Written by contributor Kris Bales, of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.
My family and I enjoy playing lots of board and card games.
Usually when we’re playing, it’s just for fun and I’m not even considering the educational value. However, a lot of games that we play actually put many practical learning skills to use.
What hidden learning is lurking in your game closet?
Scrabble is one of my favorite games and probably one of the easiest to peg for educational value. First off, there is spelling. Players have to spell the words correctly or they can be challenged (which provides practice looking words up in the dictionary).
Scrabble is also great for vocabulary. Os, xi, za, and qi are great two-letter words to know…but do you know what any of them mean? Os is a bodily opening. Xi is the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet. Qi is another form of chi, the substance of which everything is composed in Chinese philosophy.
And, za? Well, there is some debate over whether or not it’s a word, but the official Scrabble dictionary and Words with Friends allow it.
Photo by Kris
A lot of times, we don’t keep score when I play Scrabble with the kids. I figure it’s good practice for them and I’m just happy I can get someone to play with me. While I am careful not to turn it into a spelling or vocabulary lesson, I will define any words I play that I think the kids probably don’t know.
I remember playing Yahtzee as a very young child – like, under the age of 8. In addition to just being fun, Yahtzee is great for counting and adding (or multiplying).
It’s also great for categorizing (putting all the matching die together) and strategizing (would it be better to count this roll for the fives or wait and go for a full house?). And, then, of course, there is some serious three column addition at the end to see who won.
I never really thought much about Battleship as an educational game, until my kids starting doing graphs in math. E5, anyone? Players have to be able to figure out how to read a grid in order to play and that’s just more fun than math. Then, when you actually get to the math, it makes those graphs make a lot more sense when you can say, “You know, like in Battleship.”
Photo by John-Morgan
There’s a great deal of strategy and critical thinking involved in Battleship, too. Is it better to cluster all the ships together to disguise their sizes or spread them out? When you find your opponent’s ship, do you try to sink it right away or locate the others first? And, of course, you’ve got to pay attention to the graph you’re keeping on your opponent’s ships, too. It’s no fun when you forget to do that because most opponents aren’t helpful in reminding you what you’ve already called.
Monopoly is such a great game for combining learning and fun – and patience! It can be a long game. It’s worth it, though. It’s got:
- counting – both moves and money
- figuring amounts owed and making change
- real estate concepts – mortgage, taxes, land development, and, of course, monopoly
Photo by John-Morgan
Monopoly is another game that offers some great critical thinking opportunities, too. We do a lot of trading or selling properties, so a player has to weigh the risks and benefits of trading this property for that one.
And, finally, probability is a big part of trading and selling property in monopoly. If I let the other player get a monopoly on this property, how likely am I to land on it and have to pay big bucks?
Chess and Checkers
Okay, here’s the part where I have to fully disclose the fact that I am terrible at these games. Both are great for teaching strategy and critical thinking. That’s why my husband teaches the kids to play. I am terrible at having any strategy other than trying to get my checkers in the corners and keeping my back row intact as long was possible. I’m terrible at tic-tac-toe, too.
Photo by John-Morgan
That being said, for most people, chess and checkers can be great games for teaching thinking skills in a fun, low-key way. They’re also great games to chose if you want to beat Mom. Just don’t dare to challenge me to Clue. You will lose.
What games with hidden or not-so-hidden educational qualities do you and your family enjoy?