Do you want your child to excel academically? Are you trying to give them extra practice at home or at a center, but they just don’t want to do it? Try a different approach. Play games instead! Games can teach all sorts of skills: counting, sight words, arithmetic, problem solving, critical thinking, game theory, statistics, and more. and they don’t have to be “learning games” to teach new skills and reinforce old ones. The best games are the ones where kids learn without even realizing it. Games that are age-appropriate and fun keep kids coming back for more.
Here’s our recommended list of games for each grade. (Click on the advertisements below to buy on Amazon, and you will be supporting Jersey City Ed.)
Preschool: Spot It (pictures only) and Memory
Spot It is a great pre-reading game, and for the adults, try to think about how you would create the game – it’s a complicated math puzzle. Memory is classic brain game, with some health benefits for parents, too.
Kindergarten: Zingo, Spot It (Basic English), and Outfoxed
Zingo is a bingo game great for learning sight words. Spot It (Basic English) was a great variation of the original Spot It, replacing some pictures for words. Unfortunately, it’s discontinued, but maybe you can make a DIY version at home! Finally, Outfoxed is a cooperative detective game with many educational benefits, including counting to six, memory, and process of elimination.
First Grade: Rat a Tat Cat, Connect Four, and Sleeping Queens
Rat a Tat Cat will help with addition up to 10 or 20, along with some more advanced concepts of game theory, expected value, and risk management 🙂 Connect Four is a classic game for learning one of the most important strategies in many games: control the center! And Sleeping Queens teaches how to combine offense and defense, all while reinforcing fact families and addition through 10.
Second Grade: Sushi Go, Checkers, Mancala
Sushi Go is a good introduction to more complicated strategy games. Checkers is a great way to learn to anticipate your opponent’s moves. And Mancala is a great game to learn to plan multiple moves ahead. All of these are good building blocks for more advanced critical thinking.
Third Grade: Chess
Chess is a game that you can play for the rest of your life. Best to learn it as young as possible!
Middle School: Stratego, Monopoly, and Ticket to Ride
Stratego is an exciting game of capture the flag, teaching game theory, advanced planning, and using your resources in coordination. Monopoly has everything, mental math, risk management, delayed gratification, and money management. Just make sure you play by the rules, so it actually ends (read: no Free Parking money). Ticket to Ride is a rare game that teaches geography, as well as more advanced strategic thinking.
High School: Texas Hold ‘Em
It might be somewhat controversial to teach kids a gambling game, but No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em Poker is worth the risks (and there is no need to play for money). It teaches so many things: risk management, probability, game theory, decision making with limited information, and the importance of your reputation.