With two boys in our house video games are often a hot topic of conversation.
We understand that some families embrace video games, others ban them, and many fall somewhere in between. Over the years we have worked together to figure out how video games can fit into our family’s entertainment activities and even into our homeschool.
We would be the first to say that not all video games are “educational”, but we have found some games that we believe put our problem solving skills to use, encourage creative thinking and even teach us something new!
Evaluating Video Games
Because the world of video games can seem completely overwhelming we knew we needed to find a way to evaluate each game’s content and possible fit for our family before we made a purchase. One of our main sources for information comes from the website Common Sense Media. This site offers reviews and information for video games, websites, movies, etc. We also take a look at game rating on ESRB.org (Entertainment Software Rating Board).
Sometimes we have family and friends make recommendations for video games that they think our kids will enjoy, and we are fortunate because we have found a great resource in our local Game Stop store (I know every store is different, but the staff at the store we frequent is amazing – they patiently answer any questions we have about the game and often let us try the game before we make a purchase).
Our “Top 10” Video Games List
I asked my guys to help me come up with a “Top Ten List” of video games to share – games they thought could be considered at least somewhat educational. Here is our list (with games for younger children listed first):
- Webkinz (Online game) – Purchase a plush “pet” at the store and then register and care for them online. Play games (a few offer somewhat educational content) to earn money/points to purchase items for your pet.
- Poptropica (Online game) – Players visit different islands (each with a different theme) and work their way through an adventure. Quests involve the use of some problem solving skills.
- Drawn to Life (Nintendo DS) – Use templates to draw your own character that is then animated and “comes to life” as the hero of the game.
- Little Big Planet (Playstation) – Use creativity to make your own game levels and and design your own characters.
- Super Scribblemauts (Nintendo DS) – You literally control the action by typing in words, the word you type becomes the action that takes place on the screen. Great to reinforce spelling and vocabulary!
- Picross 3-D (Nintendo DS) – Use problem-solving skills and strategy to break blocks and reveal a figure.
- Brain Age (Nintendo DS) – A variety of brain games using math, reading and critical thinking skills. Fun and challenging for the entire family!
- Minecraft (PC Game) – Use creativity and imagination to build block structures from materials found in this online world.
- Portal 2 (Playstation or PC Game) – Problem solving skills are put to the test with these physics based puzzles. (This is currently one of my 11 year old’s favorite games. He says “Portal is not completely educational, but it does make you think outside the box.”)
- Civilization 4 & 5 (PC Game) – In this strategy game you play as a historical figure to start and develop a civilization that you hope will rule the world. This game includes information about many historical figures and time periods. My 13 year old loves history so he often refers to the materials in this game as a resource for many of history lessons!
So, let us hear from you…what video games do you include in your homeschool?