When children seem to drown in new information or resist the drill approach to memorizing facts, consider implementing cool educational games. Many games, from traditional to multimedia, individual to large group, spark children’s interest and keep them motivated when other methods fail. Learning games work in the classroom, at home, in the library and in after-school settings.
Active games like Head Shoulders Knees and Toes and Person to Person teach basic concepts and vocabulary through physical movement. Indoor games like Pictionary, 20 Questions and Charades encourage deductive reasoning. Free online games, such as those offered by Edheads, give children the chance to problem-solve, master basic skills or interact with other players on activities, such as designing a cell phone or doing virtual surgery. Younger children will enjoy the free games at PBS Kids, such as Calliou the Paleontologist and Pteranodon Fishing.
Cool education games offer a twist on memorizing facts. For example, in Guess My Rule, students name a number. Write the number down and then apply a mystery function to the number, and write the result. Students must determine the mystery rule you applied. In Math Monster, a game inspired by Hangman, you write blanks for numbers in a basic arithmetic equation. Each incorrect guess results in another feature on the monster’s face. Students must guess the numbers in the equation before you create a monster’s face.
Most fun learning games have a quick pace. In the game Sponge, you challenge a child to come up with a list of three things belonging to a category in five seconds. You might ask for three nouns, three addition equations, three animals or some other concept you want to reinforce. In Math Magic, you tell your child to think of a number. Apply various functions to the number, telling them to add 1, multiply by 5 or divide the number in half. At the end of a series of functions, ask the child to tell you the final number.
Harvard educational theorist Howard Gardner says that cool learning games can address children’s multiple intelligences, which reinforces information, deepens learning and moves new facts from short-term to long-term memory. Word games support linguistic learners, song and rhythm games help musical learners, optical illusions reach visual learners, movement activities address kinesthetic learners and cooperative games involve interpersonal learners.
Avoid games that single out people for making mistakes or making players feel like they have lost. Try cooperative games and activities that require teamwork, such as building marble mazes, doing science experiments, filling in graphic organizers or solving a multiple-step puzzle.