As a homeschooling mother of an eight year old, I’m always on the look out for opportunities to make learning fun and engaging. Here’s a list of my favorite games and learning tools I’ve found which exercise the brain and imagination.
You’ve probably heard of this game before but if you haven’t, don’t let the blocky pixellated graphics turn you off however as that’s by design due to the building principles and overall size of possible worlds that can be built. For an example of what’s possible, do a search on YouTube for “Minecraft Timelapse – Arabius City”. I’m constantly in awe at what people are building with this game. With over 8 Million purchased downloads, your kids probably won’t even notice the pixellated nature of the graphics.
It is a Sandbox-style game where a player can roam freely through a virtual world. The player collects resources and can create elaborate cities, buildings and worlds. What a lot of people don’t know is that there is a version called MinecraftEdu for schools. Educators are finding that Minecraft is effective for engaging students, creative thinking and problem solving. Game-based learning, virtual worlds, and simulations are emerging in innovative schools around the globe. It is available as a PC download for just under $30 as well as the XBox, iPhone and iPad. Stay tuned also as the school version of Minecraft will soon be available for home use.
These colorful geometric blocks have magnets that let you create an endless amount of 3D objects and buildings. These magnetic tiles teach spatial relationships, math, logic, and problem-solving through creative building. Oh, and it’s a LOT of fun! Magna-Tiles is the top-selling product at Lakeshore Learning stores and gets rave reviews from educators as a must have item. My 8 year daughter has the 100 piece set and seems to never get bored with it.
Magna Tiles are a little pricey however, the 32 piece set cost $50 and the 100 piece set is $130. Available on Amazon, Lakeshore Learning also sends out coupons via their mailing list to purchase on its site which will bring the cost of these down.
Hypotrochoid Art Set
Hypotrochoids are mathematical designs created by a point in a circle rolling around inside of a larger circle. Groovy… Of course I had to add this 70’s throwback item here on groovyPost. This super fun art set is inexpensive and comes in a small package. Warning — just make sure when you use this item you protect any surface under your paper using something like a clipboard or a sketch pad. My daughter permanently etched our wood coffee table with some groovy spiral art.
Available at Amazon for $8.70 for ages 6 and up.
Smarty Ants Online Pre K Virtual Learning
This website is designed for early childhood readers. It was developed by five leading experts from top Universities. It’s a CODiE award winner in the category of Best Educational Game. The game is a virtual world where children encounter a variety of fun research-based activities, games and instructions that builds key early literacy skills. As a subscriber, you have access to reports available through the data dashboard that allow you as a parent to identify your child’s specific strengths and weaknesses while providing links to both Common Core and state standards and enrichment activities for each student.
Click here for a 30 day free trial for new customers.After that, the subscription is $49.99 per a year or $29.99 for 3 months. Recommended for ages 4 and up.
Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0
No need to be intimidated by building your own robotics with Lego Mindstorms! Lego Mindstroms NXT are complete kits with everything you need to build your own machines. These kits contain the all Lego’s, software, hardware and detailed instructions needed to complete up to 4 robots. At the root of the Mindstorms Robotics Invention is the programmable brick created at the prestigious MIT Media Lab. Recommended for ages 10 and up. Available at Amazon.com
This strategy board game has won many coveted awards such as Parents’ Choice Gold Award, Major Fun Award, Creative Child Magazine Award and The Mensa Select Award. Qwirkle is a game of strategy where you score by building rows of blocks related by shape and or color. It’s appropriate for ages 6 and up yet challenging enough that all ages will love Qwirkle. It’s quick to learn but not easy to master. A #4 bestseller for the board game category, you can find it at amazon.com
This maze in a ball reminds me of the classic labyrinth game. A small metal ball rolls around on the inside, and it’s your job to guide that ball through the maze to its end. Once the ball is balanced in its starting position, it’s easy to start rolling it around the tracks. By the time you’ve learned the different passageways, you’ll realize that even though it’s easy to play, all the different ways of moving around are pretty hard to master! This is the number #1 bestselling brain teaser on amazon’s website.
Available at amazon.com. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
The Allowance Game
Here’s another favorite in our house. This game starts at the Penny and works you up to the stock market. This has a similar layout to Monopoly but teaches at a level that kids will understand. Players race around the board earning allowance and have to make decisions on how to spend their money wisely. Kids learn about mortgages, interest and starting their own business, while sneaking in skills such as addition and subtraction. The coins are in the shape of real coins which has improved my daughters money counting skills. About $17.00 at Amazon. Ages 5-11 years old.
Kid Pix Deluxe 3D
This one is another award-winning game. Kid Pix has been around since 1989 for the Apple Macintosh. Yes I played Kid Pix 1.0…. My friends father worked for the technology dept. for the local school district in Redmond, WA so I had unlimited access to all the educational software used in schools, and this was my favorite. This newest version is updated with 3D animation. I was amazed at what I saw in the project section done by kids as young as 5. It has received the Parent’s Choice Silver Award and Editor’s Choice Award from Children’s Technology Review. Try it for Free with a 15 day trial. Full License available for Mac and PC for around $50 on Amazon.com or the publishers site.
Melissa and Doug Magnetic Responsibility Chart
I view responsibility charts like training your kids for a future where everyone will be using Google or Outlook calendars. It comes with 18 chore magnets such as: make your bed, do your homework, put toys away, brush teeth and no whining. Sunday through Saturday are listed to the right of the Responsibility/Goal to where you can place a reward magnet that consists of a smiley face. Kids follow by example, so be sure they see you using your calendar on a daily basis. My daughter loves her chart it gives her a sense of accomplishment, we keep it hung on the wall in her room where she can refer to it everyday. It’s available at amazon.Recommended for ages 3 and up.