Just Playing Around – Games in our Homeschool

“Time playing with children is never wasted.” ~ Dawn Lantero

Thanks to games, I’m actually happy it’s STILL February and dreary outside. I’ve noticed my inbox is full of articles based on frustration and just being DONE with winter… and gratefully, I don’t feel that way!

I LOVE homeschooling during the gray, cold days where I get to snuggle up, get lost in a book or an audiobook and play games with the kids without feeling like I’m missing something outside. I just published our Day in the Life of our homeschool for this year and one thing I mentioned we do almost daily is PLAY GAMES!

There are about a million different methods of homeschooling. Many of you by now have heard of Game-schooling (utilizing games to teach basic (and complex) life skills).

And while we don’t exclusively call ourselves “Game-schoolers” we do wholeheartedly believe our children learn best when they’re are having fun. Just recently, we noticed our son loves learning how to code using BitsBox – a skill first introduced when he was four years old thanks to a board game dad brought home called Robot Turtles.

Games make learning easy and seamless by using normal cognition to practice practical skills like academics, problem solving, collaboration, conflict resolution, patience and manners to name a few.

And thus we love games. And I’m NOT talking video games. We have yet to introduce them into our home. We may never. Who knows…

The best part? Physical games bring families together. We live in an age when TVs, computers, phones and tablets make it convenient to ignore each other on a lazy Sunday afternoon spent on devices in separate rooms.

Try lighting some candles, pulling out a card or board game and watch your kids light up. Once it’s a habit, you’ll never go back to those lonely days apart and later wish you could get back. That said,

Parents need to enjoy the games played if we want to regularly play with our kids.

Thankfully, there are A ZILLION games to choose from nowadays with multiple, awesome games releasing each year. I love referring to BoardGameGeek for up-to-date, honest, user reviews, detailed information about each gamed and links to purchase them.

We also have a lovely local brick-and-mortar game store we’ll often visit in order to either rent games before purchasing them or test them in the store.

We’re not sorry to say Sorry, Monopoly and Scrabble stay tucked away with Trouble and don’t get much play. 😉  Same goes with most cheaply-made Hasbro games.

But we still break out classics like Chess, Mancala or Chinese Checkers almost weekly.

Now our children are roughly 8 and 3.5 and therefore, haven’t entered the world of 10+ games yet of which there are another zillion to choose from. Regardless, we’re obsessed with well-made games from designers and manufacturers that stand the test of time like Haba, Peaceable Kingdom and Ravensburger.

If you like well-made cooperative games (but don’t mind low-quality) I highly recommend Family Pastimes. Just be sure your kids are learning how to lose… while no one likes losing, it is a part of life.

And personally, I don’t rely on the game’s recommended age group printed on the box. Instead, we read through reviews, the instructions and watch others playing the game on YouTube video before deciding whether we believe our kids are ready to play a certain game.

We also do our best to include our 3 year old in most games we play with our older child which has helped her develop patience and has helped teach us how to be patient with her!

Keep in mind, you may go through a few duds before you get to a favorite. In our case, we may like a game but by the third time we play grow tired of it. Some games we play over and over again, especially if each time is different.

If you want to go crazy there are even monthly subscription boxes like PlayCrate.

Here are a list of a few of our favorite (non-traditional) games:

Ages 5/6+

Ticket to Ride
The Scrambled States of America
Sushi Go!
Eyes of the Jungle
Dutch Blitz
Legendary Inventors
King of Tokyo
Sleeping Queens, Zeus on the Loose…
Prime Climb
Fluxx (multipe)
Timeline (multiple)
Chess (still our favorite)

Ages 3/4+

My First Carcassonne
Mexican Train
Enchanted Forest
Brandon the Brave
Wild Craft
Hoot Owl Hoot
Create-a-Story Cards
Bird Bingo
Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel
Sequence for Kids
Spot It Jr.

Independent Games

IQ Twist + IQ Fit
Clue Master
Temple Trap
Lazer Maze
Code Master
Maze Ball (multiple levels)
Ravensburger Puzzles

Manufacturers like Lakeshore Learning also offers wonderful educational games (we like Landforms & Mapping and Famous Landmark Bingo) but their games are solely created for just that – education. So while useful, I recommend playing them sparingly so no one gets burnt out.

Not a fan of purchasing lots of games? I get it. We’re homeschool minimalists so I’m constantly sifting through our games to ensure we only keep what we play regularly. Try your library – they oftentimes have games tucked away you can play or check out.

What are your family’s favorite games?

With Love.

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