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.
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.
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.