Several years ago, when my kids and I attended a book sale, they ran across a computer typing game that they thought looked fun. Typing? Fun?
I was pretty sure that this typing game would end up forgotten and discarded, but it was only a couple of dollars, so I agreed. We took it home, loaded it on a laptop, and every last one of my kids, including my toddler, proceeded to play it.
Actually, they didn’t just play that game, they completely devoured it, and with zero prodding from me.
My older kids, then ages 10, 9, 7 and 5, learned to touch-type like pros! Using correct fingers and hand positions, they each worked their way through all of the levels, racking up points and outfitting their little avatars, until they could type 60+ words per minute with perfect accuracy.
I was astonished since the typing games seemed repetitive and basic to me. I figured that the reason behind their love of this game must have been that I rarely allowed them to game, and only allowed educational games on our laptop (we’ve never owned an actual gaming system) so they were pretty game-starved.
Whatever the reason, I was pretty happy about the outcome.
During subsequent years, I’ve seen the same thing happen over and over with other subjects. My kids learned all of the states and their capitals within just days after receiving the game ‘Scrambled States of America’ as a gift. My 7-yr-old daughter suddenly (and miraculously!) learned all of her multiplication facts in just a couple of hours after purchasing her a subscription to ‘Timez Attack’, an online educational game that helps kids memorize math facts.
Some kids just learn better through games than textbooks. And it makes total sense! Would you rather play an anatomy game to learn all the organs of the body, their position and function? Or would you rather read about them in a textbook? Which will you remember better?
I haven’t thrown away all of our textbooks, and I’m not going to. But whenever I can use a game to teach a particular aspect of a subject, I do. It just works better, which makes my homeschooling job easier and more pleasant.
What homeschooling mom doesn’t need things to be a little easier?
The Benefits of Playing Games in Your Homeschool
Beyond just being fun, games have tangible educational and social benefits.
They tend to be multisensory and can be a nice change from pencil-and-paper schoolwork, just. Games can stimulate different areas of the brain, encouraging brain development.
Kids may be less self-conscious during a game because they’re having fun. They may worry less about making mistakes than they would with more traditional types of learning, which can reduce academic anxiety and help kids develop a more positive attitude toward schoolwork.
Games require kids to strategize as they play — to problem-solve, and to make decisions. Kids even learn to try to anticipate and plan around moves the other players might make. This type of thinking develops neural pathways necessary for development of critical thinking skills.
Through games, kids can see real-world application of the skills and knowledge they are working towards. Repetition is enjoyable because kids are motivated to improve scores or other outcomes.
Games can help teach your kids to listen, follow directions, take turns, self-regulate their emotions, and how to be good sports when they don’t win. While direct instruction of social skills is also critical, there is something to be said for the hands-on, experiential learning that playing games together provides.
Different Types of Learning Games to Make Homeschool Fun
Learning games come in all types, and can help kids practice all kinds of academic skills:
- Literacy games such as boggle, hedbanz, scrabble, Apples to Apples, and Tall Tales help kids to become more proficient at phonics, expand their vocabularies, and learn spelling rules.
- Financial literacy games, like Monopoly or Carcassonne, ask kids to think about how much money or resources (such as property) they have and how they can use them to get to a goal.
- Mystery games ask kids to organize and synthesize information to use as a strategy for narrowing down to the correct answer. Consider games like 20 Questions, Clue, or Guess Who? for these skills.
- Math games like Mille Borne, Quirkle, Pentago, Prime Club, SET, Sequence, War and Countdown help kids to relate numbers and patterns and to be able to understand advanced numerical concepts by learning them in simple and fun ways.
- Strategy games like chess, checkers, Connect Four, and Battleship require kids to think up ways to move pieces to block or capture other pieces.
- Logic games such as IQ Twist, Gravity Maze, Rush Hour and Mastermind teach analytical thinking and reasoning skills.
I’ll be the first to tell you that kids are different. Two of my eight kiddos prefer textbooks to games. These two daughters learn well visually and are great at retaining information. They are both very no-nonsense, highly organized, ambitious and voracious readers. They roll their eyes at my games and choose to just ‘get the work done’. But they don’t generally like games outside of school, either, while they do love to read anything and everything. To them, the textbook is the most fun and attractive choice.
But still, with 16 years of homeschooling under my belt, 90 percent of the time I’m going to choose the method of learning that seems more like a game than a workbook or textbook, because that will be most appealing to the widest number of my children.
So I teach with fun games whenever possible — starting with my preschoolers as they begin learning phonics.
My entire phonics program is game-based. I supplement with Explode the Code workbooks for writing practice, but even then, I hand my preschooler a box of crayons and let him complete the workbooks as if they were fun coloring books. We learn the names and sounds of the letters with apps, games, videos, sensory bins and other fun activities.
Because we use games instead of worksheets or textbooks, my preschoolers bring me the phonics bin and beg me for school time daily. How is that for building a love of learning? And because we use games and fun experiments to learn about electricity, astronomy, anatomy and simple machines, my older kids beg for school.
If you want your kids to beg for school, too, try using games as curriculum!
Now, I’d love to hear from you! Do you use games in your homeschool? Please share your favorites in the comments below!
For a limited time, a couple of my CVC games are free to Multitaskin’ Mom readers, so you can teach your kids phonics using fun games and hands-on activities. Just download and print these files.
As a homeschooling mom of 8 precocious kiddos, Amy has honed her superpower, ‘Entropy Annihilation’ to shiny, razor-sharp perfection. In addition to being very organized, she has mastered the art of pinching pennies. She blogs about all things homeschooling and frugality at her blog, Orison Orchards, which is also the name of her families farm/orchards.
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