Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Learning All Summer Long - Board Games

A while back I decided to clean out our game/puzzle cabinet. Here's a before picture of all the games and puzzles. This doesn't include the stack hidden behind the couch...

Sadly, the after shot didn't look much different. The fact is, we LOVE to play games (and do puzzles) so while our game cabinet is bursting at the doors, it's really hard to clear out too much when we really do play them all. I've bought pretty much every one of our games at garage sales or thrift stores, or picked them up for free at one of our homeschool swaps, so for us board games are a way to have a lot of fun at a very low cost. I lean heavily towards games that have an educational purpose. That's just my way of sneaking in a little more learning each day. We use board games regularly in our homeschooling as well to spice things up a bit.

I think all board games provide an opportunity for learning...patience, focus, winning and losing gracefully...but some teach much more than others. Here's a look at some of our favorite educational games:

Consider this a math version of Scrabble. Instead of spelling words, players create number sentences using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Though it is difficult, Spice plays this game too. I have access to her tiles and will guide her in coming up with equations, but leave a certain # out for her to figure out for herself. For example, I'll say, "Place your 3 tile before the addition sign, place the four tile after it, add an equals sign and the answer." She'll look through her tiles and find the 7 to finish off the equation.

This is an awesome critical thinking game! Players lay out 12 cards and race to make sets of three. Sounds simple, but it's not. I have been making a real effort to teach Sport to FOCUS on one thing at a time. This game is excellent for that. If you're not giving it all of your attention all the time, you're toast! Spice has not played this with us yet. (It's hard!) But the last time we played, she watched and did call out a couple of sets of her own so maybe she's ready.

Boggle Jr.
This game helps preschoolers learn their letters and beginning words. Players roll the letter dice and try to find all the letters needed to spell the word on their card. Players can see the word they are trying to spell to make it easier, or the word can be covered up for added difficulty once the child becomes more proficient at spelling and sounding out words.

What's Gnu
Similar to Boggle Jr., but geared towards early readers who can put together three letter words. Instead of dice, it uses a cool sliding dispenser thingy that kids love to spit out letter tiles. Spice could just sit and play with that part all day.

Scrabble Junior
Like the grown-up version, but has words already spelled out on one side of the board for players to match their letters to. More advanced players can turn the board over for a blank slate.

Not much explanation needed here, but we use it for math practice. I let Spice count the dots on her dice when needed to add up her score. For Sport, I quickly scoop up the dice and have him add or multiply in his head.

This may not seem like an educational game, but if you have a preschooler it's great for reinforcing numbers and colors. When Spice first started playing, I pretty much knew every card in her hand so I easily could have run her over, but sometimes it's not about winning the game, but providing lots of practice on certain concepts instead. (I have to remind myself of that often.)

Go Fish
Another one that's good for number and color recognition. Even those he's mastered those skills, Sport still likes to play this game. That darned fishing pole is just too much fun!

Monopoly Jr.
After I played my first game of Monopoly Jr., I knew I'd never go back to the grown-up version. Monopoly Jr. is fun, easy to follow, and most importantly, doesn't take 3 hours to play. This is a favorite of Sport and Spice. In the beginning, Sport was our banker, but lately, Spice has taken over that role and is getting in tons of math practice.

Trivial Pursuit for Juniors
I picked this up at an estate sale in my neighborhood recently and much to my surprise, the kids have really enjoyed it. There are questions that are easy enough for Spice to answer, but sometimes if she gets one that's too hard I might rephrase the question or make up a different one altogether. No one's ever the wiser. The science questions are much more on my level too! Most importantly, both Sport and Spice have been able to spout off facts they remember from the game.

Wiz Kidz
There are two decks of cards, one with a set of topics like "a piece of furniture" or "something found at the mall" and another deck with letter cards. Two cards are flipped over at the same time and players try to be the first to come up with a word that fits the category and starts with the correct letter.

Money, Money - A Discovery Toys game that is no longer produced, but if you see it at a garage sale or thrift store snatch it up. Players make their way across a board earning or spending allowance on every space for things like recycling cans or feeding the fish. The player with the most money at the end wins.

Math Magic - A self correcting game by Ravensburger that focuses on addition and subtraction.

Don't forget old fashioned favorites like dominoes (great for math skills with all of its different scoring versions), checkers, chess, and a good ol' deck of cards. Sport and Spice have been hooked on Solitaire lately (another one that I hope will improve Sport's attention span.) I think there is a Bingo game available for pretty much any subject too. We probably own about 95% of them - addition, division, ABCs, human body, Spanish...

This post is linked to WFMW's "Mom I'm Bored" edition.