For your toddler, it is not so much about the rules, or playing till the end (the end seems mighty arbitrary to them).
When you play a structured game with your child, bare in mind that they are only learning about structure. Even though at times it might seem frustrating, because they don’t play the way you would want them too, think of all the things they are learning from the effort (however chaotic it may be). Board games and structured games teach your child so many things: collaboration, counting, vocabulary, rules and structure, colors, just to name a few. The effort is surely worth while.
Don’t be offended or frustrated when they play by the rules one time and ‘cheat’ the next, they’re still seeking and sometimes the thrill of something is so much more fun than the wait. Don’t be discouraged by this, it is only normal behavior.
As long as you play the games with them and don’t fuss too much about rules or order, they’ll learn to love board games, and you may soon find yourself organizing family game nights.
A couple of game suggestions for toddlers:
- Haba - The orchard. Very fun game where you need to pick the fruit from four different trees before the raven comes to steal them. The great thing about this game is that you are working collaboratively against the raven, instead of against each other.
- Haba - Bella Flower. In this game, a small sheep walks along the prairie collecting flowers, which you then need to put along the right image. Very compact game for the littlest of children that will last some time, as you can gradually introduce new things for your little one (start with just the color associations, then add the counting...)
- Nature et Découverte - Baobab and Ladybug. This is a balancing game. If you don’t have a Nature et Découverte, look for a basic balancing game. There’s not a lot of rules to this sort of games, and when you start off, they probably just want to pile up until it falls, but that’s enough of a learning experience as is. Lots of brands propose this kind of game. We really like this one, because it ads a few things to the simplest of balancing games (color, dices) and it’s pretty and made from rubber wood.
- Memory. No specific brand here, as there are many different types, and you can pick them up just about everywhere. This sort of game can even be played a little before the age of two.
- Domino. Of course there are the conventional dominoes with dots, but there are also some with images, specifically designed for kids.
- Smart Games - Castle Logics. This is a game that our entire family loves, there are construction puzzles for every age, and we love doing them alone or together. A great workout for the brain.
If you have no clue what to get for your child, try to find a toy store with an enthusiastic sales person (generally the bigger stores employ students who are just there to make money). I have found two stores where I come by often, that not only carry ecological toys, but that are privately owned by passionate owners. When I am a bit lost, or just want a chat about toys, I ask them what would suit our needs. I often come out of the store with a game I hadn’t heard about before. Scouting for these stores is also a great way to ensure getting the right gifts, as the owner will get to know you and will be able to point givers in the right direction.