk board compared to the gaming classics.
Before my top 10 list I want to touch on two things. First a disclaimer, I am not advocating that all kids play games. It is up to each family to decide (obviously!). Secondly, there are several key limitations that young kids have when it comes to playing games.
Control scheme: Tiny hands make it difficult for young kids to get to all the buttons fast enough.
Reading: Can your kid read? Hopefully an adult will help read, but the more reading required in a game the more difficult it likely will be for a non-reader.
Difficulty level: Save your controllers from a tantrum! Do not set up the kid for failure. If a game is too hard for an adult it likely will be for a young one too. Games with “lives” and “game overs” quickly become frustrating.
Co-op: The best fun is when you get to work together with your child. Look for games that you can play at the same time and work together to accomplish something. The bond created doing so will be well worth it!
Quality of game: There is a great deal of trash games that kids will play on ipads and phones. I am excluding virtually all of these because if we are honest we do not want to play these titles. The goal of this article is to be WITH the kid. Some one player games can become accessible through controller configurations or taking turns. Simple rule of thumb, if we can not stand the game then it we likely will not stay WITH them.
Finally, I am thinking of children up to 3rd grade (8 years old). With that lets reveal my 10 games to play with young kids.
10) Nintendogs (DS)
Do not have room for a pet at home? Try a virtual pet. Kids love the cute puppies and their antics. Nintendogs is best when you set up the young kid with a toy to use with the dogs. In the beginning space you can play, pet, and enjoy the little puppies. Beyond the basic play there are a plethora of options like shopping and going for walks. These other options quickly become complicated and confusing for young kids who can not read. It also can be a difficult game to play very long with kids, but works great in short bursts of cute puppy play.
9) Spore (Steam)
Spore is a game about learning the societal stages, without the taxes. This game has many different stages that each become a game in themselves. It begins with a cell stage that allows the player to grow by consuming or not consuming others. Slowly players hunt, create a society (SimCity like), and finally explore space. There is the challenge of death and failure in this game which can be hard for young kids who struggle to learn how to play a game. If they can push through they can slowly grow with the game. The game is suited best for young elementary though as it takes a little more skill.
8) Lego Starwars Original Trilogy (Variable Platforms)
Lego games do a fantastic job of bringing the childhood toy into the digital realm with a whimsical style. The controls, compared to most console games, are simpler. These games are a great way to introduce kids to the Star Wars universe in a gentle way. The story is short, but the levels and overworld provide great deal of exploration to be had. It also can be played co-op so you can treat it as an escort mission. These games are best for young elementary age.
7) Flow (Variable Platforms)
Flow takes the first ameba stage in Spore and turns it into a beautiful work of art. The game begins instantly with no instructions, perfect for non readers. The controls are very limited making it ideal for young ones to learn. There is no death in the game, just the challenge to grow and change as you desire.
6) Minecraft (Variable Platforms)
Are you ready for an addiction? Minecraft is a simple building game that has tons of variety and options as you grow with the game. At the heart of it, Minecraft is like virtual Legos. This game is a fantastic way to build and create with kids. It helps them build engineer skills and learn at the same time. The game is best for early elementary. Stand back and watch their imaginations run wild. Unfortunately, once wild you may never contain them again.
5) Rocket League (Variable Platforms)
Take soccer, mix in some cars and rockets, and you get this incredibly fun game. Online play can be challenging, brutal, and littered with offensive language. With young kids, play offline using practice maps and you have the perfect set up. They can play around with driving a car that has no where to fall off. The ball gives them a target and goal, yet the music and rockets provide tons of excitement. Best of all you can practice your moves and drive around with them while they learn the ropes.
4) Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
Galaxy was teased for adding a “girlfriend mode”. That mode is the perfect way to play Super Mario Galaxy co-op with young kids. Girlfriend mode gives young kids a job in collecting all the star bits. It is a very visual job that allows kids to hunt the screen for every bit and swing wildly doing so. This is a great way to share a classic game with little kids.
3) Mini Metro (Steam)
It starts out as a simple connect the dot game. Slowly the game builds to where there are multiple subway lines, people waiting, and complex problems to solve. Ultimately, this is a fantastic and deceptively complex puzzle game. Puzzle games are often too difficult for young kids to understand. Use “endless” mode and you can pause at any moment and help the young gamer plan out a solution. The controls are simple with only one button necessary. Overall this is an excellent game that can teach problem solving at an early age.
2) PokemonGo (Mobile)
Careful exposing your children to Pokemon, because it may take over your life. If you are willing to brave it, or want to share the nostalgia, then this is a good option. The controls are very simple. Young kids will master the swiping quickly and with minimum reading they will be able to follow along. The main reason though to include this on the list is the ability to go out on walks with your kids. PokemonGo can help build a bond by sharing stories on walks and triumphs of catching each rare Pokemon.
1) Flower (PS3/4)
No game competes with Flower from Thatgamecompany when it comes to games with young kids. Flower’s incredible views are set to a symphony of sounds and colors. You control a dancing flower petal that rides the wind. Where most control set ups eliminate young kids from playing, Flower breaks the mold with using twisting the controller to guide the wind. This works brilliantly as it is the natural inclination of young kids. On top of that, every button does the same thing- speed up the wind. This simple two input control is ideal for young ages just learning to game. Flower ends up being an incredible fun, peaceful, and intuitive game.
These are the top 10 games I have found to play with young kids. If you have others that you would include I would love to hear about it in the comments so I can try them out.