In this paper, the homotopy perturbation method (HPM) is developed to obtain approximate analytical solutions of a fractional Boussinesq equation with initial condition. The fractional derivatives are described in the Caputo sense. Some examples are given and comparisons are made, the comparisons show that the HPM is very effective and convenient and overcomes the difficulty of traditional methods. The numerical results show that the approaches are easy to implement and accurate when applied to space- and time-fractional equations. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.