The Count & Cook game is a board game with a playing board, a bunch of little discs with different foods on them, a die, and a recipe book. You put the food discs on the board in any order you want to be the path the tokens follow. Then you open the recipe book to a recipe that takes four different foods. Roll the die, and move the tokens. If you land on one in the recipe, take it off the board and put it on the recipe. The person who adds the last ingredient to the recipe wins that round.
There were a couple of things I liked about the game. One was that the kids arrange the path themselves and can switch around the order the food discs are in, so there’s none of the board-memorizing and cheating that can happen in games with static paths. Also, even though there’s a winner, the game was mostly cooperative and not competitive.
The game is rated for 3+, and I think the ideal age for the game would be 3-5-year-olds.My kids are 2.5 and almost 6. It was a little too simple for my older son, and a little too tough for my younger one. But still, they played happily together (with several reminders from me to "help your brother move his guy") for about 15 minutes. The last 5 minutes of that time they completely abandoned the rules and just moved their guys around the board pretending to eat the food discs, but this game seems to encourage that kind of exploration.
They asked to play the game again a few days later.
The Seek & Find puzzle is a puzzle with 24 pieces with a scene on it (we had the zoo one) and a picture of the puzzle, a dry-erase pen, and two little notebooks with elements from the puzzle picture. You put together the puzzle, then flip the notebook and take turns looking for the things in the puzzle that the notebook tells you to. When you find them on the puzzle, you circle them on the puzzle with the dry-erase marker.
They really liked this one. My older one put the puzzle together easily, and then he helped the little one find the different elements. They had fun doing the illicit drawing on a puzzle, and the picture on the puzzle was detailed and silly enough that they kept finding new elements and laughing at them. My only complaint about this game is that I got a paper cut on my knuckle while opening the box that still stings.
I think that these games are good alternatives to Candyland and Go Fish and the other beginning-level games, and are simultaneously simple enough and layered enough to draw 3-year-olds and 6-year-olds in at the same time. My 2.5-year-old was mostly fine with them with his brother’s cooperation, but you couldn’t have a couple of kids that young playing at the same time without many adult referees.