Education Is Fun: Games That Encourage Learning

Who said learning has to be dull and draining? Most people, kids especially, process new information better when they’re having fun and they don’t feel like they’re learning. Education does not begin and end in the classroom, and there are limits to what children can learn from textbooks. If you want your children to become well-rounded adults, you need to hone the skills that school doesn’t emphasise. One of the best ways to do this is by playing games. After all, learning doesn’t have to be dull and draining. Here are a few suggestions to help you start the educational fun at home.

Puzzles and Construction Toys

All children are budding artists, engineers, and designers, but they have to start young and have fun t develop those skills. Jigsaw puzzles are an effective way to develop children’s advanced spatial skills and for older kids, manipulating small puzzles pieces help the development of fine motor skills, which perfect hand eye-coordination. If your kids are getting a bit old for simple jigsaw puzzles put their skills to the test with Ugears Mechanical Models; these are 3D models that will challenge kids to construct puzzles on a whole new dimension. Best of all, their efforts are rewarded with a new mechanical toy. Keep your eyes peeled for classic toys such as Mechano or MegaBloks (for the babies) at carboot sales, and I your local charity shops. These well-known branded toys can cost a small fortune brand new but you may grab a good bargain if you’re lucky.

Board Games

Some families might have experienced the epic fights declared over Monopoly, but don’t knock its value just yet. Besides giving kids practice in making change, Monopoly is a fun way to teach such grown-up concepts as saving, budgeting and financial planning. Plus the random element, such as “Go directly to jail!” teaches your child how to adapt to sudden changes. There aren’t many other games out there that give such an accurate portrayal of real life. Of course, there are lots of different style board games you could try (and have lots of fun with). Jenga and Operation practise hand-eye coordination. Uno reinforces colours, numbers and pattern recognition. Hopscotch teaches numbers and gross motor skills. A personal favourite of mine is Bananagrams, where you can challenge yourself to find words from letter tiles, and build them up into a wordsearch style grid. The game is for adults and kids alike, but I create a super simple version for my 5 year old, where I lay all of the tiles down and let her find any words, in any time frame.

Think of any board game and it will be teaching kids something. Get them using their brains and their bodies and you will have fun, make memories and secretly be teaching the kids a few things… even if the main goal is ‘turn taking’!

It’s A Mystery

Children also need to learn the value of working as a team, so “It’s a Mystery” is an ideal team-building game. Many children enjoy a good mystery, so the aim of this game is to design a mystery that they must all solve together. Give each child a numbered clue. In order to solve the mystery — say, the case of the missing TV remote — children must work together to solve the clues in order. The “case” might require them to move from one area of the room to the next, uncovering more clues.

Video games

I’ll be honest with you here. I flipping hate video games, iPads, smart phones… when used by kids. But, I am starting to learn (as my kids get older) that I have to accept modern technology and realise that this is now part of my children’s lives. Playing video games might seem counterproductive but if you stick to age-appropriate material, video games can actually help your child’s learning process. Many quest-based games, such as Legend of Zelda, encourages children to search, negotiate, plan, and try different approaches to advance to the next level, therefore teaching them creative problem-solving skills. App games such as Age of Empires have sparked children’s interest in world history, geography, and ancient cultures. Finally, video games can make a difficult subject seem easier. If your child struggles with maths, perhaps a maths quiz game can make the process easier to understand. Our kids recently got a Vtech InnoTV games console. It’s a real basic games console, that’s suitable for toddlers. The girls have enjoyed Power Rangers, Peppa Pig and Little People games. Although keep screen time limited, as over use can have a negative effect!

Also if it means you get half an hour to do some house work whilst they’re quiet, I suppose it’s acceptable.

Why Kids Need Pencils Not iPads

This is a subject that I am very passionate about. I think kids need pencils not iPads. Some people agree whole heartedly with me and some people would like to see me being burnt at the stake like the medieval witch that I supposedly am. Get with the times Hazel. It’s the 21st Century.

Lets start with the adults.

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When was the last time you wrote a list? Put something on a physical calendar, not the one on your phone? Wrote an address on an envelope? Drew a picture with your child?

Chances are probably not for a while. Do you have a phone book? I don’t mean the digital mobile version but an actual handwritten phone book that sits by the house phone? I don’t. But I remember having one when I was a kid. I remember doodling in it while chatting to my BFF every night after school for hours and hours. In fact I still remember her home telephone number off by heart.

What I’m trying to say is, us adults remember a time when technology wasn’t in our daily lives. Heck, we even remember a time when computers weren’t found in every single home. Dial-up was exciting! Our kids don’t remember those days. All they know is that all big people have a phones, tablets or laptops firmly attached to our hands. What I find shocking is that I know of children at the age of 2 who have their OWN iPads.

Have you noticed that your handwriting has suffered because you no longer have to use it? Or maybe your spelling has flopped to an all time low. Why? Because spellcheck does it all for you. If you don’t know the meaning of a word then you simply Google it, don’t you dare ever use the dictionary.

When we were children we learnt to hold a pencil and write by watching and copying others who were already masters at the skill of written communication. I observed a child in nursery last week try to swipe-right a piece of A4 paper. I sh*t you not. I thought I was imagining it, but I wasn’t. Think about that for a second.

How are our children going to learn the art of writing, holding a pencil and how to glide the pencil over gorgeous smooth paper if parents encourage them to stare at a glowing screen inside?

Kids need pencils not iPads.

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OK, there is the obvious- Kids need to learn how to write. But what if we face a future were no human never has to write ever again. OK, that’s a very very unlikely scenario but the way this world is going and the speed of technology it wouldn’t knock my socks off if it did happen.

But kids use pencils and paper for lots of other things other than just mark making. Imagination, language skills, fine motor skills, colour recognition, self esteem are all developed through pencil and paper. Many parents will admit to letting their child under the age of 2 play on an iPad or smart phone. I admit it, although it is an extremely rare occurrence, and given the choice, I know my children would prefer to sit and draw in their sketchbooks. Not many parents I’ve met can say that.

Too much screen time in childhood has been linked to obesity, depression and aggression. Dangers of too much scribble time? The risk of a nasty paper cut or spending too much money on stationary.

It’s not just drawing lines. Kids let their imaginations run free; horses can be pink, the sky can be green and a car can also transform into a mutant spider that eats giant carrots. These are some of the things my kids have drawn. On paper. My girls help each other during arts and crafts time, they praise each other for their efforts and they admire each others work. Its hard to share an iPad screen. Screen time should not become a pacifier, but a child’s boredom can quickly be resolved with some fun imaginative play. Tipping up a whole pencil case across the floor might make any busy parent’s skin crawl but it guarantees some peace and quiet, and you will probably receive some awesome portrait of you in return.

The education system are wanting far more from young kids. They are expecting the level of learning to be higher than it was in previous years, yet in reality children are not meeting these ‘goals’ and are actually falling behind compared to where children were 10 years ago.

When I was told this during a parents meeting at my daughters first school induction week I scoffed (loudly and embarrassingly at the back of the hall), I was thrown daggers from a few parents.

But, what could be the cause? The only real obvious reason that I can think of is screen time becoming extended for all children in the last few years. Written skills are dropping…because no one writes any more. Minds are becoming numb to the outside world, and parents are spending more time on their own smart devices than playing and teaching their kids. It’s hard as a working adult too switch our brains off. Our ears are fine tuned to the ‘Ping!’ of an email. But will our children’s memories of us always feature a smart phone, rather than fun? I don’t want my kids memories of me to be ones of my head dipped and an illuminous glow highlighting my face.

How to get your kids to spend less time on an iPad and more time drawing

If you think that your child might be spending too much time on an iPad, smart phone or even watching TV, then hopefully after reading the above you will have made a personal pledge to get them to spend less and less time on them (or better still, no time at all!). Maybe you’re concerned about addiction to screen time or you just wish that your child would spend more time trying to write their name.

So, if you would like your child to choose pencils over iPads why not take them to a stationary shop (remember those?!) and let them choose some fun new crayons, pens, sketch pads and their own pencil case. You could always treat yourself to some new stationary too, if you’re feeling inspired.

Talk about the huge choice of what there is to buy and what they would like to create with their new stationary. Let your imaginations run wild! Don’t just stick to pens and pencils, explore the world of sticky-notes (great for teaching kids to read- label items in your home!) funky pencil sharpeners and have fun creating patterns with rulers.

Go home and get creative! You could set up a lovely writing desk in the corner of a room for your child to sit at. I find the living room best for this because it can take the focus away from the TV (turn it off first) and you will always be close by to see their amazing pieces of work. In the summer time encourage kids to get creative outside. The fresh air will help their minds run wild too. This week, we have been drawing frog spawn in nanny’s garden.

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National Stationary Week 2017

From April 24th- 30th it’s National Stationary Week. A perfect chance for you and your children to get some inspiration and get crafty with stationary. Each day if the week is a different theme, and I would love to see your daily creations. I shall be posting a different blog each day per theme and my Instagram will be full of stationary-tastic posts.

On the 26th-26th of April why not visit the London Stationary Show at London’s Business Centre. For more information about the show, what fab things there will be to see and do or even to exhibit at the show, please click here.

7 Days of stationary:

Monday 24th- Pen & Pencil Day

Tuesday 25th- Get Crafty

Wednesday 26th- World Stationary Day

Thursday 27th- Thank You Thursday

Friday 28th- Fountain Pen Friday

Saturday 29th- Signature Saturday

Sunday 30th- Write A Letter Day

Remember, whatever you share use the hashtags #writingmatters #natstatweek so we can see your fabulous National Stationary Week posts 🙂

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*All of the stationary featured in this post, and in any upcoming posts for National Stationary Week have been gifted to me. This post is an entry into the Stationary Blogger of The Year awards*