Homeschooling with games is one of the best ways to engage children in a learning activity. Children can even learn from games that aren’t strictly educational.
Games are especially good on those days when everyone is feeling less motivated. You can even play games on vacation and have fun while they are (sneakily) learning!
Here are some of my favorite games and the skills involved:
Games For Non-Readers:
This can be a difficult age group for games since so many games require reading and the ones that don’t are often extremely boring for adults to play with the kids. Here are some games that don’t require reading and are actually pretty fun:
This 2-player card game involves paying close attention and quickly matching cards based on various criteria like color and shape. It doesn’t require reading. It teaches children to follow directions and pay attention. This is a great game for the younger crowd- it’s more fun for adults than Chutes and Ladders, but easy for kids to learn and play.
In this game 2-4 players play their cards in sequential order with the goal of being the first to get rid of all of the cards in their hand. This teaches number sense and counting skills. The pictures on the cards are cute and it’s an easy game for kids to learn and play.
I Sea 10!
This is a game for 2-4 players that requires no reading. It is part memory game and part math. Players take turns flipping over cards to try to find a combination that adds to 10. If they make 10, they get to keep those cards. If they encounter a shark card, they have to put all of their pieces back. The player with the most cards at the end wins. In addition to teaching algebraic thinking, this helps kids practice social skills and memory.
These card games for 2 players come in different versions for different math skills, Addition & Subtraction, Multiplication, or Division. They are a fun way to practice math facts. As a bonus- the cards can be used as flash cards too (but why would you do that when the game is so fun?).
This one doesn’t really require reading so it’s great for younger kids (and the adults playing won’t be bored to tears!). This is a modified version of the classic Clue game. It is more cooperative and, instead of solving a murder mystery, you’re solving the mystery of who ate the last piece of cake. This teaches critical thinking skills and strategy.
Rush Hour Jr.
This single player game for ages 5 and up is perfect for keeping a child occupied for a few minutes while you get some work done. The cards allow them to self-check their solution to the logic puzzles. The regular Rush Hour game is just more challenging with more pieces. There are many excellent single-player logic games available including ones from ThinkFun and Smart Games. Some of our favorites are Balance Beans and Clue Master Logic Game from ThinkFun and Ghost Hunters Travel Game and Penguins on Ice from Smart Games.
This is a 2-player game where one player has to determine which character the other player has picked simply by asking yes and no questions and using a process of elimination. You can even get a Disney Star Wars version of this game if your child is a fan. This teaches logical thinking and verbal description skills.
Games For Readers Ages 5-7
Monopoly or Monopoly Jr.
This classic board game for 2-6 players is a great way to teach math and the power of investing. Monopoly Jr. simplifies the rules and offers a quicker game so you’re not stuck playing a never-ending game of Monopoly, but it does remove some of the strategy component. Minimal reading is involved, but an adult can do the reading if necessary.
This modified take on the classic Scrabble game is geared for kids just learning how to spell. Words are printed on the board and players have to collect the letters to spell them. This is great for teaching kids some beginning spelling words. You can also discuss the spelling rules involved in those words and use this as a jumping off point for teaching other spelling words.
Zingo! Sight Words
This is another spelling or sight word game. There are a few different versions out there. One uses sight words; one involves letters that you use to fill in missing letters on your bingo card to make words. One version, Zingo 1-2-3 for ages 4+ teaches basic number sense.
Munchkin Treasure Hunt
This board game for 2-6 players involves a little reading, but adults can help with that. It is a completely sneaky way to practice addition and subtraction if you let the kids do the math part themselves.
Games for Ages 7+
This strategic card game involves drawing and playing cards until you draw an exploding kitten card and you’re out of the game. Cards can be used to skip turns, attack other players, steal or look at others’ cards, etc. “Defuse” cards keep you from exploding, but there are only a few in the deck. Every time you draw a card, you risk getting an “Exploding Kitten!” An Imploding Kitten Expansion Pack is available that adds to the fun by including some new cards and a “cone of shame” to be worn by anyone who accidentally plays out of turn. This game is really fun for the whole family and requires children to practice reading. It can also be used to start a conversation about odds and risk-taking.
Ticket to Ride First Journey
This is a version of Ticket to Ride for the younger crowd with a smaller map and simplified rules. This teaches basic US geography and some city names as well as strategy, turn taking, and following directions. A Ticket to Ride Europe- First Journey version is also available. The regular Ticket to Ride states that it is for ages 8+ and it comes in different versions including Europe, Japan and Italy, Germany, Nordic Countries and others. These are all a fun way to teach some basic geography.
This classic game for 2 players teaches the concept of naming points on a grid and logical thinking.
This Educational Insights game for 2-4 players is obviously intended to be educational, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. It is a perfect introduction to fractions and the addition of fractions.
Games for Ages 10 and Older
This card game for 3-10 players is a great way to foster creativity and public speaking skills while having a good laugh with the family. Each round, one player is the “customer” and picks a customer card that tells them their role (“professional wrestler,” “alien,” and “beauty queen” are just a few options). The other players are the “snake oil salesmen” and choose 2 cards from their hands and combine the words to create a product they think the “customer” will want to buy. The “sellers” pitch their products to the “customer” and then the “customer” picks the winner. The first player to reach a set number of wins, wins the game.
Apples to Apples Jr.
In this hilarious game for 4-8 players, one player acts as the judge each round and announces the category. The other players search their hands for a card that best matches that category. The judge picks the best one and the first player to win a set number of cards, wins the game. This teaches creative thinking and is simply fun and funny. We’ve played it with as few as 3 players and it can be done, but it’s much better with 4 or more.
Not Parent Approved
This game is very similar to Apples to Apples, but the cards are just naughty enough to make tweens giggle. They include things like “body odor” and “farts” but aren’t really offensive in my opinion. You may want to go through the cards and remove any that offend your sensibilities, however, if you’re offended by potty humor. There are two expansion packs available if you need more cards. Despite the fact that kids will feel like they’re getting away with something when they play this game, it does encourage creative thinking and reading.
This card game for 2-6 players comes in many different versions. The basic Fluxx and Fairy Tale Fluxx are the easiest to play. Other versions like Dr. Who Fluxx and Cthulhu Fluxx have “Creeper” cards which make game play a bit more complex. Most Fluxx versions are generally fine for ages 8 and older, but it’s probably best to start with a basic version. This game starts out very easy- deal 3 cards to each player. On your turn, draw one card and play one card. “Keepers” are cards you put in front of you and the right combination of Keepers will win the game. Some of the cards you can play are “New Rule” cards, though, so the game play is always changing. You can also play “Goal” cards to change the combination of Keepers necessary to win the game. This game encourages reading, following directions, and strategic thinking. The Math, Astronomy, Chemistry, and Anatomy Fluxx versions also include some other educational aspects.
Active Games for All Ages
Here are some games to get your kids (and you) moving:
You can buy charades cards or just make up your own. This classic game is sure to get the family moving around and laughing together.
You can buy this ready to go or make your own and there are many ways to incorporate an educational component. Have the kids look for certain shapes, items that will add to a particular number, a certain word written on something, or items of a particular color.
You can make this up yourself if you have a little time. Or, you can buy something like this: UKloo Riddle Edition or UKloo Early Reader Treasure Hunt Game . This is an excellent tool for building reading, logic and reasoning skills in addition to getting kids moving.
There are so many wonderful games out there. If you pay attention, you might be surprised to see how much learning is going on when children play games!