Teaching STEM Through Board Games
Fun for Adults and Kids
My daughter really enjoys playing boardgames. We often spend winter evenings as a family playing them. For us it is quality family time. They can also be a fantastic tool for teaching your children STEM concepts and how to problem solve.
Here are the games my family loves and highly recommends.
Code Monkey Island
Code Monkey Island teaches kids programming concepts without them knowing! The premise of the game is to move your three monkeys around the board from the start into the banana grove. To move around the board you read cards that allow you do make different types of moves based on the conditions on the board.
I bought this through Kickstarter when my daughter was 5 years old. I planned on waiting to give it to her when she was 7, but in my christmas wrapping haze I wrapped it by accident and gave it to her when she was 6!
For the first 3 months she played with one of us. After that she started playing on her own with occasional help from us. Two things happened for her to be able achieve playing on her own. First, she had a huge leap in her reading ability. Second, she had started to understand and learn how the game worked. At 7 she plays the game on her own.
The tiles in the game have six different shapes in six different colours. The goal is to make rows where either all the shapes are the same but colours don’t repeat, or the colour is the same but the shapes don’t repeat.
This game promotes pattern recognition and problem solving for kids when they start playing. As they get better at the game it will also flex their strategy muscles.
The great part about Quirkle is that it appeals to kids and adults. We often play the game with our adult friends. We have even played a round where the youngest player was 5 and the oldest player was 93.
Mexican Train Dominos
The first time my daughter played this she didn’t want to stop and played for two hours straight. She was just 6 years old.
This is another fun game for any age. Playing this game teaches children strategy and pattern recognition.
The instructions for this seem a bit overwhelming at first and we watched a couple of YouTube videos to help us get started. Once you play your first game it is very easy and fun to play. The player who lays down all their dominoes first wins the game.
Katamino Duo can be played between two people or solo. The goal of the game between two people is to be the first person to take the shapes indicated on the card and fit them perfectly into your black board. It amazes me that they always fit!
With Anabel we started with the child/Adult mode where the parent has to put their black bar higher than the child. This means the adult gets one more piece to place than the child. It was quickly evident that our child was very good at this game. So we now play the adult version with her and it is often very hard to beat her!
This game teaches children spatial ability and problem solving. It does this with the added time pressure of beating your opponent. This helps them learn how to stay calm under pressure.
The instruction booklet that comes with the game also challenges children to build 3-D structures with the blocks that get progressively challenging.
This is a fantastic game for teaching kids different countries.
It helps them understand what continent the country is in, the shape of the country, and how the country name is spelled. There are also interesting facts about the country included on the cards.
When we play with my daughter I try to give her some kind of personal connection to each country. For example:
- Her great grandma and grandpa come from the Netherlands.
- Her best friend’s mom is from Chile.
- Her aunt lived in Argentina for a while.
Uno is a fantastic card game. My daughter loves playing it and you can play many rounds in a row very quickly.
Playing uno helps kids learn social skills, sportsmanship, problem solving, and strategy. Obviously all the games help them learn this, but with uno the rounds are very quick and they will win and lose many of them. It is a good game for teaching them how to deal with winning and losing as they can do it many times over.
What are your favourite family board games?
Above photo courtesy of RHK Photography
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