So the schools have just officially broken up for an indefinite period of time. Let’s be honest it will seem like forever for those staying indoors feeling forced to take part in home schooling!
A lot of the resources for kids seems to be online; with Google classroom and the like asking our children once again, to plug-in and rely on electronics. Board Game Review is all about getting people (children and adults) to unplug and interact in a non-digital way.
So, before you reach for the gin, Board Game Review have formulated a list of games that are actually educational. Many of which have already proven successful in home schooling environments. These may well help you abandon electronics for a bit and also help your sanity.
The age recommendations in this feature are based on the community scores awarded on the Board Game Geek website which are generally more reliable than the manufacturer’s recommendations. Please also note that affiliate links do appear below this point. You can read our disclosure policy here.
There are a number of games that include some form of adding up, some go further and include other basic math skills. Kingdomino is a brilliant 2-4 player game which involves basic multiplication and adding when working out the score at the end (age 6+). Getting to the end point involves forward planning and pattern matching so it is a bit more than just adding up.
I also recommend Nmbr 9 to help with basic mathematics (age 8+). The game involves placing Tetris style numbers on top of one another trying to reach higher levels. Scoring again involves basic multiplication and addition. It also offers solo play and might give you a chance to load the dishwasher while teaching!
Shut the box is an 18th century dice game that is still available today that teaches younger children number bonds (5+).
The market is awash with good word games, many designed for younger players. With regard to vocabulary Think Words! would be a good option (age 10+), as would Articulate for Kids (age 10+). For spelling Bananagrams is a solid and fun game (age 8+).
However, nothing improves English like a good yarn. So I have gone off the beaten track with this recommendation and propose something I have never played – I know a gamble right?! Well I am putting my money where my mouth is as I have just ordered a copy myself because I think this is the perfect opportunity to explore my family’s first RPG. An RPG is Roleplaying Game and for our first sojourn into the genre I chose Starport. It came very highly recommended for all young players and I hope epic adventures await us all (age 5-12 plus a grownup guide).
Another board game that creates the ‘make your own adventure vibe’ is Tales of the Arabian Nights, but this is really for older players (age 12+). If you want to see some cool miniatures in a story telling game Aftermath: An Adventure Game Book is also worthy of attention (age 10+). Rory’s Story Cubes are a brilliant learning resource too (4+).
You will struggle to find a more apt recommendation than FReNeTiC. This is a word game that uses the letters of the periodic table. In 45 seconds players need to make as many words as possible out of limited elements with their respective numbers giving the scores to the words. It was also recommended by @thehonestmeeple on Instagram.
Evolution leads the pack in both its card game or board game form. Whereby players create and adapt their own species in an ecosystem (age 10+). The aim is to adapt, for your species to thrive. It also has many expansions that could be of interest at a later date. I would also love to recommend Wingspan for its educational content, but this would only be good for the slightly older players too (age 10+).
Physics does not translate to board games particularly well. Gravity in Kerplunk feels a bit lame (age 4+)! You can probably tell I have been struggling a little. I considered games with magnets, momentum, motion and all sorts. None of the games I could think of really hit the spot. However, I have chosen Kluster, mostly for its dexterity qualities and its magnetic fun (age 14+ but only because they are worried younger people will eat the magnets). Not perfect but there you go!
Rats to Riches is a finance strategy board game (age 10+). The designer. Eugene Lim’s aim was to create an educational game that teaches basic business and finance. He succeeded! Not only that, the theme of rats trying to make it big, infuses the game with some of the best puns and plays on words that I have seen in a while. I was surprised how good it actually is! It is becoming a new family favourite and a superb alternative to Monopoly.
Getting children to unplug to then learn about computers, am I bonkers? Well this is the way of the world and we all need to know the basic principles. For simple coding skills I recommend Colt Express (age 8+). Players have to plan out their moves in advance before actions are played out. Other players can ruin your move by also performing unexpected actions, for me these are ‘hacks’ that you have to get round on the next turn. It is a great looking game with real table presence. Your kids won’t even realise they are learning, but they are.
@boardgamebucket on Instagram recommended Potato Pirates, which again teaches players all about programming (age 6+). I’ve not played it and it does get some mixed reviews elsewhere, but it is certainly worth considering.
Flags of the World is a brilliant educational card game for learning about places around the world (age 12+). While the game revolves around each nation’s flag, the cards of the game also display where it is in the continent, its capital city, surface area, population and some key facts that help a guesser identify the flag if they guess wrong. It also comes with a map of the world which helps locate countries and teaches basic map-reading.
Pictionary is an obvious mass market option that may already be lurking at the back of a cupboard (age 8+). Cranium released a clay sculpting guessing game which is basically 3d Pictionary called Cranium Sculpt-it! rather unoriginally (age 5+). Ready, Steady, Sculpt! is a similar game featuring good ol’ Plasticine (age 8+). All of these are team games though which may not be possible in the current circumstances. So additionally, I will recommend Reiner Knizia’s Modern Art which recreates a fine art auction with cards that will be a feast for the eyes and inspire the creative in all of us (age 10+).
It is fair to say board games and are not often described as energetic! However, my Game of the Month for February 2020 was PitchCar Mini (age 5+). This game sees players flick a cart token around a track and it works best if all players are standing up and moving around a table. It creates genuine excitement too. Failing that Twister gets you stretching (age 6+). Bounce-off will keep you moving as you will be continually picking up balls of the floor as they bounce everywhere (age 7+)! Klask would be a good two player option too (age 6+).
Other Home Schooling Options
I feel like BrainBox deserves its own special mention as these challenges in a box really are educational in a range of different subjects. They include foreign languages, science, maths, space, English, as well as great options for pre-schoolers and those in key stage 1. For younger children I probably don’t even need to mention Orchard Toys offering of board games. Both brands offer good home schooling options.
It looks like we might be home playing board games for a little while so be sure to check our website frequently for lots more reviews and features coming soon. If you’ve tried any of the above games we would love to hear from you on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube with your thoughts. Don’t forget we also have a newsletter that you can subscribe to too!
Until then, stay safe and play more board games!
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