As soon as your child starts walking and talking, sometimes even sooner, parents begin searching for the best games for kids. Everywhere you look, there is more and more research supporting that great games grow kids brains. They can teach core concepts, teamwork, negotiation skills, and foster empathy.
This is a particularly important topic for parents and children who practice homeschooling, since the parents’ involvement here is even more essential to the child’s development, and games for kids become a cornerstone of this customized education they are receiving.
In this page, we will summarize the most important types and categories of games for kids, as well as suggest some fun games and activity ideas in each category. We will also talk about why a game is important and what educational value it can hold. Get ready to find countless suggestions of traditional games with props, free online games to be played with the help of a tablet, learning games for parents and children alike, fun party games for a crowd of kids and so on! Our aim is to put together a rich resource page (which we’ll continue to add into, in time) to give you everything you’ve ever wanted when it comes to good games for children, and more.
1. How Important Are Games for Kids?
Each type of children’s game has its own advantage, but researchers agree that almost every type of game can play a part in the cognitive or social development of kids, as long as they are successfully played (not for too long or too little, not under stress conditions and so on). For example, all games for kids which fall under the building blocks category have been proved to contribute to better spatial orientation in children and the future adults which they will become. The conclusion is pretty logical and straight-forward, actually: the more a kid will practice a particular skill within a game, the better he or she will develop that skill into a veritable life skill.
In fact, this is precisely what games for kids do: they make children exercise a particular skill or type of situation they will deal with relentlessly throughout their adult life, only that the game envelops the situation or problem into a nice and exciting story, meant to make the game interesting and fun. (Otherwise, no child would ever play something which is simply a chore, obviously).
No, video games don’t cause ADD or violent tendencies
Some games still have some amount of prejudice against them, especially from the part of more conservative parents. We are talking, of course, about video games, which acquired a notoriously bad reputation (the widest spread rumors say that video games cause children to develop attention deficit disorders or violent tendencies). Fortunately, this is just scare-talk, the kind that has been around for hundreds of years, about all sorts of things that were novel: for example, at first, people feared that books and reading will make those who knew how to read become alienated, isolated and unable to adapt to the realities of true life. In other words, approximately the same kind of fears today related to video games.
But even in this matter, games are actually beneficial to the development of children and adults alike (since mental development is a continuous process that spans over an entire lifetime, if given the chance). Yes, even video games: new research suggests that if only played moderately, video games can actually make children be better-adjusted to their social groups and life in general. Anyway, this page isn’t meant to make an argumentative plea for video games. We simply mean to encourage all parents to greater involve their children in the educational process (especially in cases of homeschooling). Your children will appreciate the chance to play something cool and adventurous, the child-parent bond will be strengthened, and your educational objectives will also be met almost effortlessly.
2. Types of Games for Kids
There are many kinds of games to be played by children and adults alike, and the criteria that define them can be also quite numerous. For example, by the age of the game, we can differentiate between traditional games and modern games, by the means of the game we can differentiate between computer games, board games, card games, cooking games, math games, building games and so on; by the number of players we can differentiate between individual games and group games; by the space in which the game take place we can talk about indoor games, outdoor games, court games and so on. Of course, games can also be split into easy, moderate, or hard, if we follow the difficulty criterion.
Ideally, the more a game manages to touch on multiple aspects of play types, and alternate between types of tasks or difficulty levels, the better the game is. Some of the best games for kids there can be are those that manage to train various aspects of a child’s mind or imagination or skillfulness (even dexterity), without making the child feel like he or she is actually working (or doing homework), even if it actually is the case. To cut a long story short, there are a lot of different types of games, and we will deal with the main categories below, without any particular order.
No, not all games are created equal, that isn’t the point
Just to be clear, we’re not advertising any type of hierarchy here; we can’t say that some of the games are more useful or more fun than others. For children who aren’t attending school or aren’t being stimulated enough at school, every type of game is just as important for their development. Furthermore, you should pay attention to involve your kids in as many types of games as possible, since it is precisely this variety that will help them the most. Alternating between various tasks is actually one of the most effective (and fun) mental exercises, and it makes for happy, smart children. Don’t hold back any type of game from your child, and sooner than you know, you’ll be very proud of just how well homeschooling seems to work.
2.1. Learning games for kids
Well, theoretically, almost every children’s game is also a learning game, since kids learn plenty of skills while playing. But some games for kids can actually be called ‘learning games’ because they can be successfully used as an aid in a specific studying field. There are classic children’s games to help with a variety of fields, like, for example the ‘Anatomy Jane’ doll meant to help kids learn about the human body. This specific doll has been brought back into the mainstream public eye by the popular TV show Grey’s Anatomy, and just in case you’re a fan, then you’d be pleased to know you can get one of your own.
These are our favorite learning games for kids, covering most of the subjects usually taught in primary school and middle school. Thus, they’re ideal for kids who want to accomplish their objectives in a fun way, and for kids who are learning through homeschooling too. Without further ado, these are our favorites:
English learning games:
The best ones you can find (and properly put together by teachers) are the ones from the Activate Brochures for American English, and the ones from British Council for British English, of course. You can find games for plenty of areas to improve vocabulary in, like animals, means of transportation, Halloween, Ancient Egypt, football, clothes, or computers and so on.
Chemistry learning games:
Well, chemistry is definitely a difficult subject to master, so kids need all the learning help they can get to make this field a little more palatable. Our suggestion is these 4 online games from Fun-Based Learning. They’re fun enough to play for hours, and they make the basic chemistry notions a bit more intuitive.
Physics learning games:
Biology learning games:
ScienceKidz is yet again a good place to start with if you want your kids to explore the fascinating world of cells, cloning, or plants and so on. The site also contains class plans for teachers, in case you are one.
Visual learning games:
In this respect, there are plenty of resource pages with puzzles, online coloring books, and the occasional jigsaw puzzle and on. You can start with The Kidz Page here; they have thematic games and clip art puzzles etc., and the great thing about it is that you can browse the games by the school grade of the child they’re meant for. If your kids are in the first through eighth grade, then you’ll find plenty of fun and useful things to explore here.
Children’s games for learning crafts:
In today’s digital world, it’s clear your children will learn how to use a tablet sooner or later. Computer skills aren’t a problem anymore, and you only need to teach them such skills actively if you want them to code or do something similarly sophisticated. The real challenge is getting them to use their hands for anything other than typing. If you do manage to succeed though, it will be very satisfying: just like adults are nowadays returning to coloring books just because it helps soothe their minds, people have started to return to the pleasure of crafting something with your hands. Therefore, if you manage to plant the seeds of a hobby in one of the little ones, they will be more grateful than they realize at first. An excellent place to start with plenty of 5 star DIY projects described in great detail is kidspot.com.
2.2. Typing games for kids
Typing is just as important as spelling nowadays, and these two brain skills often go hand in hand. For children to develop strong reading skills, they must also know how to spell correctly, and fast typing will become a prerequisite for almost any type of education and work that they hope to complete. Typing games, sometimes also named keyboarding games, are valuable for precisely that. Some of them train the accuracy of spelling, some of them teach speed instead. The internet is full of fun archives of such games; some of them have no timers and are printable, and some of them are interactive and fun (even containing questions and hints about favorite kids’ movies or games like Batman, Mario or a baby monster, or science terms). A good place to start is here.
2.3. Math games for kids
Probably the one subject where all kids tend to have difficulty with sooner or later is math. If your child has truly never had any issues with a particularly nasty math problem, then we’re probably talking about one of the top young math prodigies the world has seen.
2.4. Video games for kids
The point is just to keep calm and don’t take everything so hard; most games really don’t deserve the anxiety they tend to generate among the more conservative parents and guardians. It’s alright if your kid is playing a video game which doesn’t have an immediate educational value which you can see; don’t worry, there are subtle things to learn even from a 360-degree virtual gun shooting game or a car racing game. Spatial orientation, performing well under pressure or in a race of any type, as well as intuitively knowing the movement of objects in a force field with multiple mechanical forces are just some of them.
Moreover, video games (whether they are played on the computer or with the help of a console such as Xbox or Wii or PlayStation or PS3) are believed by the mainstream scientific community to be an important part of children’s culture and learning. Even if you may still see the occasional worrisome research linking video games and aggression or what else, you should know that the bulk of the scientific community strongly disagrees with such questionable studies.
Appropriate and relevant choices
The only issue here, therefore, is to simply know which games are appropriate to the children in your care, and make sure they choose something relevant for their age group. As a parent, you should also prepare to face the peer pressure, and make peace with the idea that if your children’s colleagues play a certain popular game, then your own children will surely play it as well.
For guidance, you can go with Amazon’s recommendations of best sellers in the category of video games for kids, or you could also take a look at these ‘best of’ lists here.
2.5. Party games for kids
Party games are a great way for kids to get in touch with each other and act like a team outside the mediation of video games. To provide them with ideas on games for kids which could entertain them, you could either go with some classic choices (maybe from the traditional games category featured below, since your generation probably knows them too from your own childhood), or you could leave it to professionals.
Party services for kids usually include some fun young people not only entertaining the kids by wearing costumes and so on, but also by teaching the kids various games (and they also come with the necessary props for them). If you hire one of these services, don’t fret about planning this along. Even the last minute parties have fun games for kids when hosted by professionals. The next time you have a birthday party to plan, try such services out. You can also choose a theme for the entire party – from dinosaur wards to music or football or animal kingdom and whatever else you and your child fancy.
2.6. Outdoor games for kids
There are some outdoor games for kids, but besides those, you should note that basically all games which are either sports or board games (with props which can simply be taken to the picnic) are also outdoor games. If your kid enjoys playing something in an indoor setting and the game can successfully be transported and played outside, there’s absolutely no reason not to do just that. Also, take a look at this Buzzfeed list of outdoor games for the kids meant for summer – they’re so lovely and fun that probably most grown-ups wouldn’t say no to them either, even in the absence of children.
2.7. Traditional games for kids
These games have been around for a long time (possibly hundreds of years, for some of them), long before kids had access to more modern means of playing. Almost always games meant for a group of children. And sometimes meant for a special holiday or event (like games for playing under the Christmas tree, for example). We’re pretty sure you remember the telephone game (also called Chinese whispers in the rest of the world) or the Chopsticks hand game yourself since you were little. You can find a complete list on this Wikipedia page, and you should definitely do your best to download and print instructions from as many of them as possible – they’re lovely and still cool to play, even beyond the sheer nostalgic value. Some things just cannot and should never get old, and these classic games are definitely among them.
If you want your children to also explore some fun traditional games from other cultures as well (what could be more educational than that?), then also take a look at this list. It explains exactly what you need for each game, step by step, from Spanish handkerchief games to British word games and Greek statue games.
2.8. Educational games for kids
Educational games for kids can overlap with the learning games we already presented above, up to some extent. You can browse this archive for more inspiration, for games divided by class and subject, or you could also go with your own instinct and allow your child to experiment with various games which you fell could teach some life skills and make them better understand nature, or society and so on. For example, a simple and cute game which puts the player in the position of running a fast food franchise isn’t really in the curricula of any subject they teach in middle school, but could be a fun experience that also manages to teach the kid something about the way such businesses work.
3. Extra tips and resources
As an extra tip, we have something to say about gender-divided games for kids. Even if some of them seem very fun (and surely are), we don’t think children should think that some games are only appropriate for half of them. If you think your daughter would enjoy playing with a game for girls, there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you also encourage her to try her hand at a Spiderman themed game for little boys (or a basketball game or whatever) as well.
Another thing that can positively impact your child’s development is this: don’t encourage the kid to play the game only to win. A good sense of competition is healthy in all growing children but other values are more important. Even when competition is the main purpose of a particular game, a strong spirit of fair-play is important. Being a good sport and having the skill not to antagonize your peers are valuable qualities that matter more than a temporary victory; this is something any kid should learn. The world would definitely be a happier place for it.
Lastly, let’s make this a haven for all wonderful and creative games for kids, and let’s share our common experiences as parents and teachers with such games. If you’ve had a particularly good experience with a children’s game (or just any game that you’ve successfully used with children) and you didn’t find it mentioned on this page or elsewhere on our website, then please share it with the other members of our online community here, in the comments.