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3 Ways to Play Uno with a Toddler

I absolutely love board games! I grew up playing them and always had this fantasy of having family game nights with lots of laughter and excitement. (Note the word fantasy, we are not there yet!)
My three year old just started to understand the concept of sharing (not doing it, understanding it), can’t understand rules, and has impulse control issues when it comes to not touching EVERYTHING in front of her. All these these things are far from ideal for playing games.
So teaching her to sit and play a board game was a tricky task, but we did it. And here’s how!

I really wanted her to learn board games, because it’s a way to build skills like:

1) Sharing/turn taking
2) Patience/waiting
3) Cognitive planning
So I evaluated the skills my three year old DID have:
1) Color recognition
2) Number recognition
3) Counting
We started with learning about TURN TAKING with variations of Uno. (It doesn’t have to be Uno, it can be a deck of cards too)

Game 1: Go Fish, Uno version!

All you need is some (not even the whole deck) Uno cards, and a container of some sort. I used an old peanuts container, a tupperware will work too!
Skills built:
— Turn taking
— NOT touching the extra cards and game pieces on the table
— Color and number recognition
Why I like this game: It is easy for the kids, yet challenging because it has  number and color recognition goes. It is super short so it doesn’t test their short attention span! There is no winner or loser either, making it a happy ending for everyone!
Game Set Up:
1) Deal out the cards. To keep it simple, start with 10 each.
2) Put the container in the middle.
Game Play:
1) Your turn first, pick up a card and read the card number and color out loud. Example: “I’ve got a red 2” and put it in the container.
2) Have your child do the same. Remember to always announce: my turn. It’ll hep work on pronouns.
3) Repeat till all the cards are gone. Keep your child engaged during your turn by asking for help in figuring out what card you have!
Tip: If it seems that you child can’t help flip over ALL the cards, only put out 2 cards at a time and slowly move up in the number of cards

Game 2: Uno: Matching

 Only things you need here is a deck of Uno cards (again doesn’t have to be the whole deck!)
Skills worked on:
— Turn taking
— NOT touching the extra cards and game pieces on the table (a step up from the go fish version!)
— Color recognition
— Understanding the difference between Yes and No
Why I like this game: I personally like Go fish more, but this definetly helped build her impulse control. Seeing more cards and pieces on the table and not touching them was challenging for her.
Game Set up
1) Put a card of each color in the center. (Once your kiddo gets good at 4 cards on the table, you could even move up to placing 0-9 numbers instead of colors!)
2) Deal each player 10 cards (Tip: Deal the cards fanned, makes it easier for little fingers to only pick up a single card at a time)
Game Play
1) Similar to Go fish, you should take a turn first. Flip over your card
2) Match it to the right color
3) You can build in yes or no concept by choosing the wrong card and asking your child “Does it go here?”
4) Let your child have a turn.

Game 3: Uno Memory Matching

You can use a deck of Uno cards, or any memory matching cards you may have. You can also print out images (I like to steer clear of the characters because it’s too tempting for my daughter to have a picture of Elsa in front of her and not pick it up).
Skills worked on:
— Turn taking
— NOT touching the extra cards and game pieces on the table
— Color and number recognition
— Yes and no terms
— Same and different
— Memory and cognitive planning
Why I like this game: I personally like to use other cards, even if its just print out of shapes simply because Uno takes a while to set up for this! But the complexity of the game is perfect to challenge little minds.
Game Set up
1) Sort the deck so you have a matching pair of color and number. (I’d limit it to 2 colors and 3 numbers, for a set of 6 pairs)
2) Lay them out and face down on the table in a grid
Game Play
1) Similar to Go Fish, you should take a turn first. Flip two cards over
2) Ask your child is this a match?
3) If it isn’t, flip them back over. If it is, go ahead and move it to the side.
4) Let your child have a turn.
5) At the start, I’d make one pile for both of you so there is no winner and loser. I’d also rig the game a little so they get more matches. Getting positive outcomes will encourage them to try again and not give up!
I hope these games help start to get the ball rolling in your house for Game Night! Check out Board Games with a Toddler when you are ready!

Alternative to Uno for turn taking

If Uno is not working for your kid (they might not like colors/numbers or even have good recognition of them), a good place to start learning turn taking is through a puzzle. Take turns putting a piece in!
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