Board games are a lot of fun to play, but did you know that many board games are also excellent educational tools? These games are perfect for use in the classroom and at home, as they teach kids how to take turns, play within a set of rules, and stretch their critical thinking skills in various ways. Each of these educational board games challenges different thinking skills, yet all are a lot of fun to play alone or in a group. These board games for elementary school kids are so much fun, kids won’t even realize they’re learning. Teaching with board games in the classroom is an excellent way to add variety to your lesson plans while helping kids develop critical thinking skills that will aid them later in life.
I loved this game when I was a kid, and my children are just as happy with it. This educational board game is great for teaching deductive reasoning skills through yes or no questions. You and your opponent take turns trying to guess each other’s person by asking questions such as, “Does your person have brown eyes?” or “Is your person smiling?” Kids will be challenged by having to ask questions in a yes or no format and trying to think of the best questions to ask so that they get to the result quickly and win the game.
This addictive game of strategy is just as much fun for kids as it is for adults. Players will challenge both their creative and spatial thinking skills as they manipulate geometric pieces across the board to block their opponent(s). The game is simple to learn (even my 3-year-old could play with us), but it’s the advanced thinking skills used to form strategies that make this educational board game a great one to use in the classroom. By using simple shapes, kids will have to think ahead about which pieces will fit together to block the other players’ moves and advance their own strategy. Once you’ve mastered the classic version, try Blokus Trigon and Blokus 3D for even more brain-building fun. Our family has them all and we have a blast playing them regularly.
Apples to Apples Junior
If you want to build word recognition and vocabulary skills with your kids, then Apples to Apples Junior is the perfect teaching board game to do just that. This group game challenges players to make crazy comparisons with words, building both a better vocabulary and a sense of humor and word play at the same time. Players take turns being the judge and put one card out on the table which features a one-word characteristic like “smelly” or “amazing.” The other players have to choose one of their cards (which feature random nouns) as the best match and convince the judge why their card should win. Not only does this game expand a child’s word base, it develops critical thinking skills as well while kids are having lots of fun. For more fun, try Apples to Apples Kids (ages 7+), which is perfect for beginning readers.
If you like brain teasers of have a child who does, then this game is perfect. This 3D brain puzzle challenges you to remove your red car from a gridlocked traffic pattern; the catch is that you can only move cars in a linear motion, back and forth in the direction they’re facing, while trying to get the red car off of the board and out of traffic. The game comes with a board, plastic cars and trucks, and 40 cards that give you 4 levels of playing difficulty, from easy to expert. The game is simple to learn using the easy cards, but the more advanced setups can really stump even adults. This educational board game really challenges your spatial and strategic thinking skills; you must think ahead in a cause-and-effect way to make sure your moves are advancing your strategy and not just creating messier gridlock. In a classroom setting, Rush Hour would be perfect as a center or as a reward for students who could use some one-on-one quiet time. My 7 year old has this game and my 4 year old has its kid-friendly counterpart, Rush Hour Jr. (ages 6-8); together, they sit on the couch or at the table and play simultaneously, having a great time (and I love the peace and quiet!). This game really stretches their brains in new ways, yet they love to play again and again. And, I must admit, my husband and I have a great time playing this game, too.
1 or more players
SET is an educational card game that seems simple on the surface, but quickly challenges your ability to make connections by being the first to recognize a pattern. Each card contains one to three symbols that vary in color, shape, number, and degree of shading. 12 cards are dealt at a time, and everyone goes at once (there are no turns), blurting out “set!” when they see a pattern (i.e. one, two, and three green ovals with varying degrees of shading). Some of the sets are simple to point out, but the game gets trickier as it goes on. Younger children may get frustrated with more complex patterns, but older elementary-aged kids will have a ball figuring out this card game. It’s a simple concept with infinite possibilities, making it lots of fun to play again and again.