Building the Educational Game Shelf

Whether at home or in the classroom, unplugged games are a great way to keep kids entertained while keeping learning at the forefront.

Playing games involves more than simply filling an empty time slot with something fun to do. There are great benefits to playing multi-player games as students are able to build SEL skills while also learning and reinforcing academic ones. Cooperation, taking turns, and a little humility are all key lessons learned during gameplay. Finding the right games that also incorporate academic skills can make games an integral part of the learning process and a great resource for building and reinforcing skill development.

When selecting games for use at home or in the classroom, teachers and parents can be on the lookout for entertaining games with learning roots. Some games are solely constructed to be learning games, and there are others that have some underlying learning components beyond perfecting the art of proper game norms and good sportsmanship. This list of games offers a variety of options that are mainstream and could likely be sitting on a shelf at home, bargain bought at a garage sale, or purchased at a local retailer, and there are also several games expressly developed for educational usage that could find their way into the shopping cart.

Mainstream Options

  • Uno– Colors, numbers, and a bit of strategy are all key to the game of Uno.
  • Scrabble– Vocabulary, spelling, strategy, and math all come into play. There are also some great ESL adaptations.
  • Candyland– While this one stands alone as a good game for non-readers, it can also be adapted to have students practicing their reading skills.
  • Chutes & Ladders– The game board itself is an oversized number chart. Great for counting practice.
  • Lego Games– While Lego seems to have retired many of its board games, these would be great garage or rummage sale finds. Creationary, LEGO Champion, and a variety of other themed sets offering engaging gameplay while building STEM skills.
  • Sequence– This game is all about problem-solving and strategy. With multiple variations including Sequence Letters, Sequence States & Capitals, Sequence Numbers, and more, this game can become a go-to in a variety of subject areas.

Games Developed for Education

  • Roll ‘n’ Spell– This GEI endorsed product is an excellent choice for enhancing vocabulary and building spelling skills. Students will get caught up in the fast-paced and competitive gameplay and forget they are learning to boot! The game can also be differentiated to meet students at a variety of skill levels.
  • Prime Climb– This game by Math for Love is all about the numbers. Students will add, subtract, multiply, and divide their way to the win. Alongside honing their mathematical skills, this game also offers quite a bit of practice in strategizing and problem-solving.
  • Twangled– SEL meets team-building meets loads of fun as students get Twangled. This GEI endorsed product was met with rave reviews and allows students to work on their problem-solving and communication skills to get out of a tangled situation.
  • GeoBingo– Kids can learn more about the United States in a familiar game setting with GeoBingo. The 50 state cards used to move along gameplay contain a variety of facts including the capital, land area, population, and nickname. A perfect game station for a geography unit.
  • Spot It!– The Basic English version of the game earned the coveted seal of endorsement from GEI. Students are able to work on sight word recognition and reading comprehension as they scour the cards for matches. The Spot It! brand offers a host of additional versions to keep students entertained as they learn about numbers, shapes, and more.
  • Ion: A Compound Building Game– With simultaneous turns, players are constantly engaged in the game of Ion. The goal is to create sets of compounds and inert noble gases using the chemistry cards and action tiles. While it may sound complex, this game can be enjoyed by players in the second grade and higher.

When it’s time for some unplugged gameplay, having a go-to list of top educational contenders is a real win! This collection of games offers some ideas that have been around for years, and some educationally exclusive newcomers. Whether scouring a home collection or looking for some recommendations for purchase, this list offers a variety of options that will have kids enjoying their time spent learning.