Gameschooling Makes Learning Fun
In the search for screen-free activities, your family may have already upped your game play. If not, start incorporating gameschooling as part of your home curriculum. In the homeschooling community, gameschooling refers to using board and card games in an intentional way to teach educational concepts. Games are fun, allow for family bonding time and can complement what your kids are learning through virtual and in-person schooling.
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Here are our tips for incorporating games into your curriculum:
- To start, use the games you already have on hand before investing in new ones. Once you know what your kids enjoy, you can purchase a few new games.
- Games can be expensive. Check out BoardGameGeek for reviews to narrow down what you should buy. Also, look at eBay or used games on Amazon – you don’t have to have the newest edition to have fun.
- Swap games with friends or family members to try a game before you buy it.
- Pick a time where everyone is at their sharpest – maybe a game night doesn’t work, but after breakfast is perfect.
- Supplementing educational concepts is the point of the exercise, but it’s about fun, too! After playing educational games, let the kids choose one game they want to play, even if it’s more about excitement than math.
Here are some of our favorite games for learning:
Such an easy way for kids to learn chess. Especially designed for younger kids using fun tales, mini-games and quirky characters to introduce each chess piece. The rules of chess are quickly learned as kids have fun. Bonus: the grown-ups will also learn the game as they play along with the kids. Ages 3 and older.
Stay at home, but travel all over the country with this educational game focused on geography and history. Experience the U.S. National Parks and the natural wonders of America. Learn facts about each state park, such as what kind of plants and animals you’ll find there and what state the park is in. Ages 10 and older.
This 2019 game challenges you to build your own ecological network, as you learn more about biology through play. Choose, pass and arrange 11 different card types to pair organisms and environments together. You’ll earn points by aligning animals with habitats where they’ll flourish most to complete the circle of life. Ages 14 and older.
- Go Fish for Impressionist Artists: Learn about eight impressionist artists while playing this memory and matching game. Try Renaissance, Modern and Van Gogh & Friends packs as well. Ages 3-15.
- Createüres Mythical Creatures Drawing Game: Imagine and draw the five reality prompts into a new fantasy character. Ages 8 and older.
- Dixit: Give the right clues so teammates can guess the right surreal image. Expansion packs, such as Dixit: Journey and Dixit: Odyssey, are also available. Ages 8 and older.
Engineering and Coding
- Osmo’s Coding Awbie: Snap together coding blocks to lead Awbie on a strawberry-munching adventure. Ages 5-12.
- MindWare’s KEVA Maker Bot Maze: Customize motorized bots to navigate around your maze’s tunnels and obstacles. Ages 7 and older.
- ThinkFun’s Clue Master: Use deductive strategies to deduce information based on what must be true. Ages 8 and older.
- Learning Resources’ Sum Swamp: Face math challenges and meet funny swamp creatures as you try to move across the swamp. Ages 5 and older.
- Melon Rind’s Check the Fridge!: Search for similar food cards to create sets of 25. Ages 8 and older.
- Asmodee’s Splendor: Buy gem mines, transportation and shops to acquire the most points. Ages 10 and older.
- ThinkFun’s Zingo!: Fill the card with the matching words to win. Ages 4-10.
- SET Enterprises’ Quiddler: Arrange all the cards in your hand into one or more words. Ages 8-14.
- Educational Insights’ Word on the Street: Claim letter tiles to make words. Also available in a Jr. version. Ages 12 and older.
- Constitution Quest: Understand the fundamentals of government with this board game. Ages 7 and older.
- Professor Noggin: Play trivia card packs to learn more about varying themes in science, history, geography, nature and animals. Ages 7 and older.
- Legendary Inventors: Your team recruits the best of history’s real-world inventors to build the smartest creations. Ages 10 and older.
- GeoToys’ GeoBingo World: Get five countries in a row to win bingo. Ages 4 and older.
- Brainbox The World: Test your knowledge of countries around the world with questions about people, culture and landmarks. Ages 8 and older.
- Gamewright’s The Scrambled States of America: Collect state cards by matching them to a challenge. Ages 8 and older.
- Looney Labs’ Chemistry Fluxx: Use atoms and lab gear to match the goal. Anatomy, astronomy and math versions also available. Ages 8 and older.
- Blue Orange’s Dr. Eureka Speed Logic: Solve the formula by moving your molecules from tube to tube. Ages 8 and older.
- University Games’ Totally Gross: The Game of Science: Answer science questions and act out challenges covering biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy and more. Ages 8 and older.
- Capture the Flag: Redux: Hide the glow-in-the-dark lights from your opponents. Ages 5 and older.
- ThinkFun’s Yoga Spinner: Spin to perform the corresponding pose, and keep cards when you hold the pose for 10 seconds. Ages 5 and older.
- Pressman’s Dance Charades: Players dance out and create new moves. Ages 6 and older.
– Emily Webb
The Benefits of Board Games
With concerns about COVID-19 still prominent, parents are looking for productive ways to make the most of family time. In these days of uncertainty, board games provide not only a cozy family memory, but learning and brain development in many different areas. A 2008 study from Germany found that children who were given an extra hour of chess per week had an increased ability in basic math skills over their counterparts who were given an extra hour of traditional math instruction. Some homeschoolers have already realized the many benefits of board games and rely heavily on them to educate their children.
As the study from Germany demonstrated, math skills learned during board games may be even more beneficial than doing actual homework! But it’s not only chess that improves children’s STEAM abilities. They get practice counting points or board movements in all sorts of games. Other games, such as Yahtzee, also teach patterns, such as those on the dice, and recognizing the patterns on dice helps children learn to count both quickly and accurately as explicitly taught in some schools in first grade. Additionally, children begin to learn about probability as they roll the dice or spin the spinner in many games. During the game of Chutes and Ladders, children are beginning to internalize the idea of going back and forth on a number line, as well as recognizing the patterns on the dice and the numerals on the board. Certain games can reinforce STEAM skills with trivia, hands-on activities, money management, building and facts.
Social skills are an integral part of playing board games. Children begin with the very basics of learning to take a turn and give a turn. This helps them gain patience as they wait for other players. As they grow, they can begin to internalize a sense of fairness from board games. Will the youngest player get to go first? How does it make others feel if someone cheats? What does it mean to be a good sport? These types of questions come up frequently when playing board games and help children understand what it means to treat someone fairly and be treated fairly. Board games also foster communication skills as players discuss whose turn it is, their plans for their next move and strategy.
Board games can also foster critical thinking skills. More advanced games such as Risk and Clue have greater opportunity for this type of thinking. In these more complicated games, children must use advance planning to decide how they will make their moves to have the best chance of winning. Games like Battleship and Stratego require deductive reasoning as players attempt to analyze each other’s strategy.
Language and Vocabulary
Some games, such as Scrabble or Balderdash, are obvious choices for building vocabulary. In Scrabble, children practice dictionary skills when they challenge an opponent. But even board games with less of a language focus can teach new words. Not only are children gaining language skills negotiating with fellow players, but even the very playing pieces and boards can offer chances to expand vocabulary. Clue, for example, hosts a lounge, a conservatory and a billiard room, rooms that probably aren’t present in a child’s day-to-day life experience. Board games may also encourage reading as children read the rules of the game or read off a card they have drawn on their turn.
Certain games such as Blokus, Kaboom and Jenga expand children’s spatial skills as they build, balance and explore how game pieces fit together. It’s important for kids to get movement daily. Games can encourage exercise by moving, twisting, dancing and stretching, such as Twister.
If board games are already a part of your family night, you can count on the fact that these are hours well spent. If you are not yet playing games as a family, you may want to consider it, especially as the topic of how and when to safely open public schools remains steeped in confusion. The advantages are many and are all accomplished while having fun and connecting as a family.
– Jill Morgenstern
This article was originally published in Jan. 2021.