Games are a tool I regularly utilize as a teacher. They are an excellent way to engage a child in cooperation, learning, and problem-solving while having fun. Whether it’s one-on-one or during a family game night, here are some excellent learning games that target various skills.
Learning Games to Make Education Fun
Here are 10 learning games to teach children skills and to have fun.
Zingo is one of my favorite games for young children. A take on bingo, this game has various forms: Original Zingo involves taking turns and matching simple pictures. Each token or icon has a picture and the item written out, which can be great for beginning letter and word recognition. And, of course, the skill of matching is essential. There is also Sight Word Zingo for older kids just starting to read.
The third version is a number or math game, Zingo 1-2-3. On one side of the cards are simple equations, and on the other are groupings of items. Then you choose numbers and see if they match spots on your card, either as the solution to the equation or the numeral that corresponds with the amount. Lastly is Zingo Word Builder, where children use letters to build words.
The game of Set is great for elementary-aged children. This is one of my favorites for family game night. Cards are chosen, and you must be the first to determine if you can make a set. A set is three cards where individual characteristics or “features” are all the same or all different. The game works on visual-perceptual skills and is a game of speed, keeping kids engaged longer than expected.
3. Connect 4
Connect 4 is a classic. In trying to get four of your tokens in a row but also blocking your opponent from doing it first, this game is one of strategy, planning, and attention to detail. I often introduce this game to preschoolers in a non-competitive manner to help show them how they can get four in a row (diagonally, horizontally, or vertically). Then once they get the hang of it, and when they are a bit older, and their capacity for strategy matures, you can add the competition to it.
As always, with any game where someone must “win,” feelings can often intensify. If your child wins, remind them that it’s okay to be happy but acknowledge their opponent with a handshake and a “good game.” If your child loses, help them process their feelings by labeling their emotions, acknowledging that it’s hard to lose, and showing them that it’s okay.
4. The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game
This game engages children in turn-taking, color recognition, and fine motor skills! Each player spins the wheel and then must use the squirrel “tweezers” to get an acorn of the color they landed on. With the tweezers, they place the acorn on their tree trunk. I love this game because it helps strengthen the hand and finger muscles essential to pencil grip, utensil use, and much more.
5. Don’t Break the Ice
What I like most about this game is how much it engages your child in problem-solving – from set-up to engaging in the actual game. First, the “ice” pieces must be placed together and squished into the holder. This involves some fine motor skills and visual planning and can sometimes be challenging for kiddos, so it’s a great way to work on asking for help. Then the actual game involves using a hammer to tap out blocks of ice without making the skater in the middle fall. Your child must determine which block is best to knock out without compromising the entire structure.
Twister is another classic learning game. The number of skills targeted in Twister is endless. Turn-taking, motor planning, color recognition, and figuring out left vs. right, the game works on so many skills. Plus, the kind of positions you end up in is hilarious; you often feel like a pretzel! Kids and adults alike will find laughter in engaging with this one.
7. Ready, Set, Draw
The Ready, Set, Draw game was created by Herve Tullet, the author of some of my favorite books – “Press Here” and “Mix It Up.” There are two sets of cards. For each turn, a card is chosen from each pile, and together, they serve as a prompt on what to draw (i.e., draw a person . . . upside down). Then each participant draws their interpretation on paper and shares it with the group. It’s a great way to demonstrate to kids the idea of differing perspectives and interpretations. And to show how varied and individual art and creativity can be.
8. Yoga Spinner Game
This is a great movement game and introduction to yoga positions. I love to utilize this game on rainy days when movement is in order, but the weather outside isn’t great. Each player spins the spinner and chooses a corresponding card. Each card has a yoga pose to try. According to the rules, if the player who chooses the card can hold the pose for at least 10 seconds, they get to keep it. In the end, you count who has the most cards, or the winner can be the player that collects a card of each color first. But most importantly, this game challenges kids to move their bodies in new ways. It also requires visual analysis of the image on the card and motor planning skills to execute the pose with their bodies.
9. Friends and Neighbors
This is a stellar cooperative game that involves problem-solving and helping others. There is one board that everyone shares. The board contains individuals who are experiencing specific problems and feelings. Participants take turns choosing a token out of a bag and determining if the item can help one of the people on the board. This game allows your child to identify emotions, empathize with others, and brainstorm solutions. The problem-solving involved can open the floor for some great conversations and discussions. As with other cooperative games, the purpose is not to have a winner and a loser but rather for those involved to work together as a team.
10. Chutes and Ladders
Chutes and Ladders is another oldie but a goodie. This game works on turn-taking, number recognition, and counting. But it also works on disappointment and frustration. As a child, I felt dread when I landed on the top of a “chute” and had to go down rather than continue upward toward the finish line. While playing this game with your children, talk through these feelings of frustration and let it open the floor to an age-appropriate discussion of perseverance and working through obstacles.
Try one of these learning games with your kids – and make a routine. Game night is a great way to get everyone together for some fun. Enjoy, learn, and don’t forget to laugh!
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