With more than 154 million Americans playing video games, or about half of the country, it’s no surprise that children commonly turn to this method of entertainment.
Researchers at MIT report that the average 8th grade girl plays video games for 12 hours a week, and the average 8th grade boy plays nearly twice as much, at 23 hours a week. That’s more time playing video games than watching TV.
While this time playing video games may appear to be wasted, it actually provides an opportunity to connect kids with their education in fun and engaging ways. Interactive playing environments contribute to a level of education that differs from homework and in-class instruction, and the games may be so fun to play that children don’t even realize they’re developing valuable skills through the game.
Here are eight educational computer games suitable for children in elementary school, which harness their minds and foster a positive learning environment.
Designed to help children develop their creativity, reading, and vocabulary skills, “ItzaBitza” features written prompts for children to draw what the character on the computer screen is asking for. For example, a farmer might be looking for his barn and asks the child to draw one. After the drawing is complete, it comes to life onscreen to add a little fun.
“Crazy Machines” puts the power of inventing in the child’s hands. Players can build and test innovative machines to flex their creativity and knowledge of the basics in physics, electricity, gravity, and particle effects.
3. Oregon Trail
An oldie but a goodie, “Oregon Trail” still attracts the attention of elementary school-aged children. They absorb lessons on geography and history skills while being challenged to overcome difficulties people experienced back in the 1800s. It takes critical thinking and real-life problem-solving techniques to play this game, and it’s a fun and unique environment for educational stimulation.
Available in a few different versions for various age groups, “Math Missions” is set in a funny, cartoon city that engages children and provides them with innovative activities to develop their math skills, with everything from counting change and pattern blocks, to fractions and working with weights and measurements.
Kids may not always want to make the healthiest food choices, but if they learn more about what they eat (rather than just hearing mom and dad tell them what not to eat), they can take these decisions into their own hands. In the web games for “Fizzy’s Lunch Lab,” kids are exposed to a mix of nutritional information, healthy eating tips, and basic recipes — all with fun from their host Fizzy, of the PBS Kids Web-only series.
This free PBS Kids online game creates a vast ecosystem with games and missions to teach kids about biology and the environment. With two different simulation options, kids can either control microbes or an animal and plant ecosystem. The game also requires players to read instructions, which encourages reading comprehension as well.
As they grow older, your kids are going to need to use the computer for a lot more than clicking or pressing certain buttons to play games. Why not get them started early by perfecting their typing skills with this interactive game? It teaches typing hand positions and movements and tests their typing speeds for fun rewards at the end of each level. BBC Schools offers this game for free online.
On the Spelling City website, you can find a vocabulary and 30 different language arts games specified for different age groups. One of the best aspects of this site is that you can import your own spelling list to personalize the learning experience, and reinforce the spelling lists children need to know for school in a fun and engaging way.
Between computers, the Internet, and mobile apps, educational games for children abound, and these eight computer games are a great place to start to get your elementary-school student learning the fun way.
Klopfer, Eric, et.al. “Using the Technology of Today in the Classroom Today.” The Education Arcade. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009. Web. 25 September 2014. Retrieved from MIT.
Van Camp, Jeffrey. “91 Percent of Kids Play Video Games.” Digital Trends. Digital Trends, 11 October 2011. Web. 25 September 2014. Retrieved from Digital Trends.