The 10 Best Educational Games to Add to Your Christmas List

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

Have you finished your holiday shopping? When looking for gifts for my three little ones, I always try to ensure that what we buy is not only a gift, but is also something that fits with our family culture and educational goals.

Games are therefore a perfect choice–they’re fun, kids love them, and they make for around-the-clock learning as well. I’m always on the lookout for new game recommendations for my 8-, 7-, and 6-year-olds.

Our family has had an Amazon prime membership for years, which means we get free two day shipping year-round (on top of other benefits like instant videos). We use it often for books, grocery items in bulk, and more.

There’s still plenty of time to order before Christmas, and if you need some ideas–here are my top picks this holiday season for games your children will love.

1. Leapfrog ABC’s Write-on Floor Puzzle

For those looking to encourage handwriting in young writers, this puzzle, once put together, provides plenty of space to do just that. It’s ideal for the 5-7 age range, but my eight-year-old daughter still loves it.

2. Sum Swamp

I bought this game when I was looking for a way to playfully introduce my kiddos to addition and subtraction. It is a frequently requested game in our home!

For 2-4 players, it gives practice in adding and subtracting up to quantities of twelve.

3. The Uncle Wiggly Game

If your family has read Uncle Wiggly’s Story Book, chances are you’ll enjoy this game. For the 5-8 age range, it provides help in both counting up to 100 and developing reading skills.

My older two can read the rhyme cards themselves, and I read them aloud for my youngest.

4. Wildcraft

Wildcraft is a cooperative game for ages 5-8 (yay! no fighting or meltdowns about who wins), which means that all players work together for a common goal–in this case getting back to Grandma’s before sundown. Along the way, they learn about herbs and medicinal plants.

A side note: You will have noticed that winning or losing is a big deal in the minds of children in the 5-8 age range. This is developmentally normal and not to be worried over. In my house we reduce the number of upsets by making all games cooperative as much as possible–not emphasizing the “winner,” but letting everyone have a chance to make it to the finish line.

5. MightyMind

More of a puzzle than traditional game, MightyMind contains design cards and plastic tiles that encourage kids to create specialized patterns.

Good for ages four and up, these increase in complexity as they help kids develop visual and spatial understanding.

6. I Never Forget a Face Memory Game

This takeoff from the traditional memory game combines both recognition and geography.

It has 24 pairs of children’s faces from different countries for players to match and remember.

7. Rory’s Story Cubes

A great choice for slightly older kids (ages eight and up), Rory’s Story Cubes brings out the creative storytelling ability in your child.

Roll the dice and create a story based on the pictures you see.

8. Candyland

No list of early board games would be complete without Candyland!

This game, based on colors and requiring no reading, is perfect as a child’s first game for ages 4-6.

9. A Little Golden Book Go Fish Card Game

If you’ve read many little golden books with your young children, you’ll love this go fish card game.

One of our family’s favorites, it is a good first game choice for preschoolers.

10. Money Bags

Looking for a way to teach your children money value and how to make change? Throughout this game players collect, count and exchange money on their way to the finish line.

Happy holidays and happy gaming!

Tell us which learning games are favorites in your home!

This post originally published on December 12, 2011.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you purchase anything on Amazon by clicking through them, it benefits my family–thanks!

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. MzBaker says:

    I just love this site! Thanks for all the information you guys share! I will be getting and looking for a few of these games. I have trouble with learning with my son he seems to forget a lot. We’ll get it though, just a matter of time :) again love the site!!
    MzBaker’s latest post: Early Thanksgiving Dinner @ My house November 20th Saturday 3pm

  2. Lisa Howard says:

    Boggle is a good learning game as well for pre and early readers learning their alpabet sounds etc.

  3. Awesome List Jamie! I especially like “I Will Never Forget A Face” to go along with my free download Children of the World found here: http://noorjanan.blogspot.com/2011/11/children-of-world.html

  4. Heidi says:

    I would have to add Othello and Guess Who to favorite games at our house. It’s funny because I just finished updating my homeschool games page on my website this morning. Here are the rest of the games we like http://www.homeschool-how-to.com/homeschool-games.html
    Heidi’s latest post: Homeschool Latin

  5. Rana says:

    Thanks for the list of games. Our family is always looking for new board games too. We just got WildCraft and we all like to play that game.

  6. Mary Beth says:

    We are really enjoying Spot It! this year- it’s fun, has a wide age range and is small enough to take with us while we wait for piano lessons, etc. My kids love it so much we’ve bought it for several birthday and Christmas presents this year. It’s also less than $10 on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Orange-410-Spot-It/dp/B0039S7NO6/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1323701168&sr=1-1
    Mary Beth’s latest post: grown up playdate

  7. Jennifer C. says:

    We love Muggins found here http://www.mugginsmath.com/

    You could make your own if you were good at that sort of thing, and the game is expensive but solid wood and fun for young (simple addition and subtraction) or more advanced – (multiplication and division). My husband and I played and bought the game before we had kids!

  8. Crafty Mama says:

    Definitely Hi Ho Cherry-O!!

  9. Maria says:

    I liked this post. Our family loved to play board games. Two of our favorite games are Apples to Apples and Pictionary.
    Maria’s latest post: Conteo regresivo hasta Navidad: 14 de dciciembre: Faltan 11 días

  10. Thank you! I love the Story Cubes for my eldest!

  11. Lisa says:

    We like playing Web of Words. It’s great for teaching letter sounds and making three letter words.

  12. We love Be the Expert (which uses images from museums to quiz players), Animal Trivia, and plain old cribbage, which my boys learned really early on.

    Cribbage has been a phenomenal way for them to learn addition as players count cards to 31 and must create hands that equal 15. It’s a game I learned as a girl and later shared with my husband. Now that my boys play, we love playing grown ups vs. kids, and our boys regularly “skunk” or even “double skunk” us — beat us terribly.
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: Four Pieces of String

  13. Some awesome looking games here. Always looking for some for my 6 grandkids! And I personally love the Little Golden Books Go Fish!
    Successful Woman’s Resource Center’s latest post: Divide and conquer to get more done

  14. Moneybags and Wildcraft look really cool! Great post. :)
    e-Expeditions’s latest post: Youtube Monday: NPCA

  15. Sarah M says:

    These are great ideas—a number of them I had on my wishlist for future use for games! My son is very into games (me? not so much) I have realized as a homeschooler that this is such a fun way for him to learn basic concepts! I bought him one for his Christmas gift this year and told the grandparents which ones he also might enjoy if they’re so inclined. My daughter loves candy-land and it has really helped her learn about colors and even how to take turns in a game.
    An individual game I would HIGHLY recommend for anyone 3-8yo is the game Imaginets from Mindware company. It is such an open-ended game that can be played the way it comes (similar to the puzzle you have above) with cards and the pieces (colors, different shapes, sizes, etc.) to ‘build and match’ and every piece is a magnet, so if someone bumps it or you take it in the car–no big deal. I bought it at a home-schooling conference last year for my son’s birthday and they play with it all the time. It has even helped my littlest one with shape/color recognition, and it can also be used to build whatever you want–free imagination! http://www.amazon.com/MindWare-44204W-Imaginets/dp/B0037Z8DEK/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1323723788&sr=1-1

    Sarah M
    Sarah M’s latest post: DPP//11

  16. Jeff Schmitz says:

    Wildcraft looks interesting. Thanks for posting!

  17. This post is great, thanks! I’m going to look for a few of these for my almost 5 year old!
    Michelle Longo’s latest post: What I’m Not.

  18. Penny says:

    My girls love “Sleeping Queens”. A fun game that can also strengthen math skills….plus really cute King and Queen pictures.

  19. Catherine says:

    A favorite in our household is USA Bingo. I recently bought Brain Quest, and was able to play it with all four kids (10,9, 6 and 3, although the 3 year old was more interested in collecting purple tokens than really playing!). I love Trivial Pursuit-type games, and the beauty of Brain Quest is that the questions are grade-level based (1st – 6th grade).

    • Kika says:

      My kids have all enjoyed Brainquest too and I like Uno. By around 10ys they tend to like oldies like Scrabble, Monopoly and Chess (they each have other personal favorites but these tend to work regardless of gender or other personality differences). I have to say that I was disappointed with Wildcraft! I thought it would be more educational than it is but it is an easy game for my girls to play together despite their age gap (6 and 11 years). My kids and their friends have also enjoyed Professor Noggin’s games – inexpensive and you can buy whichever one’s relate to a child’s area of study or personal interest (ex. space, geography, human body…)

  20. Victoria C says:

    I love your list. I must admit, I have only heard of about two of the games you mentioned. Thank you for the recommendations. I am always on the market for new games for our bunch.

    Our favorites are Clue, Scrabble, Bibleopoly, and Blockers
    Victoria C’s latest post: Eeek! My Teen Daughter Wants to Date!

  21. Keely says:

    Enjoyed this post. I recently decided on a new label to add to our eclectic homeschooling/self-directed learning selves: Gameschoolers :)

  22. Jenn R. says:

    Great list! I remember playing Uncle Wiggly as a kid, good memories. I’m off to check off the other games!

  23. We love cribbage and taught our boys young. It’s a great way to teach adding (players add cards up to 31 and group them in sets that add to 15). We recently re-discovered the old seventies staple, Mastermind, during a game night. Great for deduction and lateral thinking. I’ve ordered our family a set for Christmas.
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: Albuquerque’s Twinkle Light Parade

  24. Jamie E. says:

    Our 4yo loves to play Sorry!, Monopoly Jr., Labyrinth and Catan Jr. with us. He also enjoys playing a somewhat simplified version of Life with us.

  25. Brittney says:

    Great list! Some of these are favorites, and some are on my wishlist! We like Boggle Jr., Sequence for Kids, and Monopoly Jr. Games like Dominoes, Uno, Go Fish and other card games make good stocking stuffers. My kids also LOVE the little peg games from Dollar Tree…the traditional triangle game, the racing games, Tic Tac Toe. I buy the seasonal ones too just for fun as well.
    Brittney’s latest post: It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas

  26. Georgiaberry says:

    Great list! And I am glad you mentioned Wildcraft – it is a favorite at our house. Other games we like are Guess Who? and Clue.
    Georgiaberry’s latest post: On the menu this week: July 23, 2012

  27. Oh, thank you for mentioning Uncle Wiggily! We love the book so I just ordered the game for under the Christmas Tree this year :)
    Jenn @ Beautiful Calling’s latest post: Kinder’s ‘A Joy To Share’

  28. Krissy says:

    My 5 year old loves playing Orchard.

  29. Tammy says:

    Great ideas! Thank you for sharing these.

  30. Christie says:

    We have several of these. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Monopoly Junior – my 4yr old has picked up basic addition and doubling from that game. My kids love plain old Go Fish – has helped the young ones with number recognition. We also have Word Pirates and Number Ninjas which they love. Oh and Zingo.
    Christie’s latest post: How Much Is Enough?

  31. Sarah M says:

    We have a lot of these games, too, and love them. I have had Sum Swamp and Wildcraft on my amazon wish list for the kids for years. I think it’s time that I go ahead and use some Christmas money to get them those after the new year. I know they’d be used in our house!
    PS-Two other fun games are Qwirkle and Imaginets. Kind of a long explanation for Qwirkle (it won an award not too long ago!) but Imaginets is a case that is magnetized on both sides, and inside the case are shapes with magnets, and cards with pictures. Similar to tangrams (but not square, triangle, ect.), it’s a singular game that is great in the car–magnets! Nothing falls out of the case. My kids have found a lot of them challenging, and fun to do during quiet time. Sometimes they just forfeit the cards and make their own pictures. :)
    Sarah M
    Sarah M’s latest post: DPP // 2

  32. Heather C says:

    We also like ThinkFun games, they have a couple games called zingo (which is like bingo). One is number zingo and the other is pictures/words. They are so fun!
    Heather C’s latest post: Happy Halloween!

  33. Heather C says:

    We have a prime membership too. It has been well worth it :)
    Heather C’s latest post: Happy Halloween!

  34. christianmotherof5 says:

    We just ordered the game Qwirkle from Rainbow Resources and my kids just love it. Even my five year old gets it and it is fun for adults as well. A great family game and it makes you think. Check it out. http://www.amazon.com/MindWare-M32016-Qwirkle-Board-Game/dp/1933054395/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386370323&sr=8-1&keywords=qwirkle

  35. This is an old post but these were some of our very favorite games when our kids were 12 and under (and some of them still work for 12 and up!): http://smallworldathome.blogspot.com/2007/01/favorite-family-games.html
    Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Christmas Books That Make Me Cry {Repost}

  36. Sara says:

    We also like SimplyFun games. http://www.simplyfun.com/georgia

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