Educational Video Games
Video games that encourage hours of mindless play have given the medium a bad reputation, but many teachers and parents are finding that educational video games are a great way to expand learning. Combining education and entertainment in a fun format, educational video games are part of an emerging field known as “edutainment.” The best games in this genre encourage problem solving and critical thinking while teaching math, language and science skills. Multiplayer games provide the opportunity to develop social skills while working collaboratively in a team environment. Here’s our list of five of the best educational video games for children.
JumpStart. This series of grade-based games from Knowledge Adventure has been a leader in the educational video games market for more than 20 years. The JumpStart series uses colorful animation and simple interfaces to target children aged 3-10. In addition to general education games, sold under titles like JumpStart 1ST Grade, there are also subject-based packages such as JumpStart Spelling. Originally available on PCs, the series has branched out in recent years to the iPad, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS platforms. An online virtual environment that promotes adventure-based learning is also available on the JumpStart website.
Magic School Bus. Based on the popular Scholastic books and PBS television series, the Magic School Bus video game series helps primary school students view scientific discovery as an exciting adventure. Players follow Ms. Frizzle and her science class as they climb aboard the Magic School Bus and explore the ocean, space, the animal kingdom and other learning environments. Along the way, players earn points by completing science interactions. The game is available on PCs, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS; a condensed version can be played online at the Scholastic website.
LittleBigPlanet. This puzzle-based game series for ages 7 and up is available on multiple Sony PlayStation platforms. The series, which features an appealing customizable character named Sackboy, places an emphasis on player-generated content and online collaboration with other players. In addition to following Sackboy’s adventures in a variety of story modes, players are encouraged to develop their creativity by creating and sharing games and adventures of their own. The overriding theme of LittleBigPlanet is “Play, Create, Share.”
Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree. Brain exercises are one of the new trends in learning. Big Brain Academy taps into this trend with 15 activities in five categories that are designed to improve memory, logical thinking, analysis and math skills. Progress is shown by tracking the player’s “brain weight.” In solo mode, players earn brain grams and medals by completing brainteaser minigames. In multiplayer mode, up to seven players compete in races and quiz marathons. Big Brain takes full advantage of Wii features, including Mii avatars and the motion-sensing Wii Remote and Mii avatars. Using WiiConnect24, players can share their scores with friends located anywhere in the world. A portable version of this educational video game is also available for the Nintendo DS.
Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Despite the popularity of texting on smartphone keyboards, touch-typing is still an important skill for children and teenagers. This Broderbund educational video game has set the gold standard for typing education for more than 25 years. The deluxe edition provides more than 300 personalized lessons, exercises and assessments and a dozen entertaining typing games. Useful extras include the ability to build custom lessons, upload your own music, check your workspace ergonomics and watch videos showing proper typing posture. Mavis Beach Keyboarding Kidz is a special edition of the game aimed at kids ages 7 and up.