It is hard to believe that the holiday season is here! Many families have rediscovered the fun of family game night. From board games to card games to jigsaw puzzles, the joy of off-line fun has helped to bring families together. Not only are games fun, but they can also be educational. If you are seeking a holiday gift guide that features learning games, you’re in the right place.
As a teacher and a busy mom of four kids, I know what a challenge it can be to find the right gifts that will not only entertain, but also cut back on screen time and spark some curiosity. I hope these ideas provide the right balance for your children. My list of holiday gift ideas is all about learning games! It’s sure to spark creativity and will span the interest of a wide variety of ages. You’ll want to check the reviews and consider which is right for your child’s age and development.
Let’s get started!
What makes a great learning game?
It isn’t just a matter of letters or words or math equations.
- A good learning game can help your child in many different ways.
- Games might work on strategy or memory. Refining these skills can help a child use strategic thinking and memory more efficiently in their schoolwork.
- A great learning game might utilize a child’s strength by incorporating STEM and spatial reasoning.
- Is your child a creator? Games can encourage that strength. A good learning game can also stimulate creativity. It is not a coincidence that there are so many inventors, artists, musicians and actors that have learning differences. These learning challenges often are accompanied by creative strengths.
- The best learning games are also likely to encourage cooperative learning.
- They reinforce or build language skills through genuine communication.
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Here are 12 games that are both educational and fun!
(Note: This post is all about learning games and hands-on activities.)
Disclaimer: Please check to see if they are small parts that could be a choking hazard to young children in the home.
Osmo is what happens when hands on manipulatives meets the iPad. The Osmo base allows your existing ipad to be used in new and exciting ways for learning games. Osmo allows the iPad to “see” and respond to your child’s actions with real game pieces. More than just a single game, Osmo is really a learning system. It can be expanded and used in many ways.
Cranium allows creativity and divergent thinking a moment in the sun. This board game is great for all ages and can be played in teams for younger children to enjoy. Rather than just trivia or drawing, this game incorporates all kinds of challenges from 4 categories. Creative artistic tasks, data driven logic problems, performance and word-based play means everyone has a strength. Everyone also has their area of challenge. The fun and often hilarious results make for an excellent family game.
Pictionary has been updated for the next generation with reusable dry erase boards. There are 2 levels of clues to successfully cross multiple age groups. This is another game that make lead to fits of laughter. It almost certainly boosts your child’s vocabulary and oral language.
What happens when you race to make a design and have to do it vertically? Well, if you have a steady hand and are exercising your visual perceptual skills, you play You’ve Been Framed. This game has multiple levels of difficulty. It’s great for 1-4 players. I like that players that may have a harder time can practice alone before going head to head in competition.
Sometimes the best fun is open ended and simple. Once in a while, you get lucky and it isn’t even messy! This is the case with the water doodling mat. Water brushes and markers allow children to draw and write on the mat with plain water. After a few minutes, the marks magically disappear. This toy includes stencils, shapes, and drawing guides; but the only limit to the possibilities is your imagination.
What if your child could turn their drawings into real live video games? With the Doodlematic, they can. Your kids can use low tech materials like crayons and markers to have high tech results without needing to know complicated coding. If you have a child or teen that loves video games or wishes they could make their own games, this might be just the gift for them.
Some games are such classics, they stand the test of time. Such is the case with Simon. It has changed little since my own childhood version. This electronic challenge is fun, but also a great way to work on building memory skills.
Practicing letters is always more fun in the form of a game. This delightful magnetic fishing game is well crafted in brightly painted wood. Suitable for young children, this game also opens possibilities for older striving readers. The wooden box allows for alphabet matching and sequencing activities.
This Montessori inspired puzzle is appealing to a wide range of ages. Beautifully contained in metal storage tins, this game encourages spatial awareness, problem solving and creativity. Players use the wooden shapes to construct animal pictures by arranging and layering the pieces. The reverse side of the card offers a hint regarding which pieces to use.
In this quick thinking game of visual dexterity, players race to recreate the pattern on the card with the cubes. With a variety of ways to play the fun stays fresh and exciting. Incorporating elements of strategy, visual reasoning and memory, players are learning before they know it.
Some open-ended building toys can keep children of all ages (including grownups) busy for hours. Marble Run is one of those toys. Players use a variety of interactive pieces such as funnels, wheels, curvy paths and ladders to create Rube Goldberg like marble courses. The possibilities are endless. This modern update includes an app with marble run challenges to build.
This unique set combines the challenges of building challenges with the fun of marble runs with a magnetic twist. A set of 10 cards has STEM challenges. Getting these to work just right may take more experimenting and revision than you think! Players can also invent their own challenges, discover for themselves the laws of physics as they design their own path. All this learning is neatly contained on a white board or refrigerator. I’ve actually repurposed this to use during my Orton-Gillingham lessons and it has been a huge hit! There are lots of fun ways to repurpose games for Orton-Gillingham lessons.
Check out one way I repurposed the magnetic marble run game in a short video from The Literacy Nest FB page.
With these great learning games, your child won’t even realize that their activity is teaching them! There are multiple ways to play and useful for a wide age span. They allow for hours of play with children of multiple ages or include games adults don’t mind playing. When planning your holiday gifts, think outside the box to include something outside this year’s “must have” toy.
Are you seeking ways to repurpose games for your Orton-Gillingham lessons?
Be sure to read, “The Top Six Repurposed Games and Ideas for Literacy Practice”.
Happy Holidays from The Literacy Nest!