Snakes and ladders is a children’s classic board game and will teach a young child:-
Following basic rules
Going up the ladders and down the snakes
At first they will count the dice spots then recognize the patterns for the numbers
Associating a number (count) with moves on the board
Having recognized the number on the dice spots the number of squares is counted off
Enjoying the competition and company
Often you will notice that the younger child will enjoy playing with a parent more than they enjoy playing with someone their own age.
There are also other lessons learnt including, winning, loosing and good old lady luck. One of the great things about snakes and ladders is that anyone who plays has the same chance of winning, as long as they can follow the rules.
The normal progression, from snakes and ladders, in race board games is to a game like Ludo or Sorry where the player has 4 pieces to move around a board. Even though the skill factor is limited the introduction of choice will encourage some strategic thinking in your child.
There are many other game types that will develop strategic thinking but the simple game of snakes and ladders should be played and played with a young child until they are comfortable with number recognition and following the rules.
If you are interested in buying classic race board games, there are many sold on EBay and are relatively inexpensive. These are a few titles I saw recently and all had incredible graphics and were reasonably priced:-
Fluffy tails race board game (1985)
Candy land (another classic for ages 3-6)
Winnie the Pooh board game (1964)
Peter Pan board game (1953)
These are just some and there are hundreds, many have spinners and beautiful graphics.
Also there are some incredible antique board games, going back to the Victorian times, that are available but these are more for collecting than playing.
One of the more popular kids party ideas I use is to create a race board game that your guests can actually walk on. This involves placing newspaper sheets all around your house (you can tape them to the floor, or use card stock for more stability). Your guests, each have their own dice (you have to trust them to keep things moving). The guests then take turns and shout their name when it is their turn and then throw the dice and move. The ‘trail’ can go into the garden and the kids end up all over the house shouting their name and the number they have just thrown. You can also create a kind of maze, with paths but this is more complicated. The sheets usually get ripped, so mats, hoops, or squares made of wrapping tape should be tried but this game is definitely worth the effort at your next kids party.