Best educational games for child???
April 6, 2009 8:32 AM   Subscribe

What are the best kid games that are educational?

My daughter is five and I'm looking for games that are educational. I'm looking for fun ones; the kind that are so fun, my five year old won't even realize that I'm also "teaching" her. I know about bananagrams and scrabble junior. I'm looking for a wide variety of ideas, games that might teach: learning words, or math, or numbers, or science and planets, history, or geography, you name it. Anything that will be fun and we will learn at the same time. While I'm looking for regular games, to get her away from the tv and the computer, I don't mind hearing your views about the best computer CD-Rom game or the best math video you know about. Thanks in advance, and my daughter thanks you too!
posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Education (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Mystery Garden by Ravensburger. (as well as many of the other Ravensburger games.)
posted by R. Mutt at 8:48 AM on April 6, 2009

Lots of games have hidden educational lessons:

Guess Who: Logic and deduction
Battleship: Reading grids and plotting points
Mousetrap: Cause and effect
Risk: geography (although too much for a five year old)
Monopoly, Life, Payday: Money
Clue: More logic and deduction skills

One important life lesson your child will get from any board game is waiting to take your turn and developing patience.
posted by NoraCharles at 9:14 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would argue that just about any board or card game that isn't just an exercise in random luck has educational value. They all teach how to understand the rules of the game, and then how to apply the rules to best advantage to win. You get a 5 year old thinking critically and you are way, way ahead of the curve.

Even the random luck has some value. It teaches how to distinguish between events you can control, and those you can't.
posted by COD at 9:30 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Agree with several of NoraCharles' picks; also, Scrambled States of America.
posted by lakeroon at 9:35 AM on April 6, 2009

In the geography theme, Where in the World? sparked my lifelong love of geography. 5 might be a *little* young, though. They say 8+, but as the youngest in my family I definitely started playing earlier than that.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:42 AM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by jstarlee at 9:53 AM on April 6, 2009

As a kid I played a lot of educational computer games, like Broderbund's (Treasure Mountain, Treasure Cove, etc.) I also really enjoyed their Gizmos and Gadgets and Math Blaster. Dunno if they're still available, but they had you do all kinds of math, logic, spelling, and science problems depending on which game it was. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? too!

Board-game wise, I second the Ravensburger games, but any of the classics are great too. Monopoly Jr or Candyland are good ones.
posted by JauntyFedora at 10:34 AM on April 6, 2009

I started my son on the Reader Rabbit computer games at the toddler level (yes, really!), and he loved them so much, that even as he advanced to the higher levels (categorized by age group), he kept playing them even after he was old enough to realize that it was an educational game. He really loved them and I'd recommend them to anyone.
posted by Eicats at 11:54 AM on April 6, 2009

Three of my kids (10, 6, and 4, but not the 1-y.o.) like Great States.

The oldest one received "1000 Place to Visit before You Die" this weekend and the older two picked it up right away, though they don't much care for the education portion in which you read the texts of fictional postcards when you reach the site. (I substitute little stories about the places: grandpa went there, I went there, that place is a dive, etc.) Nice photography, too.

The 6-y.o. boy suddenly likes chess, and checkers are popular as a means of learning to think more than one step ahead.

Sorry! is a very popular game at our house, as it allows for betrayal, playing favorites, and ganging-up behavior -- especially when Grandpa plays!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:04 PM on April 6, 2009

Set is an awesome game of (often abstract) pattern recognition that I loved in elementary school.
posted by adamk at 12:15 PM on April 6, 2009


Countdown by Cadaco (horrific web site, but the game is great - click on "Games for Children" and scroll down to "4-Way Countdown")

My daughter really liked Monopoly Junior.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2009

COD said:
I would argue that just about any board or card game that isn't just an exercise in random luck has educational value.

As the parent of three adult children, I agree with that completely, and you're totally on the right track to want to play games with your child. Not only will she gain intellectually, educationally, and socially, it is one way of building your relationship with her. One of the most important pieces of advice I would give to young parents is not to forget to have fun with your kids - that's what builds the relationship. It's important to be firm and consistent and all that, but without a strong, healthy relationship, they won't want to listen to your advice & rules when they're older, they won't want to spend time with you when they're teens, and they won't want to come home to see you when they're adults. Games are great for family night - have food they like, plenty of games, and then a book before bed time to quieten them down, and you'll be making great memories.

I would add that you're also on the right track to not only play board & card games, but not dismiss educational computer games. Those types of games encouraged my kids to learn to read, reason, etc., and helped pique their interest in different subjects. One of my kids got so tired of calling me to the computer to read messages in a game that that he really drilled down on learning how to read. My kids loved the GeoSafari games, Oregon Trail & similar games, SimFarm & SimCity, Reader Rabbit, Math Blaster. That was years ago, though, so I don't know what games are available now.

I'm not a good source of ideas for children's games like Monopoly Junior and Guess Who. Younger kids have fun with those for awhile, but the games almost drove me crazy until the kids were old enough to play regular games. I bought lots of those games for them to play with each other and with friends, but most of the time when I played games with them, we played regular games. They needed my help with every turn at first, but they enjoyed that and gradually they were able to hold their own, and were able to beat me at surprisingly young ages.

Age five definitely isn't too young to start, and in a few years, the possibilities will open up even more. But for right now, if you can let her play as your partner while you play someone else, she'll be able to learn how to play games that would be beyond her ability at the moment. Then she'll gradually move into being able to hold her own. As charmcityblues mentioned, younger siblings in a family learn how to play games earlier than the older siblings did, and that's just because they learn by watching, they get patient help from the siblings, and they're so bent on keeping up with their older siblings. My youngest learned how to play chess when he was four years old, and he was around five the first time he beat one of his older brothers. He's not a genius or anything - younger siblings just tend to learn things earlier.

Examples of games that you could probably play with her now as her partner or as her opponent/helper are Chicken Foot Dominoes (but get the double 9 dominoes for this age, not double 12), Yahtzee, Sorry (if she doesn't get discouraged too easily), Skip Bo, Solitaire, and maybe even Nerts if you go slow to give her a chance. Within a few years, she'll probably be beating you at that since our reflex speed decreases as we get older. Uno is fun, but you might need to take out the Draw Fours at her age if she gets discouraged easily.

Hangman is a fun game to play with kids, and you can play that anywhere - waiting at the doctor's office, for example - and can be adjusted to a kids' age by using words they know how to spell.

If I were you, I would try buying some games that have a lower age range, say age 7 to 9, and see if your daughter can play them with your help. If not, put them in the closet for a couple of years. If money isn't too tight, don't be afraid to try games. It would be better to waste money on a few games that turn out not to be fun than it would be to save the money and not find a variety of good games that you can enjoy together. As soon as you buy games, tape the outside of the corners of boxes with strong, clear packaging tape, and put pieces in ziplock bags. Start a game cupboard and teach her to always put all the pieces and the instructions away properly and put the game in the closet.

BTW, my adult children still want to play games when they come home, and that has given us something to do with them and their dates - we can visit and get to know them with less pressure, and have fun.

P.S. You didn't ask about reading and other activities, but if you get educational books like the Eyewitness or Kingfisher line with lots of large, interesting pictures, it's almost like a game to look through them and read the text. Also, arts and crafts are great as well as science projects and experiments like making homemade putty or slime and doing science experiments. There are tons of ideas on the internet and at the library, and there are lots of kits to buy.
posted by onemorething at 3:09 PM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Logical Journey of the Zoombinis is in my opinion the best learning tool ever made for kids. It teaches logic, pattern recognition and problem solving to kids who won't have that kind of thing in their school curriculum for 10 years. Critical skills for 21st century kids. Plus, it's just fun, deep, rewarding, and extremely well produced. Even almost 15 years later nothing else even comes close.
posted by ulotrichous at 4:12 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

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