For the last few nights at bedtime, Marc and I have been playing our first board game with Alex: Cranium Cariboo. He loves it and asks for it by name. We love it because it makes teaching him a little easier.
The basic concept is fairly simple. The "board" is a box with 15 small doors that flip open when you use a key. At the beginner's level, each door has one to four pictures in one of four shapes in one of four colors, as well as the word describing what's depicted in the picture. There are six small brightly-colored rubber balls that you put in the box; they roll around and settle under six of the doors. When you pull a card from the set, you'll get a number, letter, color or shape. You select a door that corresponds to the card, open it, and look for a ball. If there's a ball, you slip it into a tunnel on the right side of the board. The sixth ball causes the little treasure chest at the end of the tunnel to open, so whoever finds the sixth ball is the winner.
There are two sets of cards, one for "beginners" and one for "advanced" players. We've been playing with the beginner cards because they have the shapes, and Alex has been having a bit of trouble identifying a triangle.
When we started playing this game, Alex already knew his letters and numbers, so we'll be moving up to the advanced cards as soon as he masters the triangle. We have Alex spell out the words underneath the colors, shapes and numbers, so he practices his lower-case letters and the sound each letter makes while we play. However, I think you could also use the game to teach letters and numbers to a child who doesn't know them yet, it would just be a slow process.
Cariboo is for players age 3 and older. You can buy it for $16.98 from Amazon.com(I think shipping is $6.97). Or you can buy it for $16.95 from Drugstore.com, and shop through Ebates to get 6% cash back (making it $15.93). Drugstore.com also has a couple of free shipping deals. (Disclosure: I'm an Amazon affiliate. And if you sign up for Ebates and make a purchase by August 15 using my referral link, we'll both get $10. You can read my Ebates review for more information about my favorite shopping portal.)
Now that Alex is playing board games, we're looking for more. What game does (or did) your preschooler like to play?