Play is the work of children, and as children play, they learn. Board games provide kids with amazing benefits both socially and developmentally. Family game time provides the opportunity for bonding, playing games with friends teaches a host of social skills, and playing the games themselves is shown to boost a kid’s cognitive and language development. Learning games provide kids with a fun and relaxing environment in which they can practice and master their developing skills. In this article, you will learn how board games benefit your kids and some top games that will maximize those benefits.
Video games are all the rage among children these days and can offer some benefits. But board games shouldn’t be dismissed as something old-fashioned. Playing board games encourages kids to follow rules, reason, and think ahead. Because most board games are multiplayer, kids learn about taking turns, helping less experienced players (peers), and about winning and losing. It also creates opportunities for family device free time and encourages in-person interaction.
The educational benefits of board games
Early educational board games provide interactive opportunities for learning. These games usually include skills such as identifying or matching quantity, color, or shape. They also promote hand-eye coordination and fine motor dexterity. These games introduce early childhood lessons in taking turns and following instructions and provide a good foundation for the more advanced games of slightly older children.
As children get older, board games begin to incorporate elements such as strategy. These games stimulate the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for planning, organizing, and decision making.
By playing age-appropriate word-based board games, many kids will unknowingly expand their vocabularies and improve their spelling. Meanwhile, the need to focus and remember what is happening during the game means that children gradually lengthen their attention span and improve their concentration.
What else do board games teach?
Board games often teach real life lessons in small but significant ways. Children can learn the value of cooperative play by teaming up with their friends or siblings, playing games across age ranges and skill levels. Playing games of chance or skill both offer the chance for kids to learn that outcomes can change in a moment and that both winning and losing are an inevitable part of life. Learning how to manage frustration when things are not going their way is also possible when games are parent guided. By ensuring that rules are followed, kids learn how to cope and be resilient when things do not go their way.
Socially, board games not only teach cooperative skills, but their structure can help anxious or shy kids connect with their peers. Games that provide specific opportunities to speak (such as asking or answering questions) allow children to talk without them having to think about what they are going to say.
Types of educational board games for kids
- Classic board games are the more traditional board games that most parents will have played during their childhood. Most classic board games are abstract strategy games and include games like chess, backgammon, checkers, and dominoes. The games all have rules that are easy to understand (even though chess can become very complex) and usually rely on skill and strategy, with each move they make impacting the next move and the potential outcome of the game.
- Educational board games are created to teach a specific topic, skill, or technique. The purpose of these games is to make learning fun.
- Strategy and war board games such as Battleship or Chinese Checkers are designed to be played tactically and strategically. These games are great for developing situational awareness and critical thinking.
Board games are generally multi-player and there is a selection of games that range from 2 player to larger group play.
The best educational board games for your kids are the ones that engage them and teach them at any particular moment. Today may be a good day for a game of strategy, while tomorrow may be a good day for a game that reinforces language or social skills.
While there are 100s of educational games on the market, it may take some time to find the games that suit your own kids best. It is important to remember that while one purpose of an educational board game is to learn or develop, it is equally important that the game is fun and your child enjoys playing it.
Choose an age-appropriate game
At each age and grade level, there are a variety of educational board games that are available that match the skills and developmental stage of the child. While an older child can easily play a game meant for younger kids, it is important not to overwhelm a younger child with a game that they are too young to play. If your child has not yet reached the level of competency required for a game, they will become frustrated, lose interest, and will be unlikely to want to try the game again in the future.
6 great educational games for 6 year olds
With that in mind, a 6 year old is ready to play a competitive game with their friends and to join in on family games. Ideal games for this age will teach strategy skills, good sportsmanship (or gamesmanship), tackling a challenge, and concentration.
- Outfoxed is a cooperative detective game. Kids learn to work together with their friends while deducing information from clues. Playing regularly helps to improve logic and reasoning skills.
- Scrabble Junior has a beginner and an advanced level. Your kids start by matching letters and move on to create words at the advanced level. Remember that this is a revised game designed specifically for kids learning how to read and spell.
- Connect 4 is a classic disc dropping strategy game in which you need to make a row of 4 colored discs before your opponent. While this is a strategy game, you may need to compensate when playing it with your younger child as they develop their skills of strategy and anticipation.
- Naval Battle is based on the classic strategy Battleship war game and provides your kids with an opportunity to learn strategy, logic, and creativity as they work to destroy the enemy fleet.
- Wildcraft: A Herbal Adventure Game is designed to connect kids to nature and can be played by children who can’t read yet. The game features clear illustrations and icons and kids will learn all about 25 medicinal and edible plants.
- Guess Who is a great game for teaching your kids to pay attention to detail. Players take turns in guessing which face the other player is hiding by using the processes of deduction and elimination. It is great fun, easy to play, and kids love the competitive element of being the first to recognize the face.
7 ideal educational games for 7-year-olds
By the time kids are 7 years old, they are able to play games that improve their strategy skills. Board games at this stage provide a great medium for kids to communicate without stress.
- Charades for Kids is a great guessing game for the whole family. Your kids get to use all their gross and fine motor competencies and hone their early reading skills.
- Sequence Game is played in groups of 3 or by 3 individuals to make sequences on the board. Strategy, recognition of patterns, and using logic are all required to beat their opponent.
- Continent Race is a game for kids by kids. This geography game engages players in a race around the globe in a quest to collect the most countries on each continent. This game teaches your kids about where in the world countries are and where they are located relative to each other.
- Money Bags teaches your children basic money skills as players accumulate, count, and exchange money. This game is a great precursor to kids being allowed to manage and spend their real allowance.
- Clue Junior introduces children to the classic board game. By using strategy and the process of elimination, kids deduce who is responsible for breaking the toy. Like in the adult version of the game, it is necessary to keep track of your own game and that of the other players to enable you to deduce who the culprit is.
- Apples to Apples Junior is a game of comparison. Players are asked to select the most accurate comparison and if the judge likes your comparison, you get to keep the card. The player with the most cards at the end of the game is the winner. This is a fun game that builds language competency and reading skills and is great for family fun.
- In Labyrinth, players work towards finding the fastest way through the maze. The aim is for players to reach all their treasures and targets as they move through the maze. The game encourages fair play, taking turns, planning, recognition, and logic. Instructions are easy to follow and your kids will get the hang of the game quickly.
Science board games for all ages
In recent years, there has been a growth in board games aimed at improving STEM skills in kids (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). By providing kids with non-academic opportunities to engage with science content and concepts, they are encouraged to process facts and learn in their own way. While science board games can become really complex, there are games that are designed for kids of all ages and each game provides its own learning opportunity.
5 highly recommended science board games for kids include:
- Qurious Space Junior Explorer is a great way of learning and reviewing astronomy concepts. This multiplayer game can be played in a variety of ways and in a handy tin is great to take along in the car on a camping trip.
- Totally Gross! is a board game that covers biology, chemistry, astronomy, geology, anatomy, and physics. Players answer silly science questions and act out “Gross out” challenges.
- Operation is one of the original science games and offers hours of entertainment, all while learning and improving fine motor skills.
- Gravity Maze combines a marble run with logic in a STEM toy. It has challenges that range from beginner to expert and help develop planning and special reasoning skills.
- CoderBunnyz was designed by a 9-year-old girl and introduces coding concepts in a fun and exciting way.
Why should my child play educational board games?
Playing board games increases a child’s confidence and problem-solving skills. Some games also provide opportunities for collaboration and can help children develop tools required for teamwork and group projects. Through repetition and practice, children are able to work towards mastery while at the same time learning about the importance of setting limits and following rules or guidelines.
Games of all kinds, including board games, give your children the chance to practice emotional regulation. As kids learn to manage their feelings when they win and when they lose, they become used to the emotions and can prevent them from being overwhelming in the future.
Many fun educational board games for kids can be adapted to accommodate children with special needs. You may adjust game play time, introduce simpler rules, or limit options. Likewise if your child struggles with an aspect of a game, see whether you can modify or simplify it to make it more fun until they are ready to move to the next level. For some kids, the idea of changing a game and creating new rules and guidelines, or even creating their own game may be more fun and challenging than the game play itself.
Remember that while your child has their own unique interests and preferences, they may not always want to play the chosen game. It is a good life skill for them to learn how to participate regardless. Chances are that once immersed in the game, they will have a great time along with all the other players.
Board games are a wonderful opportunity to allow your child to learn without even realizing it and for you to spend focused time together in the process.