Educational Board Games

Educational Board games we Truly play

I did not grow up in a game-playing family although we did have a few cooperative board games and one card game (Miles Bornnes) which we played intently while traveling across Europe. As a young adult, I avoided board games, only participating in cooperative and “non-competitive” games.

My husband, being more of a video game player, was less averse to board and card games but had not fully embraced them either. After my son was born, we met a family who LOVED bored games and, after several social gatherings with them, we became hooked, building our own collection.

As my son grew, we started weekly game nights as a family and when we officially started homeschooling, we discovered games were a great way to learn new concepts such as strategy, logic, reading, spelling, math, teamwork, and more.

Now our family plays quite a few games which teach so many basic skills – patience, emotional regulation, instruction following, kindness, and sustained attention to name a few.


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And now… our pick of games we use in our Gameschooling

I have very intentionally not included age recommendations here as every child’s game and academic skills develop at different speeds. Please reach out, if you would like more insight into the skill level for a particular game. Some of these games may seem too basic for some kids, and some too advanced. The more advanced ones, in my experience, can usually be modified.

Scrabble is a classic which we just started playing. I was originally considering Scrabble Jr. but after reading reviews, it seems cheaply made with not much of an advantage. Plus, my son finds pride in playing “older” games. (This lock in place version is great for active kids who are not always in control of their bodies)
How we play: We play this as a coop game where we see each other’s hands and help each build words and calculate points. I try my best to set up my plays to help out my son. When we first started playing, I preselected letters for increased success.
Learning: Reading, Spelling, Vocabulary, Math Teamwork

Scrabble Slam is a high-speed four-letter word game, race against each other to change the existing word and get rid of your cards.
How we play: We go slow and, instead of racing, work together as a team to find new words. Sometimes I just let my son play around, using the cards however he wants to make words he knows. We talk about the words and sometimes set challenges to create rhyming words.
Learning: Phonograms, Word Recognition, Rhyming, Spelling, Teamwork

Bananagrams is a fast and fun word game that requires no pencil, paper, or board. Each player works independently to create their own ‘crossword’ faster than one’s opponents. The object is to be the first to complete a word grid after the “bunch” of tiles has been depleted.
How we play: We mostly just play around to create words together. Sometimes we use these to learn new reading and spelling concepts – blends, digraphs etc. I also give my son word endings ( _an, _oy, _aid etc.) and ask him to spell as many words as he can. Or, I give him word challenges to spell all on his own. We’ve also used these to do timed reading of his sight words.
Learning: Phonograms, Word Recognition, Spelling

Word Witt is a positive way to naturally reinforce flexible thinking, vocabulary, phonemic awareness, spelling, word recognition, and mental agility. Roll the Dice. Flip a Card. Race to Create the Most Words in a Minute. Not only for accomplished spellers. Great for ages 7 and up.
How we play: We have not actually tried this game yet but are looking forward to it! Can be played solo or in a group.
Learning: Phonograms, Word Recognition, Spelling, Vocabulary

Mad Libs Jr and Mad Libs is a phrasal template word game that consists of one player prompting others for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story before reading aloud. The game is frequently played as a party game or as a pastime. up.
How we play: Mad Libs Jr. has a list of words, sorted by category (noun, adjective etc.) We read through the list (sometimes I help him as the list is long with some hard words.) We play pretty much as directed, with me filling in the blanks with his chosen word.
Learning: Reading, Vocabulary, Part of Speech, Connection

Sum Swamp is a fun way for new math learners to practice basic math. Don’t let kids get bogged down by boring math dills. Head to the swamp, where addition and subtraction become part of the fun!
How we play: This game was our first “homeschool” game and really helped my son reach the next level of math addition and subtraction. Last year, this was his go-to Math activity pick. He is less interested now, however, since his math and gaming skills have increased though we do still play it from time to time.
Learning: Early Math Skills, Confidence with Numbers, some reading of board prompts. Great for both visual and tactile learners.

Cloud Hopper is great for 2 digit subtraction. Players take turns having their two aliens hope backward from cloud to cloud in a race to be the first person to get both aliens in the 20 basket. If you go below 20 you’ll have to add numbers to get back up to the basket!
How we play: When we started playing this game, my son needed a fair amount of assistance with subtracting from two digit numbers starting at 50. Our rule was he needed to try and figure out the problem rather than just counting down backward. His skills have improved immensely since then and he is a lot more confident in his abilities.
Learning: Math Subtraction from 50, Number Sequencing.

Rat-a-tat-cat is a game of suspense, strategy, and anticipation. Get rid of the high cards (rats) and go for the low cards (cats). Sneak a peek, draw two, or swap cards for an added twist. Low score wins the game. (A poker face helps!)
How we play: We have played this game many, many, many times in the last two years. I think we pretty much play according to the rules with little modification.
Learning: Strategy, Memory Building, Math Addition

Sleeping Queens is another fun strategy game with some math. Rise and shine! The pancake Queen, The ladybug Queen and ten of their closest friends have fallen under a sleeping spell and it’s your job to wake them up. Use strategy, quick thinking, and a little luck to Rouse these napping nobles from their royal slumbers. Play a Knight to steal a queen or take a chance on a juggling jester. But watch out for Wicked potions and dastardly Dragons! 
How we play: Invented by a 6-year-old, this game used to be one of my son’s favorites. We modified the rules a bit to create more opportunities for our son to practice his math. If someone plays a 3-card equation (9-6=3, 10+9=19, etc.) which he can answer correctly before the 3rd card is played, he can earn an extra offense card (knights or sleeping potions) drawn from the deck (which is then reshuffled).
Learning: Strategy, Memory Building, Math Addition and Subtraction up to 20, Word Recognition

Outnumbered is an improbable cooperative superhero math game. My son absolutely loves it. Not only does it help reinforce his math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), he has also learned about about squaring numbers, prime numbers and how to construct basic algebraic formulas. This is SO much better than math drills!
How we play: For now, we play according to the rules as it’s the perfect amount of challenging for him. What’s nice about Outnumbered is, there are two different levels plus a modification suggestion for kids just starting out with math so, this works for a wide variety of math abilities.
Learning: Math!! Strategy, Teamwork

Zeus on the Loose – Catch Zeus if you can! The great Greek God has bolted from Mount Olympus and it’s up to you to nab this dashing deity. Play cards strategically, adding numbers as you climb up the mythic mountain. Grab Zeus when the total reaches a multiple of 10. Better yet, summon the strength of Apollo, Poseidon, or all-powerful Hera to bring Zeus within your grasp. Reach the top of Mount Olympus with Zeus in hand and you’re a mortal among the gods.
How we play: We love this game. Before we start, we like to read through, review, and discuss the Greek Gods! Sometimes we have our son help us with the reading. A fantastic math game for practicing addition up to 100. For additional subtraction practice, simply reverse the points, starting with 100 and subtracting backward until you reach 0.
Learning: Greek Mythology, Reading, Math Addition and Subtraction, Personal Connection

Checkers is a game played on a board checkered with squares of two colors. Two players compete to have the last piece on the board. Players move diagonally, trying to reach the opposite side where their pieces can be “kinged,” or doubled, giving them more powers.
How we play: I give my son a math problem before each of his turns. Get it right, he gets to play! Get it incorrect, he forfeits his turn.
Learning: Observational skills, strategy, Patience, Focus, Pattern Recognition, Math, Connection

Operation can be played solo or with friends. After placing all the ailments on the gameboard, your child can see how many tries it takes to remove ailments without getting buzzed. When kids play together, they’ll have so much fun trying to remove the most ailments to win.
How we play: Adding up the points at the end of the game gives kids a little bit of addition practice. We have also played this, similar to Checkers, where I give a math problem (of my choosing) that needs to be answered correctly to gain a play.
Learning: Eye-hand Coordination, Fine Motor Skills, Reading, Anatomy, Executive Functioning Skills, Math

No Stress Chess is a chessboard with pieces and a deck of cards displaying how the chess pieces can move. Designed to teach how the pieces moved, in the learning versions of the game, players play cards from their hand of either 3 or 5 cards in order to move the chess pieces on the playing field. The other side of the board can be played as a traditional chess game.
How we play: We have played this according to the instructions and have progressed through the various stages, now playing without the cards.
Learning: Problem Solving, Patterns Recognition, Creative Thinking, Strategic Thinking, Calmness Under Pressure, Patience, Abstract Reasoning

Settlers of Catan is a slightly more advanced strategy game. Your adventurous settlers seek to tame the remote but rich isle of Catan. Start by revealing Catan’s many harbors and regions: Pastures, fields, mountains, hills, forests, and desert. The random mix creates a different board virtually every game.
How we play: My son added the number 1 to the blank number tokens then borrowed our +/- dice from Sum Swamp to make this an addition and subtraction game! We have also used a quarter with + and – written with a sharpie when we didn’t have our +/- dice. We have also played where we give our son an extra resource card if he can do correct math for each player in a turn.
Learning: Strategic Thinking, Problem Solving, Decision Making, Math Addition + Subtraction, Reading, Patience, Pattern Recognition, Observation, Negotiation

Ticket to Ride is an award-winning, cross-country train adventure game. Players collect train cards that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn.
How we play: My son really wanted to play this game but, since it was a little too complicated when we started, we made a few modifications. The first way we played was without city cards, letting each player just build routes as desired. We gradually added in the route cards leaving them all face up so we could help him build his particular route. Finally, he has worked up to playing the full game on is own, when he is in the right headspace and body awareness. This is still a bit of a challenge in terms of sustained attention but we stop whenever he gets too distracted and “hyper”.
Learning: Planning, strategy, delayed gratification, critical thinking, problem-solving, number recognition, pattern recognition, color shorting, patience, spatial awareness, executive functioning skills, fine motor skills, Math addition, if adding up points.

King of Tokyo is King of Tokyo is a game for 2 to 6 players where you play as mutant monsters, rampaging robots, or even abominable aliens battling in a fun, chaotic atmosphere. Roll dice and choose your strategy: will you attack your enemies? Heal your wounds? improve your monster? Stomp your path to victory.
How we play: We bought this game while on vacation and played it daily. To add a little more of a math challenge, we give my son an extra point, if he can calculate everyone’s plays correctly in a round. If your child(ren) feels overwhelmed by the cards, you might want to try pulling 60% of them out and leaving a few easier to comprehend cards for them to read. (Fewer cards helps engage less confident readers.)
Learning: Patience, Acceptance, Math Addition and Subtraction, Reading

Small World is a more involved/complicated (to setup) game. In Small World, players vie for conquest and control of a world that is simply too small to accommodate them all. … Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires – often at the expense of weaker neighbors.
How we play: Despite that I find this to be overly complicated, my son and husband love this game!
Learning: Math Addition, Strategic Thinking, Problem Solving,

Sushi Go
How we play: We play according to the rules but have our son add up all the points at the end! Great Math practice.
Learning: Math, Connection, Patterns

Mille Bornes.
How we play: I played this game with my parents when I was a kid and really enjoyed it It’s a tiny bit complicated to learn so but once learned, fairly straightforward.
Learning: Patience, Math, Delayed Gratification, Strategy

Blokus: Stake your claim and protect your territory with Blokus game! There’s just one rule: each piece you play must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but only at the corners! It takes less than a minute to learn but has depth to challenge your whole family. Each player gets a set of 21 pieces – red, blue, green, or yellow – then takes turns placing them on the board. The goal is to fit the most pieces on the board. The game ends when no one can place any more pieces. Everyone counts the squares in their unplayed pieces and the player with the lowest score wins! 
How we play: We mostly play according to the rules. If it’s just my son and I, we will sometimes double up, each playing two colors but that can get a bit confusing. I wonder if Blokus Duo might be a better fit for a small game-playing family.
Learning: Strategic thinking, planning ahead, pattern observations

Rubik’s Race is a fast paced game for two players to get your brain and fingers racing. Shake the scrambler and go head to head with your opponent to shift and slide the tiles to be the first to make the 3×3 center match the pattern. It sounds easy, but the Rubik’s Race is a real game of skill, speed, and dexterity. Challenge your friends and family to a Rubik’s Race!
How we play: We do not have any specific modifications to this game. It’s a game that works well for two players or for one player as a timed game against themself.
Learning: Strategic thinking, Pattern Recognition, Dexterity

The Magic Labrynth: The apprentices to the Master Wizard have accidentally lost some objects in the Magic Labyrinth. Now, they must try to collect them before the Master notices that they are missing. However, this magical maze has invisible walls that the little wizards keep bumping into, forcing them to start all over again. Sharpen your memory and show your skill as you navigate the maze and win the Master Wizard’s favor.
How we play: We don’t have any specific modifications for this game. It may be a little advanced for some kids but my son could play it okay at age 6.
Learning: Memory, decision making

Silly Street.
How we play: This one was great when my son was in pre-k and Kinder though we still enjoy playing it and challenging him to read the cards.
Learning: Connection, community, reading, improvisation, kindness, creativity, imagination

Math Dice Game is a mental math game for early math learners who like smart games and a challenge.
How we play: We don’t have any modifications to this game.
Learning: Math addition and subtraction, critical thinking skills

COOPERATIVE Educational Board GAMES

Pandemic: The Cure, a dice-based version of the popular Pandemic board game, sets up in less than a minute and plays in 30 minutes. As in the board game, four diseases threaten the world and it’s up to your team to save humanity. You and your team must keep the world’s hotspots in check before they break out of control while researching cures to the four plagues.  If, however, the players can discover the cures to the four diseases, they all win, and humanity is saved!
How we play: We love this game and play pretty much according to the rules, although it’s slightly more complicated than the other coop games here.
Learning: Teamwork, Cooperation, Logistics, Planning

Outnumbered is an improbable cooperative superhero math game. My son absolutely loves it. Not only does it help reinforce his math facts (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division), he has also learned about about squaring numbers, prime numbers and how to construct basic algebraic formulas. This is SO much better than math drills!
How we play: For now, we play according to the rules as it’s the perfect amount of challenging for him. What’s nice about Outnumbered is, there are two different levels plus a modification suggestion for kids just starting out with math so, this works for a wide variety of math abilities.
Learning: Math!! Strategy, Teamwork

Race to the Treasure Build a path with your team and collect 3 keys on a race to beat ogre to the treasure! It’s a game where everyone plays together, no one is left out, and everybody has fun!
How we play: Played this a lot last year, less so now that my son is older but one we still pull out from time to time.
Learning: Cooperation, Emotional Development, Share Decision Making, Simple Strategy

Outfoxed Mrs. Plumpert’s prized pot pie has gone missing, and now it’s a chicken chase to crack the case! In Outfoxed, you move around the board to gather clues, then use the special evidence scanner to rule out suspects. You have to work together quickly because the guilty fox is high-tailing it towards the exit! Will you halt the hungry hooligan before it flies The coop or will you be Outfoxed?
How we play: We have played this game many, many times. We basically play according to the rule. Super fun family coop game.
Learning: Teamwork, Memory, Cooperation, Word Reading, Detective Skills, Share Decision Making, Emotional Development

Hoot Owl, Hoot In this color-coordinated matching game, players cooperate to help the owls fly back to their nest before the sun comes up. Help all the owls home before sunrise and everyone wins.
How we play: We play pretty much, according to the rules, although we tend to end up in detailed conversations about Owls each time we play.
Learning: Teamwork, Simple Strategy, Planning, Pattern Recognition, science/nature (if you talk discuss Owls as you play!), emotional development, Creative Problem Solving, Shared Decision Making

Space Escape A band of snakes has infiltrated the Mole Rats’ Space Station. Work together to help the busy Mole Rats gather their equipment and make it to their escape pod before time runs out.
How we play: We do not have any specific modifications to this game.
Learning: Cooperation, Strategy, Problem Solving, Communication, Shared Decision Making

Tsuro is easy to learn and quick to play. Stay on the path to victory in this light and entertaining game. Players are challenged to create and travel the path as it builds before them.
How we play: Although advertised as a strategy game, and not technically a coop game, we have really enjoyed this game for its Zen properties and calming effects. It’s our go-to game when we need to help our son wind down from a manic hyper period.
Learning: Executive Functioning, Calm, Emotional Awareness, Mindfulness, Being in the Present, Enjoying the Journey

Make Your Own! Challenge your kids (and maybe even yourself) to design their own board games.
How we play: Two years ago, my son designed a math racecar game for my husband’s holiday gift. We have enjoyed it a lot and I am not considering purchasing this set to encourage additional game design.
Learning: Critical Thinking, Creative Strategy, Trial and Error, Product Testing, (writing, reading, math etc. depending on the game created)

What board or card games is your family currently playing?


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