5 Video Games to Help Tweens and Teens Boost Reasoning Skills

By Amanda Morin
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You may worry that your teen or tween plays too many video games. But there are some great games for building critical-reasoning skills. Those skills help kids become good decision makers and problem solvers.

SimCity

The object of SimCity and SimCity Creator is to build a civilization from the ground up. Players have to plan and anticipate what the city will need as it evolves. A society that begins with hunters can quickly grow into one that needs factories and school. Players need to know zoning laws and municipal codes as they build. They also must use problem-solving skills to find ways to meet the challenges of supply and demand.

Scribblenauts

Scribblenauts is much less action packed than some other video games. But it uses critical reasoning in a unique way. Players have to solve the spatially oriented obstacles the hero encounters as he goes through the levels. And they do it by literally writing the solution and having it appear. Players can write simple things, such as “ropes.” Or they can write crazier things, such as “Yeti the snowman-like creature on a lawnmower.”

Portal

Portal is set in a 3D world called Aperture Science Enrichment Center. Players work together to get around obstacles that keep characters from getting out of Aperture. Tasks get harder as players improve. They range from putting an object in the right place in order to open a door, to getting through multiple portals in a short time. Schools often use Portal 2 because it’s a fun way to think about spatial reasoning and basic physics.

Minecraft

Minecraft is a video game that your teen or tween can customize. Players must figure out ways to use virtual blocks to build communities. They also must mine the materials they need to make tools, food, clothing and whatever else they need to sustain their environment. Multiple modes of game play give players a chance to see how different plans pan out. If one doesn’t work, players can rebuild from scratch.

The Legend of Zelda

In this series, players attempt to save kingdoms, battle monsters and follow a story line. They must use flexible thinking, planning and working memory skills as they navigate the game. They also need to solve puzzles, learn how to master swordplay and deal with other characters. All of this goes on with distractions in the background. The game doesn’t have voiceovers, so your tween or teen will be practicing reading skills as well.

About the Author

About the Author

Amanda Morin 

worked as a classroom teacher and as an early intervention specialist for 10 years. She is the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education. Two of her children have learning differences.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Jessica Millstone, EdM, MPS 

works with BrainPOP, focusing on improving teaching and learning through the integration of innovative technologies.

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