Spending more time indoors as the days grow shorter, or looking for a break from digital screens or workbooks? What if you could easily weave learning and togetherness in with some fun and games that develop math, language, and thinking skills? Games build character and reinforce curriculum by encouraging children to take turns, follow directions, think strategically, and recall information learned or skills developed.

Here are some creative tips on integrating games into your homeschool journey!

Consider playing a variety of games

Encourage children to play a variety of types of games! For example, cooperative games give players a common goal, while competitive games are opportunities to learn good sportsmanship. Skills-based games stretch a child academically or logically. Chance-based games level the playing field when children of varying ages or ability levels are involved. Age-based games can be played by kids of similar developmental levels, but can also sometimes be adapted for play by older siblings with younger ones.

Making games part of your lesson plan

Even the most reluctant or distracted learner can usually be motivated by games. Carol Barnier, in The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles, shares her personal experience: for a math lesson that a typical child usually completes in 20 minutes, Carol’s child took three hours. But when Carol offered the math content as a game, her child completed that same lesson in 30 minutes.

Carol’s book is chock-full of creative, game-style ideas that are helpful for children who learn in all kinds of ways, especially for non-traditional learners.

File-folder games and other educational games can be integrated in several ways: these activities can go into a child’s personal self-paced workbox or morning basket, or you can block out game time in your lesson plans. You could have a “math games day” once a week, or incorporate vocabulary-based games for language arts. Your kids may have so much fun learning, they’ll want to make learning-oriented games a part of their everyday routine!

Games don’t have to be only “educational”!

Popular board games such as Yahtzee, True Math, Set, 24, and Number Jumbler, and, really, any game that incorporates money or points, can reinforce math skills. Games based around words—including Scrabble, Guggenheim, Taboo, Balderdash, Scattergories, and Password—sharpen vocabulary as well as thinking skills.

Brainteaser games such as Set and Mindtrap encourage logic and strategy. Puzzle books, hidden pictures, and I Spy encourage critical thinking and observation. Set and Muddles don’t even require reading ability, so your toddlers can hold their own against your teens!

Jigsaw puzzles aid in visual discrimination for beginning readers: for example, a child who can discern the slight variances in puzzle shapes will be more likely to recognize the differences between a b and a d, or a p and a q. Puzzles can also encourage patience, cooperation, problem solving, and art appreciation.

Trivia games can be useful for reviewing facts such as dates, titles, biographical info, etc. When choosing trivia games, be sure to consider the ages and abilities of the players. If they are likely to become a bit too competitive or are unevenly matched as individuals, you might set up the game as team play.

Scavenger or treasure hunts are fun for older children to design for their younger siblings. Clues can be riddles to solve, codes to decipher, or simply directions to follow.

Guess Who?, Battleship, Clue, and Risk encourage critical thinking and strategy, while more active games like Twister, Pictionary, Cranium, Charades, and Guesstures can get the muscles and imaginations (as well as the laughter!) going. For an active game with little ones, you might try I Can Do That (a Cat in the Hat action game—there’s an older card-deck-only set and a newer version that includes props).

Games such as Labyrinth can help children learn thinking and observational skills (and many don’t require reading).

Pencil-and-paper games such as Hangman, word searches, crossword puzzles, Complete-the-Square, tic-tac-toe, Guggenheim, and Mad Libs can occupy hands and minds on errand days and family trips, while having the added bonus of requiring no special equipment. Cards for Uno, Old Maid, Go Fish, and War are also travel-friendly options.

Invite the whole family to join in!

There are games designed specifically for family interaction: Imaginiff and The UNGAME encourage sharing of opinions, thoughts, and laughter. Several years ago, Christian homeschool dad and comedian Todd Wilson created To Bethlehem for his own family, allowing him to interact with his kids, laugh, and act goofy, while centered around the biblical story of Christmas.

So why not prepare your family’s favorite dish, maybe pop some popcorn, and gather around the table for a game night that everyone will anticipate all week!


Looking for more ideas?

  • Schedule a regular game night that works for your whole family!
  • Suggest your local homeschool group host a family game night.
  • Start a weekly or monthly game club in your area, using chess or other board games.
  • Provide your kids with materials and the opportunity to design their own board games or card packs.