Board games can help your grade-schooler learn while they’re having fun. Here are some great board games that build academic skills.
Skills: Strategy, patterns, fine motor, visual-spatial reasoning
This classic game is great for younger grade school kids. By making a traditional tic-tac-toe board three-dimensional, Connect Four asks players to transfer what they see on paper to real life. Kids have to think ahead to figure out how to block their opponent to win. The game also lets them practice making sense of patterns and judging where their pieces will end up when they drop them.
Skills: Critical thinking, deductive reasoning, figure-ground discrimination
In Guess Who?, your child needs to figure out the other player’s mystery person. By asking relevant “yes” or “no” questions (such as “Does your person wear a hat?”) your child eliminates unlikely candidates.
Your child has to come up with a plan for asking questions. Your child also has to notice and make sense of the small details in the crowd of faces on the game board. The game comes in a superhero version, too. And there’s a variation called Guess Where? your child can play to practice visual-spatial skills.
Skills: Spelling, reading, vocabulary
Bananagrams is unlike traditional tile word-building games. Your child isn’t limited by the spaces on a board. That gives kids the opportunity to just focus on spelling words with the tiles they have and reading the words other players have created. They also don’t have to feel the pressure of everybody waiting as they take their turn. Each player builds their crossword grid at their own pace.
Skills: Visual-spatial, flexible thinking, team building
This game is a perfect way to help your child think less literally and to work with others. Morphology focuses on how words are formed. In the game, a card is drawn, and each team picks a morphologist to read the word. Players then use the sticks, beads, cubes, people, strings, and circles to make something to represent that word. The team guesses what the word is. It can be a little difficult to build some words because they are not all objects. For instance, your child may have to build something to show “brush teeth.”
Apples to Apples Junior
Skills: Word recognition, vocabulary, word play, critical thinking
Apples to Apples Junior is a great game to help your child practice reading, vocabulary, and understanding language in new ways. The players have to match a random noun card to a descriptive word (like “fantastic” or “green”). Then each player has a chance to convince the others why their combination is the best. Depending on how you choose to play, you can decide which combo is “best” based on whether it’s the funniest, the most appropriate, or whatever you want it to be.
Skills: Concentration, visual-spatial, planning
Rush Hour is sort of a three-dimensional version of the game Tetris. It can be played alone or with another player by alternating turns. Your child’s challenge is to get the red car out of the traffic jam. Children will practice visual-spatial skills as they try to set up the board to match the picture on their card. And they’ll practice concentration and planning skills as they follow the rules of traffic to try to free the red car.
The Allowance Game
Skills: Counting, money value, addition and subtraction, cause and effect
The Allowance Game uses real-life situations to teach your child how to count and manage money. The play money looks very realistic, which gives kids a chance to practice recognizing coins and their values. As you move through the game, not only do players learn to read money values and make change, but they also learn about how their choices affect their budget.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with more than 15 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room, and self-contained settings.