Education has made a drastic shift, and distance learning has become a major instructional format. Parents and caregivers now must facilitating their children’s distance learning. Distance learning has evolved from the first versions in March and April, yet it still presents challenges. Any tools that encourage hands on work and engage children are more valuable than ever.
Below are some games that are easily available, or you may already have on your shelf at home. These games support educational concepts in a way that is more fun and approachable. Games by no means replace the schoolwork and instruction, but they are a nice supplement. Check out your game collection and see what games you have with educational elements too.
Roller Coaster Challenge and Gravity Maze are single player puzzle STEM games. Each game has a series of cards with challenges that get increasingly more difficult. These are all engaging with hands on, that encourage problem solving and flexible thinking. While these are single player families can create opportunities for collaboration. Kids and adults love to build and see their construction succeed.
See the reviews of Gravity Maze here.
Understanding coding is a critical 21st century skill. There are several great board games that teach the skills of coding.
The most well know is Robot Turtles, which hit the world by storm on Kickstarter in 2013. It is simple and super fun. The goal is for kids to place directional cards on a board to get their turtle to a matching colored jewel. It starts out easy, but as your child learns, you can add obstacles to make it more complex. The children get to be the programmers and take control by playing out cards. See our review here.
Two other great coding games are Coder Bunny and Coder Mindz both created by Samaira Mehta as a second and fourth grader respectively. Coder Bunny gives players thirteen variations of ways to play, which incorporate different elements of coding. Coder Bunnyz also has a strong educational benefit. It introduces the basics of coding in a friendly and accessible format. Younger beginning players benefit from coaching and direct instruction on the best way to program the motion of their bunny. Older and more experienced players can create greater challenges with the board layout to refine their strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.
Coder Mindz presents the concepts of coding in an accessible format for a young player, but it is also engaging for older players. Having three modes of play with two levels of difficulty at each level makes the game easy to scale based on the age of the players as well as the experience they have with creating code.
See the review of Coder Bunny here, and Coder Mindz here.
In Blurble, players race to say a word first that starts with the same letter as the picture on the card. There are lots of additional educational options with the cards too. Blurble contains a booklet labeled Educational Exercises. Within it explains other uses of the cards in Blurble as an educational tool for parents. The activities include Object Identification/Vocabulary, Spelling, Storytelling, Identifying Characteristics, Information Retrieval, and Group games. These activities range for ages 2 with object identification to age 11 with storytelling. See the review here.
Spot It and Spot it Jr. are simple, inexpensive, and your child has a decent shot at beating you in it. This is a matching game with several variables of play. There is one matching picture on every card so you are trying to be the first to find the matching picture. This is great for even the youngest gamers and helps to develop their observational skills, and language. There is also an alphabet version that can develop letter identification.
Zingo is a bingo game that incorporates a Zinger, which distributes the tiles. Kids love using the Zinger and it adds a fun component to the game. Thinkfun has also created multiple versions of Zingo. They include: Zingo 1-2-3, Zingo Sight Words, Zingo Time-Telling, and Zingo Word Builder. These can be great ways to develop beginning reading and math skills, and for preschool and primary students the Zingo variations are a great fit.
Cross Curricular Connections
Zeus on the Loose has players building up “Mount Olympus” which is the discard pile, to equal 100, but watch out, by playing a Greek God all kinds of special powers can happen. On their turn “Mount Olympus”, the discard pile and state the new total for the pile. This is a great way to practice mental addition to 100. The Greek gods themselves can also be a launching point for reading about the Greek myths, or other books incorporating Greek Mythology, such as the Rick Riordan books.
Roll For It! is a simple and quick dice and card game. The object of the game is to be the first player to collect 40 points by managing dice and matching the appropriate dice to the cards in play, which is perfect in building subitizing in young children. Subitizing is where you can look at the pips on a dice, or at a small group of objects and instantly know the number without counting. One of the best features of Roll For It! is its simplicity. Players who do not play games often will pick up this game and understand how to play after seeing one turn. See the review here.
Addition and Subtraction
Skyjo is a set collection card game for two to eight players were your goal is to get the least amount of points per around. The recommended age is for eight and up. The game does scale down especially once children can understand the negative cards by relating them to take away. Unknown cards in front of each player and fifteen different cards that can be revealed, gives Skyjo just enough suspense to provide just a bit of tension in the game.
Creating Sets and Probability
Dragonwood is a light set collection game with a fantasy theme and beautiful art. You take on the roll of an adventurer defeating monsters. Players have three different ways to defeat a monster and each attack requires a different type of collection. Players can collect sets of the same card, the same color, or numbers in sequence. These different ways to sort cards helps support flexible thinking probability, and sequencing.
Photosynthesis is a beautiful science themed game that features the tree life cycle and a rotating sun to collect light points. The trees are three dimensional and provide a beautiful visual as the forest “grows”. Photosynthesis plays in rounds. Each round consists of two phases: the Photosynthesis Phase and the Life Cycle Phase. The game ends after the sun makes three complete revolutions around the board. Points are then calculated based on scoring tokens and unused light points. See the review here.
The Evolution Series by North Star Games has multiple games in this line. In the Evolution games you are evolving your creatures with various traits to help their survival. Each animal needs to have enough food or they die out and can go extinct. There is something for everyone in this series. For elementary age students you can start with Evolution: The Beginning. This is a simplified and streamlined version of the game good for ages eight and up. For older children: Evolution, Flight (which is an expansion), Climate, and Oceans.
Ice Cool is a flicking game about penguins in a frozen high school. Players take turns flicking their penguin pawns through the halls. The goal is to get your pawn through open doorways to catch fish and earn points. This is more complicated because each player takes a turn as the hall monitor who’s objective is to catch the other players. Ice Cool is more fun than I expected and the kids love it. You may be wondering how this helps with science, and this is where it helps to think outside the box. All the shots you are making involve Physics!
Ice Cool 2 is the sequel to the original Ice Cool game. If you combine it with the original Ice Cool game you can play up to eight players and set up multiple layouts. These new layout options can also become a learning tool for Physics may lead to finding which setup creates easier shots and which produce more complicated shots.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!
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