Educational Games for Children and Teens
Compiled and Updated by Azzia Zur, B.A.
This Resource List is a companion to the article On Digital Immigrants & Digital Natives: How the digital divide creates conflict between parents and children, teachers and students and the older and younger generations
Games are designed to be fun and engaging, and educational games are no exception! They harness the desire of today's youth to have instant, constant feedback and teach skills and information at the same time. Players are rewarded for knowledge, memory, mental agility, and creativity. Topics range from math, to reading, geography, planning, time and project management, language skills (primary and other languages), archaeology and other sciences, and business. The possibilities are endless; here is a sampling of the available games and their purpose, by age range. Most games are free unless otherwise noted.
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- Capital Penguin: Single-player game in which the player learns U.S. states and their capital cities. You must jump on the state that matches the given capital city; jumping towards the wrong state means your penguin will fall into the ocean. Hits and misses are recorded for learning feedback.
- Grammar Gorillas: Players identify parts of speech in order to win bananas. Levels are beginner (nouns and verbs) and advanced (all parts of speech).
- Grand Prix Mulitplication: Up to four players can play this game, which tests the ability to solve math problems quickly in order to win the Grand Prix. The student's correct answers enable a faster pace of the car.
- Lemonade Stand: This game simulates the real-life task of running a lemonade stand. Start with twenty dollars; see how much you can make. Fun way to teach beginning business.
- Number Match'um: Teaches children to say the names of numbers with fun, interactive graphics.
- Spanish Opposites: Helps children learn Spanish by identifying opposite objects in picture form. Also available: Korean Opposites.
- Tug Team: Up to eight players can play this game which builds familiarity with fractions. How quickly the student correctly answers the fraction problem determines how much the dirt bike will tug, and the team with the fastest rate of correct answers will win the tug of war. Hits and misses are recorded and displayed at the end of the game, along with the student's rate.
- Virble: Word-building exercises, great for younger children and English Learners.
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- Airport Tycoon 3: This business management game provides as close to hands-on experience as one can get remotely. Players manage an airport, including security, bad weather, customer and staff needs. Good 3D graphics.
- Crossword Puzzle: This game for teens and adults is created by Dictionary.com and a new game is posted daily. Crosswords keep the mind fresh.
- Darfur is Dying: This game educates players on world issues by showing the violence present in Sudan. The player may be at home on the computer, but they are certainly not isolated when playing this awareness-building game.
- Fitness Frenzy: Another time management game, this time the user runs 10 gym sites and performs personal training. The player helps his or her "clients" to shape up, while keeping them happy and performing all the necessary duties of the job. Great practice for offline time and project management.
- Food Force: This educational game by the United Nations raises awareness about natural disasters and gives users the chance to use resource management to respond to the needs of affected people.
- FreeRice.com: This game builds vocabulary and social awareness by donating 10 cents for each correct answer to the UN World Food Program.
- FunTrivia.com: Trivia games for teens, new games added every hour. Tests and rewards knowledge and quickness to answer.
- Gamestar Mechanic: Players get a chance to win enough power to design and create their own video games by solving a set of puzzles. One question asks users to determine how two players arrive at a given point at the same time using physics concepts.
- Geology Explorer: This game for high school and college students is designed to teach geology in a fun, interactive way. Players perform a number of exploratory tasks on the planet Oit, identify findings, create a map and overcome hardship.
- Guess That Phrase: Like Wheel of Fortune, players choose letters that are included in the phrase to be discovered, then guess the phrase. Builds quickness with letters, creativity with words.
- Hotel Dash - Suite Success: This game teaches time management skills by allowing the user to run a hotel. Guests must be attended to, luggage carried, and all in a manner that leaves the hotel system running smoothly!
- Little Big Planet: This multiplayer game for PlayStation 3 comes in 24 languages and has over a million levels - impossible to exhaust! In addition to playing, users can create their own challenges, to be played by others. Opportunity to be an active player and creator teaches exploration and game-building skills. Available at cost.
- Magic Pen: Players use and learn physics and geometry by using logic to construct 2-Dimensional figures.
- Math Baseball: Players complete math problems to play baseball. A wrong answer is a strike out, and correct answers are hits. Whether the hit is a home run or simply to a base depends on the difficulty of the question.
- My Little Word Puzzles: Tests the user's knowledge of definitions and spelling with this game. Letters are randomized and a definition is given; players can learn new words as they put the letters together.
- Reach Out Central: This game teaches emotional and social skills by allowing the player to re-do scenes from their lives which they wish had turned out better. It shows how beliefs and actions affect one's mood and leaves the player with experience trying out different responses to various situations. Provides practice for emotional well-being.
- ReMission: The player gets to destroy malignant cancer cells in this health-promoting game.
- Trivia Machine: Classified as a Brain Teaser, this game gives players a chance to test their trivia knowledge on a wide array of topics, including sports, music, technology and science. Players are rewarded for being knowledgeable!
- Virtual Cell: An interactive game designed to teach students the parts of a cell and how they interact. Includes worksheets for teachers and knowledge test questions.
- Words in a Word: Players find words (4 letter minimum) in other words. Builds vocabulary, quick word recognition skills.
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Educational Game Sites
- Academic Skill Builders: Language Arts, Math, Spelling, and many other games available here. Includes Grand Prix Mulitplication, Tug Team and Capital Penguin listed above.
- Big Fish Games: This game site provides a new game daily. Subjects include time management, puzzle, strategy and others. Includes Hotel Dash - Suite Success, Fitness Frenzy and Trivia Machine listed above.
- Children, Youth and Women's Health Service - Teen Games: Socially and emotionally conscious games to promote awareness about social issues, choices and consequences, and health topics such as Sexually Transmitted Infections. Includes Darfur is Dying and Food Force listed above.
- dmoz Open Directory Project: This site offers a comprehensive list of educational and purely recreational games. Items separated by age group.
- Engaging Science: Teens explore Biology, Chemistry and Earth Science in these fun interactive games.
- Free Educational Games for Kids: An important resource for vetted free games from around the world.
- FunBrain.com: Gives games by category, and different level options. Includes Math Baseball and Grammar Gorillas listed above.
- Gamequarium - Science Interactives: This site provides science resources for grades K-12, by age category. Lessons are succinct, age-level appropriate and include topics such as precipitation, population and ecosystems, and DNA.
- Kaboose: Reading games for young children. Includes Number Match'em and Spanish Opposites listed above.
- Project Heart: A project of the Texas Heart Institute, this site provides games on nutrition, physical activity, and heart-health vocabulary for kids. Also includes lesson plan ideas for teachers spanning grades K-6.
- Quiz Factor: The site offers a range of different quizes-games from categories such as history, general knowledge, geography, literature, science and sports.
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Gaming in the Community and Schools
Following are examples of educational models, family relationship-building and community improvement programs involving gaming. President Barack Obama supports the use of gaming in schools as a way to prepare children for the world they are entering. Bookmark this page - we will keep it updated as new gaming community and education models appear.
Teaching through games is nothing new. Parents, grandparents, teachers and childcare workers have known this for ages. What IS new is that the current games youth are interested in are electronic. This fits their place in the digital era quite well. There's an argument to be made for teaching children in the ways that they find engaging and fun. Here's how today's schools are using gaming to help students learn:
- A game-based school called Quest to Learn opened Fall 2009 in New York City. The school serves grades 6-12 and seeks to harness the desire of teens to play games in a manner which affords them creativity, teaches them and fosters collaboration among educators, students and game designers. A true 21st Century education.
- Brier Creek Elementary School in North Carolina partnered with Gamer Doc to provide learning incentives through gaming. The company maintains a game room at the school, which students earn time in through good school performance. Programs also include parent-student game nights and prizes for academic achievements. Click here for the relevant article.
- Some Universities are extremely gamer-friendly, especially Digipen Institute of Technology, which offers a 4-year degree in game design. Graduates of the program receive an average of two job offers directly after graduating.
- The Top 10 Gaming Schools in the U.S. are listed here. Interestingly, although these college campuses encourage Internet use, their policies do NOT result in increased Internet or gaming addiction. Eighty-three percent of students report gaming less than 6 hours a week. This may be an argument for normalizing gaming as a method for decreasing its potential addictive pull.
- Educational Video games are becoming more commonplace. Eleven percent of teachers report using video games in their classes even at this early stage in their introduction. More than half of students believe that educational video games will help them learn. Click here for relevant article.
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Zur Institute's Resources
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