17 Non-Electronic Games for Young Children

Leggi questo post in: Italiano

Are you sick of arguing with your kids over screen time? Provide them with stimulating fun without batteries! These 17 fantastic non-electronic games are perfect for young children with limited or no reading or math skills!

Nearly all parents I know these days complain about trying to limit their kids’ screen time. They’re always on their tablet, or gaming device, or smartphone. If not, they’re using the computer or zoning out in front of a TV. I can’t help thinking how different these kids’ lives are than mine was when I was growing up!

Why do kids need so much technology? (Or adults, for that matter…) Is it really good for them? Doubtful. Some studies have shown that too much screen time is harmful to children. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that perhaps even too much time with any sort of electronic or even electric device can kill off our contact with simple pleasures in life. I already started talking about this last month when I wrote about what you can learn from making your own Halloween costume.

Save this Cucicucicoo post on Pinterest

The holiday season is coming up and Black Friday and Cyber Monday are really just around the corner. What I would like to suggest this year is to consider what gifts you are giving to the children in your life. Do they really have anything to offer them besides the toy world’s equivalent of empty calories? This is why I decided to compile a list of my favorite non-electronic games for young children, specifically those who are still unable to read, so up to about age six.

Most of these are games that I loved as a child and still enjoy playing with my own children. Some are games that I didn’t have when I was young and discovered with my kids. ALL of them are totally manual, in the sense that they have no electric or electronic parts, no batteries, no lights or sounds. They are all much more simple than most of today’s fancy toys and games, but they offer much stimulation to kids in many ways, and many have been loved for generations.

So if you’re not sure what to give a young child this holiday season, consider one of the following Cucicucicoo-approved games!

(Click on the names of the games to find out more about them. Many of the links in this post are affiliate links, but all the games are ones that our family uses and recommends.)

Hi Ho Cherry-o! and Candy Land: The 17 BEST non-electronic games for young children with limited or no reading or math skills. www.cucicucicoo.com

1. Hi Ho! Cherry-O

No reading necessary. Very basic counting.

This is the very first game that my kids played when they were little, I think starting when they were two. Players pick cherries from the trees and replace them when animals eat them or the bucket falls over.

We still have the old-school game that my family had in the 70s, so the current version with various fruits kind of gets on my nerves. However, the rules are still the same and is just as fun, and is also a great way for little kids to practice counting and basic addition and subtraction.


2. Candy Land

No reading or counting necessary.

Kids love travelling in a world made of candy, ice cream and sweets, and moving their pieces from one color to another. Super easy for really little children. I love this 65th anniversary version, which is just like the original which we have as a hand-me down from my aunt.

Cootie and Memory: The 17 BEST non-electronic games for young children with limited or no reading or math skills. www.cucicucicoo.com

3. Memory

No reading or counting necessary.

Everyone loves Memory and there are gazillions of versions of it. My kids have been handed down or given at least five or six memory games, each one different, and they’ve loved each one. As a kid I had Hasbro Memory, and the cards were still in perfect condition for my kids. We had a lot of fun comparing the pictures on my 70s version with my nephews’ newer 2000s version by Hasbro. I kind of love this Dr. Seuss Memory and would probably buy this if I were to give it as a gift, even though I haven’t actually used it, so I can’t vouch for the quality.


4. Cootie

No reading necessary. Very basic counting.

I’ve always loved this game, as do my kids. Roll the die and pick out the corresponding body part. The first player to complete his bug wins!

Unfortunately the current version of the game by Hasbro is made with terrible quality plastic. Some of the pieces’ tabs don’t fit inside the holes properly and many of them have snapped off, meaning they become useless. I recommend the game because it’s fun, though I’d honestly love it if they made a better quality version of it.

Chutes and Ladders and Tombola: The 17 BEST non-electronic games for young children with limited or no reading or math skills. www.cucicucicoo.com

5. Chutes and Ladders

No reading necessary. Very basic counting.

Throw the die and move your way up the board. If you’re lucky, you’ll land on a ladder and can move up quickly. If you’re unlucky, you’ll land on a slide and move back down.

This is another classic that kids really like. And how awesome is this reissue of the 70s version that I had growing up!


6. Tombola

No reading or counting necessary.

This traditional Italian game is very similar to Bingo. There are different versions, including the Neapolitan “Smorfia”, which groups of adults play around the holidays, but not only. It’s up to the parents’ discretion, though, whether or not to let kids play as it includes 90 words and expressions from the Neapolitan dialect with pictures, and they are not exactly child-friendly (unless you want to explain different facets of criminality, sex and death to them).

But there are kid versions of tombola with pictures of animals, such as this one. My kids have this animal Tombola by the Italian toy brand Clementoni with animal names in both English and Italian, and they love it (but you have to order it from Italy!).


7. Hungry Hungry Hippos

No reading or counting necessary.

Ok, so this isn’t exactly an educational game, nor one that develops any particular skill, but it’s pretty fun!


Make unique dominoes from water-smoothed rocks or tiles collected from the beach! www.cucicucicoo.com

8. Dominoes

No reading necessary. Very basic counting.

Dominoes are one of those simple games that are universally enjoyed by kids and adults. I’ve actually made a lot of my own sets of paper dominoes for teaching young English students.

If you’re not into classic dominoes, why not make your own dominoes from smoothed rocks or tiles from the beach?


9. Uno

No reading necessary. Number recognition (no counting).

Everyone loves Uno! This is another game I play frequently with my beginner English students to practice colors and numbers, and also boost their confidence. But I also remember playing it in huges groups on picnic tables when our family went camping on long weekends.

Uno, Crazy Eights and classic playing cards: The 17 BEST non-electronic games for young children with limited or no reading or math skills. www.cucicucicoo.com

10. Crazy 8s

No reading necessary. Number recognition (no counting).

This is similar to Uno, but more simplified and with fewer cards. It’s good for younger kids who, like my son, can get confused with the special Uno cards. We have this very set, but the regular size, not king size. We really like the animals on the cards, so when we put a card down we can say, for example, “Seven green owls.” (And, again, great game for beginner language students because they can say color, number and animal.)


11. Playing cards

No reading necessary. Number recognition (no counting).

You probably already have playing cards in your home, so use them with your kids! I have these Bicycle brand cards which are excellent quality and have been used extensively for years. I also have a couple of double decks with cool images that I got for gifts eons ago.

You won’t want to attempt playing Poker with your young kids, but there are lots of great kid-friendly games that use regular old cards. My son’s favorite game is War (which we play not only in pairs, but also in threes and fours!), but there’s also Crazy Eights, Old Maid, Go Fish and Memory. And seeing as there are gazillions of other great card games to play, you will be able to use your cards for life, so get a good set or two!

Learn how to make homemade pick up sticks (Mikado) from skewers, with a DIY pouch to hold them. Printable playing instructions included! A perfect gift for kids and adults! Tutorial by www.cucicucicoo.com

12. Pick Up Sticks

No reading necessary. Number recognition and counting optional.

This classic game, also known as Mikado, is so simple, but really draws you in. Let the sticks fall everywhere and carefully pick them out one at a time without moving any of the others. Young kids can just focus on pulling the sticks out and older kids can try to get the sticks worth more points and tally up the final score.

Sure, you can buy a set, but why not just make your own Pick Up Sticks?

Guess Who? and Pictureka: The 17 BEST non-electronic games for young children with limited or no reading or math skills. www.cucicucicoo.com

13. Pictureka

Reading by an adult necessary. No counting necessary.

Remember Where’s Waldo? I always loved the silly pictures and goings on in those books, and the same goes for Pictureka. There are a lot of different versions of this game, but I’ve actually only ever used the “Kubes” version. My kids LOVE it. Obviously someone has to read the things written on the cards to find if playing with non-reading children, but little kids love looking at the funny pictures and looking for something that fits the description.


14. Guess Who?

No reading or counting necessary.

Try to guess which person your opponent has chosen by asking yes/no questions before he guesses who you have. This is another game that I use constantly with my English students to practice describing people and forming questions, but it’s also great for kids in their mother-tongue. I’ve used different brands and versions over the years.Battleship, Connect Four, Sorry!: The 17 BEST non-electronic games for young children with limited or no reading or math skills. www.cucicucicoo.com

15. Battleship

Letter and number recognition necessary.

I’m a pacifist, but I have to admit that I’ve always like Battleship and when I play with my kids we always make a ton of sound effects of bombs exploding or splashing in the water, much to my husband’s annoyance! Kids just need to recognize letters and numbers and understand how a grid system works to call the names of each space (for example, C6), an important skill to know for school, but not only.

The one thing I recommend is to get a regular-sized version of the game. We have this travel Grab & Go version, but the pegs are so small that they are very hard to maneuver, both for kids and adults. The larger pegs in the normal version are much easier to handle and pick up.


16. Connect 4

No reading or counting necessary.

Yet another classic. Get four pieces in a row, and you win! Even though there is no reading or counting necessary, I suggest you try playing this game only with slightly older kids, at least age 5 or 6, because this game does take a bit of strategy. It can be hard, and therefore frustrating, for younger children to understand how the pieces fall into place vertically, and how to play offense and defense at the same time.


17. Sorry!

Reading by an adult necessary. Number recognition necessary.

I always loved playing Sorry!, even now as an adult. Move your pieces around the board according to the cards and have fun saying a sarcastic “Soooo-rrrrryyy!” to your opponents when you knock them back to their starting point. Children as young as 5 can understand the game, but they first need to play with older kids or adults who can read and explain the cards. But once they learn the instructions for each number card, they can play just by recognizing the number and remembering what to do (which is what my son does).

This is the current version, but I really love this remake of the original version, which is what my mother has had for decades and what we play at her house. My one suggestion is to avoid the 2013 (and fortunately discontinued) version. I suppose it’s fine but, after knowing and loving the original, it really disappointed us. The different rules and the fire and ice extras bugged us, not to mention the fewer playing pieces. My daughter’s exact words were, “It’s boring. With all those extra things you finish the game in like three seconds and that’s not fun.” Enough said. Stick with the original!


There’s an 18th game that I wanted so badly to include, however it hasn’t been made in decades and can only be found used, and rarely at that. This is another awesome no reading game called Silly Sandwich. Roll the die to move around the board and create the craziest sandwiches from the most bizarre ingredients! (You can see some pictures of my daughter playing it here.) This game is really very funny, and kids get so many laughs out of their concoctions. But alas, I looked all over and just can’t find it anywhere.

Dobble: The 17 BEST non-electronic games for young children with limited or no reading or math skills. www.cucicucicoo.com

Update: One of my readers suggested I try the game Dobble. It looked interesting, so I got it for my son. We’ve had so much fun playing it! The mathematical concept behind the game, that there can be no more than one common image between any two given cards, is fascinating to me. The game seems like it would be way too easy, to find what that one common picture is, but I swear that it is sometimes way harder than it looks and sometimes we sit there forever trying to figure out which one it is, even though each card has only eight pictures!

Save this Cucicucicoo post on Pinterest

So there we have the 17 (or 18!) games for young children that require limited or no reading or number knowledge, but still develop important skills. But even more importantly, they teach kids to have fun without depending on technology and to appreciate small pleasures!

Do you have any other games to add to this list? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments below!

Are you sick of arguing with your kids over screen time? Provide them with stimulating fun without batteries! These 17 fantastic non-electronic games are perfect for young children with limited or no reading or math skills!

6 thoughts on “17 Non-Electronic Games for Young Children”

Leave a Comment