Board games can help your grade-schooler learn while she’s having fun. Here are some great board games that build academic skills.
This classic game is great for younger grade school kids. By making a traditional tic-tac-toe board three-dimensional, Connect Four asks your child to transfer what she sees on paper to real life. She’ll have to think ahead to figure out how to block her opponent to win. The game also lets her practice making sense of patterns and judging where her pieces will end up when she drops 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. She also has to notice and make sense of the small details in the crowd of faces on her 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 her the opportunity to just focus on spelling words with the tiles she has and reading the words other players have created. She also doesn’t have to feel the pressure of everybody waiting as she takes her turn. Each player builds her crossword grid at her 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. She then uses 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. She’ll practice visual-spatial skills as she tries to set up the board to match the picture on her card. And she’ll practice concentration and planning skills as she follows 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 her a chance to practice recognizing coins and their values. As you move through the game, not only does your child learn to read money values and make change, but she also learns about how her choices affect her budget.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.
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.