Video games often get a bad rap. Some of that criticism may be deserved (many don’t exactly encourage kids to get active), but video games aren’t all bad. In fact, there are a number that are pretty darn educational and can help students young and old learn new things, develop problem-solving skills, and get creative, all while having a really great time. Many schools have already gotten on board with educational video games and homeschoolers can do the same. Here are some great games to try out that present quality educational content in a fun format that students from kindergarten to high school will love.
These video games for Wii, Xbox, and Playstation will get your kids loving the learning process.
- My Word Coach: Available for both Wii and Nintendo DS, this linguist-developed game will help students improve their verbal communication skills through six different fun, word-related games. Even better, the game comes complete with a built-in dictionary loaded with over 17,000 words.
- uDraw Studio: Instant Artist: Help your young learner embrace his or her creative size with this game and drawing device. Players can engage with built in games (using custom-designed avatars and settings) or just get busy creating their own masterpieces.
- Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster: Geared toward younger learners, this video game brings Sesame Street favorites like Elmo and Cookie Monster together to read kids stories and get them engaged and moving through a series of fun and physical games.
- Smarty Pants: Even parents will enjoy playing this trivia game from Electronic Arts. Similar to Trivial Pursuit, the game quizzes players on a variety of topics from history, to science, to sports, challenging players to come up with right answers and to show off their skills.
- Reader Rabbit: The Reader Rabbit series has reading-related educational games that touch a variety of learning levels and topics. The one we’ve linked to here is for second graders, but there are others for lower and higher grades. All get kids involved in reading through a series of fun mini-games.
- National Geographic Challenge: Bolster your kids’ geographic knowledge with the help of this fun Xbox game, which allows players to quiz themselves, complete puzzles, or explore the world.
- Escape Adventure Island: This Jump Start title is one of many the company offers on the Wii platform. Through it, young learners engage with a 3D environment that helps them to practice math, reading, and critical thinking skills, earning virtual rewards as they go.
- Storybook Workshop: This bargain-priced Wii game is perfect for youngsters who are just learning how to read. It features 16 different fairy tales that kids can listen to or perform, songs you can sing, and even the capability to record your little ones reading the stories.
- LittleBIGPlanet 2: LittleBIGPlanet not only boasts some amazing graphics, but it is also a great game for getting kids to develop problem solving skills. Players navigate through a rich landscape, finding objects along the way, many of which can be used to solve puzzles that will challenge young minds.
- Portal 2: Instead of having players shoot their way to victory like many games do, in Portal 2 players have to use their wits to escape Aperture Laboratories and challenge the power-mad robot at the heart of the story. Ranked as one of the best games of all time, it’s a memorable and mentally challenging experience that players won’t soon forget.
- Brain and Body Connection: Encourage students to push not only their minds but also their bodies in this game that pushes them to excel in both areas. Kids can play individually or you can all play together as a family.
Nintendo and Playstation handheld devices get an educational upgrade with these games.
- Big Brain Academy: Big Brain Academy, a Nintendo DS game, asks players to take on a number of different kinds of challenges which are timed. Essentially, it’s a workout for the brain, designed to challenge players of all ages.
- Magic School Bus Oceans: This is just one of many Magic School Bus games out there, all of which can be amazing ways for young learners to have fun while surreptitiously being educated. In this game, kids will explore the ocean through a series of lessons and seven different educational games.
- BrainQuest: Geared towards grades three and four, this game poses more than 6,000 questions to players. There’s action as well as puzzles, and the two are combined in a way that will make kids reluctant to put down the game.
- Spelling Challenges: If your students are in need of some help with spelling, this game could be a fun way to get them to practice. It contains more than 25,000 words at 100 different levels and engages players through 11 different games.
- Book Worm: Reading, spelling, and other language skills are tested in this fun Nintendo DS game. A wealth of word puzzle games will keep kids smiling as they build their own virtual libraries within the game.
- Animal Genius: Animals are fascinating to young learners and this game capitalizes on that. There are five mini-games to play, each focusing on a different habitat, that will quiz kids on their knowledge of all things animal-related.
- Learn Science: Filled with fun mini-games, this title for the Nintendo DS is a great way to help kids practice their science knowledge. There are different game modes and difficulty levels that will extend play to a wide range of learners.
- Brain Age: Parents and kids alike will love using this application to train their brains and become a mental athlete. From math to logic to word problems, there are numerous challenges that will help learners in every aspect of their education. A series of games and tests will help students build the knowledge they need to ace the test, and it just might even be fun to do.
- futureU: Homeschooled kids getting ready to head to college? You may want to invest in this game (it’s relatively cheap, so it’s not really much of an investment), which helps prep students for the SAT.
- Drawn to Life: Want to help your budding young artist, animator, or creative type embrace his or her talents? This game can be a great way to do so. It allows players to make a drawing which will be brought to life and used to play a series of fun and entertaining games as they fight to bring back an imperiled village.
Power up your PC or Mac for some learning fun when you invest in these amazing educational games.
- SimCity: This classic game isn’t just fun. It also teaches invaluable lessons about city planning, environmental impact, and even natural disasters.
- Spore: Your homeschool students can get excited about evolution by playing this game that takes them through single-celled organisms all the way up to space exploration and colonization. Players slowly design their own creatures, adding traits and behaviors along the way that will help or hinder their survival as they evolve. It’s fun, addictive, and sneakily educational.
- Nancy Drew: Encourage your kids to hone their critical thinking and problem-solving skills by playing this fun PC game that challenges them to solve a mystery as girl detective Nancy Drew.
- ItzaBitza: In ItzaBitza, drawings come to life. Not only that, but it’s also designed to help early readers boost their skills, offering both amazing creativity, confidence building, and language skills.
- Crazy Machines: The Wacky Contraptions Game: Build creative machines, test your contraptions, and put them to work in this imaginative game that teaches the basics of physics, electricity, gravity, and particle effects.
- Brainiversity: This Windows-based game will help you and your kids keep your brains fit and healthy by testing them through mental training sessions. Mini-games cover language, memory, math, and analysis; all valuable skills to have in any academic endeavor.
- Civilization: What makes one civilization thrive while another dies? Players will learn just that as they build their own empires in this classic game. The game offers lessons in strategy, ancient and modern cultures, and the fundamentals of human society; a great accompaniment to history lessons.
- Hearing Music: Give students ages 5-11 a fun way to boost hearing skills and learn more about music by supplying them with this fun game-based learning method.
These online educational games and resources are making a splash with parents and school districts alike.
- Gamestar Mechanic: You can help your video game-loving kid to embrace tech skills through this game, which allows young players to design and build their own video games.
- Math Blaster: One of the most widely used math games out there, this free game will make learning math more fun than ever for your young learners.
- Quest Atlantis: A popular choice at schools across the country, this educational gaming environment immerses upper elementary and middle school kids in lessons on everything from science to social issues.
- Whyville: Through Whyville, kids can create an avatar, play educational games, hang out with friends, and have fun while doing it!
- Minecraft: Minecraft isn’t just an educational game, it’s become a nationwide phenomenon. As this Slate piece discusses, the addictive game has captivated students and parents alike. Why? It inspires creativity and problem solving while also being just, well, fun.
- Manga High: Math gets a fun makeover on this site, focusing on game-based learning for students at a wide range of levels. Basic games are free, but the full suite will cost you.
- 20Q: The online version of 20 Questions, this site can be used to help students think and reason.
- Ology: Created by the Museum of Natural History, this game-filled site is an excellent resource for lessons in astronomy, biodiversity, genetics, paleontology, and more.
- Gamequarium: This site is full of learning-based games that focus on a wide range of skills and topics. From number games for kindergartners to Spanish help for middle schoolers, and even a special section for homeschoolers.
- FunBrain: There are dozens of learning games on this site that kids will love to play and you’ll love for them to learn from. Reading Arcade, Math Baseball, and Grammar Gorillas are just a few that will become instant classics in your home.
If you’re lucky enough to have a tablet, maximize its potential in the classroom by downloading a few (or all) of these great educational games.
- Rocket Math: At less than a dollar, this excellent math-learning game is a real value, especially as it has been named one of the best games for kids by a number of sources. It certainly helps make math fun, providing players with a whopping 56 different math missions.
- Playtime Theatre: Creative kids will love creating their own characters and putting on virtual puppet shows through this app. You could even tie in literature or other lessons to it, too.
- Toontastic: Kids can build their own animations in this great free game from Launchpad Toys.
- Stack the States: Learning about the states has never been so fun. This game uses a range of games to help young kids learn the names and locations of states. Geography learners can also play Stack the Countries.
- Montessori Crosswords: Filled with hands-on, Montessori tested activities, this game will help improve spelling skills.
- Fish School: Geared towards young children, this game uses cute fish graphics to teach the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and colors.
- Khan Academy: Khan Academy’s wealth of educational games is even better when accessed through a tablet, challenging kids to learn, grow, and get better in their core subjects.
- Super Why: Created by PBS, Super Why is a literacy-focused game that helps build skills in everything from reading to rhyming.
- Oregon Trail: Kids have been loving and learning from Oregon trail for decades now. This updated version for the iPad and iPhone is just as fun and boasts better graphics.
- Mindsnacks: Language learning in homeschool can be hard if you’re not totally fluent, but games like Mindsnacks can help, quizzing learners on basic vocabulary words in English, Chinese, French, Italian, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
- PLATO Achieve: While geared towards school districts, this educational system based on Common Core Standards can also be a boon to homeschoolers. You’ll find educational tools galore, including a range of interactive games that touch on topics like math and language learning.