In this day and age there are plenty of electronic and powered gadgets and distractions for our younger game enthusiasts out there. The video game consoles of today are highly technical, visually realistic monsters, absorbing and certainly distracting to kids, to almost addiction if not carefully supervised properly and time with them balanced out between homework and fun.
As time has moved on the choice of game genres and titles out there gets larger, but are there any fun learning games for kids over this type of media? Tablets and mobile phones, or smart phones as they are known are also highly addictive electronic devices which most kids, even below teenager age seem to surprisingly own or need to have these days. These “must haves” are most likely a big distraction in today’s education system and the individuals academic learning development in school or at home, not to mention a depreciation of actual conversation with family and friends, as SMS and social media takes over.
In this educational article I wanted to get back to basics a little and shed some light on some fun learning games for kids, sharing some ideas and suggestions to what is out there either from a shop or our own creative imaginations that caters to various learning subjects in their lives and of course, away from all pixel related screens. After some research I found there is quite a handful of educational games that are familiar to us or released by various brands, and that’s without counting or mentioning educational learning toys either. The scope is huge! As much as video games, tablets and smart phones are a great and welcomed distraction for gaming interests, some may believe they aren’t in any way tied in to educating and developing a child. There’s an article for another day.
Through game play a child may focus their attentions to the fun components, sound and lights, imagery and colors of a board, a card or task given during play, oblivious to the fact that through many games and experiences they are learning something, a set subject matter of sorts that can only help and aid them in their educational journey. Playing with others, can increase their social skills, how they interact, their communication and attitudes to sharing, accepting win/lose scenarios, learning patience while waiting on their turn, for example and even discipline to a set of rules and conduct during the game.
The Word on The Street
In this section I’d like to delve into a few games that relate to words and spelling. There really are a lot of games and titles out there and they’re quite specific for a particular educational need in this area. Some games aim at the development of spelling skills or expanding a child’s vocabulary. Anagrams, synonyms, vowels and constants are all valid lessons to learn about and are incorporated within certain titles.
- Scrabble Junior
This introductory version of a timeless classic is aimed at kids between the ages of 5-12 and includes a double-sided board, featuring two different play styles, so it is very versatile. Firstly one side resembles a crossword puzzle, with all the possible combination of words spelled out already.
Obviously this will help towards spelling and points are awarded for completing words. There is also a point earned for a letter placed. On the other side of the board is a complete empty grid in which players are given the chance to come up with their own words. The included cardboard tiles carry no values.
- Boggle Junior
I’ve personally always liked this game and even had it as a paid app on one of my electronic devices. Highly addictive and a great learning pastime as there are so many words that came to the surface from so many combinations that I didn’t even know about, let alone the ones that sounded and looked made up.
It includes two variations of the game aimed around your typical preschool kids, the variations of the game act as levels for beginners and then an advanced version. In the easier game a picture card is placed in the tray showing a three letter word and the player must spell out and match the word with various letter cubes. The advanced game uses picture cards with four letter words, a flap covers the word on the card and players must identify the picture and spell it out with the letter cubes.
Based on the hit TV series, “Countdown” has been around for years and was usually aired around early evening on weekdays. It wasn’t no surprise to see this concept as a game, both as a board game, online version and eventually an app. There have been several versions of the family board game released to date, dating back to 1986 and published under “Milton Bradley”. Other published versions include the likes of, “Drummond Park”, “Spears”, “Marks & Spencer” and “Britannia Games” one of which included a replica, all singing and dancing countdown timer.
Another great educational game that serves a dual role of spelling, words and vocabulary and randomly generated maths problems, numbers and calculations. Recommended age 8+.
Fractions of Fun
In this section I’ll be looking into all aspects of numbers, counting, mathematics and fractions, well perhaps but certainly not algebra. There are a vast number of educational games known to us, on the market and out there that loosely concentrates on the education of counting and number work. Early development and exposure to mathematics in all its guises can only benefit a child through their life and a foundation is set for further advanced topics. There’s bound to be all sorts of games and fun out there that identifies with numbers, counting, angles, fractions, patterns etc. Below are a few to tease your noggin!
- Pizza Fraction Fun Junior
What better way is there to learn kids about mathematical fractions and slices, than to put a big pizza in front of them, oh yum! This creative and ingenious game has 11 double-sided pizzas which breaks down into 59 individual slices. There are also some spinners for play and a game guide. On one side of the slices are the pizza images and on the other side the actual fractions.
There are seven games and different levels of learning, the idea of the game is to identify fractions and using simple math, players must match equivalent fractions.
This 1980 Spiel Des Jahres Winner is purely numbers and works in the same way a traditional game of “Rummy” is played with playing cards, if you are familiar with the ruling. The object of the game anyway, is to empty your rack and get rid of your number tiles first by putting together and completing runs of 3 tiles or more, or even 3 to 4 of a kind.
Like in the card game variation as mentioned above, the numbers are different colors which represents suits so when building your runs you can concentrate on not only the numbers in any color, but sequences of numbers in the same color too. This game carries a recommended age of 8+ and is a fast moving tile game. There is a junior version of this game that features big brightly colored cards and numbers and is titled “My Rummy Junior” and which is also nicknamed, “Schmidt multilingual junior edition”.
- Sum Swamp
Kids will embark on a board game adventure to the finish through Sum Swamp and the crocodile shortcut by using adding and subtracting operations to the values on the dice. A fun way to practice basic additions and subtractions. A game tailored to recommended age of 5+.
Ca – Ching!
How does the idea of a child learning and understanding the concept of money grab you? Getting them to check the change correctly after running an errand to the local shop for milk and bread and more importantly know when there is a discrepancy. In my humble opinion, this is a subject that is skimmed from the top slightly, in standard education these days, maybe through the fear of the kids getting too clever and knowing how to beat the system.
Seriousness aside though, there are some really great games out there for kids that do teach them about money, spending, saving, stocks, shares, investing and the details behind a financial statement. Each game, as with others will be catered for specific age ranges so that they are easy to grasp and take on board.
- Cashflow Kids
This board game is the junior version of “Cashflow 101 which was created by Robert Kiyosaki, known for “Rich Dad Poor Dad” the number one personal finance book. Robert has interesting views and opinions in finance and investing that normally contradicts other normal conventional knowledge others might have.
This game is an excellent title that teaches our younger gamer about getting money working for you and not working for money. In a fun and colorful way, using real world examples it teaches the players about assets and liabilities, how to deal with them and getting out of the rat race.
- Exact Change
This is a fast paced family game but also a great educational game that themes around counting money out. The winner of the game is the first person to get rid of their cards, this is the objective and done by discarding cards of matching color or same currency value pictured. This is a card for card way of discarding, although by playing exact change, multiple cards can be discarded and this is done by looking at the last card played and playing cards in hand that add to the total shown.
- Buy it Right Shopping Game
Another fun, colorful and interactive game for recommended ages of 6+. Kids can have fun setting prices of items, then interactively buying and selling them . As the players move around the game board it educates them in money recognition and the value of it using 100 plastic coins in various denominations. Through interactive play kids can learn to add up using an included calculator, make calculations and correct any change.
Interestingly, there have been and are games tailored to cognitive, memory and general brain training. As a gym and exercise would aid in the toning and building of body muscles, these types of games, through regular play exercise and stimulate the brain and its functions. I Recall the days of “Simon” in my own experiences, constantly chasing the light patterns as they sped up, testing my eye coordination and reactions until the batteries died.
A breakthrough in video games came in 2006 on the Nintendo DS, it was a game titled in the EU as “Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain”. Nintendo labeled it as an “entertainment product inspired by Ryuta Kawashima’s scientific work in the subject of neuroscience”.
- Memory Card Game
This game is a classic brain training game for all ages and is so simple in rules and play. It’s been re skinned and sold in many versions and variations but the general principle is setting up a grid of face down cards each with their own image on the reverse side.
Players take turns, turning over 2 cards, studying the image and the position of the card and turning it back over. As the game progresses a players mind starts filling up with the information on various images and their whereabouts. The objective is to claim as many sets as possible.
- What’s Missing?
Another game for kids that will test observation and memory skills and one that can include some variations in play. This game can be played with general objects or items around a child’s home, maybe familiar to them, favorite aspects of or toys to make it interesting, perhaps. This game has also been created and released for purchase and is in many forms and variations, with slight tweaks to the ruling. One of which was released in 1991 by Heinz Meister and features raven tokens that players are trying to discard.
The general idea is that items are placed down and presented to the players, before 1 is taken away secretly from prying eyes. Players must determine what’s gone missing, obviously the shapes, sizes, colors and positioning of the items will play a factor on the players thoughts and thinking process. Other variations of play are to exchange an item on display with a random other item and see if the players can guess what’s been taken and replaced. Adding another item to the original display is another way for the players to guess at what’s changed too. The thing with this game is the level of difficulty, depending on the age range of the players can be determined by the amount of items in play.
- I Went Shopping
This fun game is great in small groups and can be tailored to a particular theme for various levels of difficulty, for example “Star Wars” themed, food only etc. The general idea is that a child starts the group off by saying, “I went to the shop and I brought”… This is then followed by something beginning with “A”, moving around the group or circle the next player states the same item just brought but adds another item which has to begin with “B”. Play continues in this fashion, but as the list gets longer kids have to rack their brains and remember the items and the order they were brought by others.
This gives you a small glimpse of what’s out there, either on a shelf and available for purchase, in our own homes, easy to set-up or create and even made up from our own imaginations and passed on through generations of family, schools and learning through play. I’ve only touched on a few specific areas of educational games and learning within this article but I’ve found there are so many resources and games out there that cater for all ages and levels, each having their own branches of specific educational development for example, mathematical games could be anything from numbers, counting, fractions to measurement, geometry and time.
Although these games have some sort of serious learning curve underpinning it, the main objective to the creation of these games is making them fun and engaging so that the learning side of the game is almost hidden to a kid and they’re concentrating more on the components, being with family and friends and the fun of playing the game itself.