Best educational games for kids

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These days, children are practically born with the ability to use a smartphone and have an immediate understanding of technology from a young age, and 91 percent of children play video games. In this environment, parents can fight the trend and likely lose, or use it to their advantage by allowing their children to play educational games that will enhance spelling, reading, and math skills. There is no better way to trick your child into learning than with a flashy tablet app featuring talking fish. Your little ones will think you are a cool parent for letting them spend so much time in front of the computer, and parents will have peace of mind knowing their kiddos are actually furthering themselves. 

All of these websites and games are safe for all ages, and many allow for multiple players so they can be played together as a family. 

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Apps

One thing to look out for with apps is in-game purchases. If kids don’t understand that getting more lives in a game costs actual  money, there can be real problems. Make sure to read the descriptions before handing it over to your kid or stay safe with our guide to turning off in-app purchases.

Fish School HD (Apple $2) 

Ages: 2-5

Fish School HD

Fish School HD is a great game for preschoolers. It teaches numbers, letters, shapes, and colors with the help of animated fish. There is even a lesson on differences, where children have to find the fish that doesn’t look like the others. The app tries to cover basic skills taught before or during preschool curriculum. After kids work out their brains, they can have play time by tapping and dragging the fish and watching them react. Some letters and numbers are hard to read when displayed by fish, so it could be frustrating for some little ones. 

Scout’s ABC Garden (Apple $2)

Ages: 2-4

Scout's ABC Garden

This is one entry in a series by Leap Frog that stars a green puppy named Scout, who takes kids through his backyard where they help him find things he’s lost, grow letters, and count drops of water. The app can be personalized and Scout will learn your child’s name, favorite color, and favorite food. The only bummer is it can only be personalized for one person at a time, so if there is more than one kid wanting to play with Scout you might need to have them share a profile or download it on another device. Scout will teach your kids how to count, but not to share. 

Balloony Word (Apple Free)

Ages: 6-10

Balloony Word

This version of Hangman features Gordon the Gorilla and Kendra the Kangaroo as they hang helplessly from balloons with letters printed on them, and their lives are in the hands of the players who must guess words based off letters they choose. There are different categories of words to choose from, such as fruits or vegetables. Every wrong guess pops a balloon and brings either Gordon or Kendra closer to the ground, but gently. This is a game for children, so there won’t be any animals plummeting to earth, but there’s still a feeling of drama. This game is simple and is a good one to play with your kids, or by yourself when they’re sleeping, you deserve it. The only downside is an older kid could get tired of the repetitive nature of the game. 

Stack the States (Android/Apple Free [limited] or $1)

Ages: All

Stack the States

There is no better way to trick your kids into learning geography than putting faces on states. This app covers a wide variety of United States geography such as capitals, state shapes, borders, and abbreviations. The game presents the player with multiple choice trivia about states, if you answer the question correctly, you are allowed to place that state on the base. You win once you stack your states all the way up to the checkered line. Because it allows up to six unique profiles it’s easy to let the whole family play. Nothing brings families closer together than competition. There is also a Learn menu that presents an interactive map and flash cards. There is a “lite” version that is free but, as one could guess, isn’t as extensive as the full version. 

Dinosaur Park Math (Android/Apple $1)

Ages: 8-12

Dinosaur Park Math

Instead of letting your kids watch Jurassic Park, leaving them terrified to be alone in an SUV for the rest of their lives, have them play Dinosaur Park Math. This app has the perfect combination of addition, subtraction, and dino facts. The game takes you through a dinosaur park and presents math and trivia challenges to unlock different parts of the park. The kid’s job is to unlock pieces of each dinosaur by solving math problems. Once the fossils are uncovered, the guide will give facts about that specific dino and the world it lived in. The math problems are a little advanced, getting into basic double digit stuff, so play around with it first to see if you think your kid could answer the questions without getting frustrated,while still learning. 

Next Page: Video Games for Consoles

Video Games for Consoles

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My Word Coach (Nintendo Wii/ Nintendo DS $36.15)

Ages: 8-17

My Word Coach

My Word Coach focuses on spelling and vocabulary with varying games. The best feature is that the game will grow with your child, because it adapts to the player’s ability. If your child is having trouble reading and writing, you can start the game at the lowest setting and as they learn the game will naturally introduce harder words until it offers challenging practice vocabulary for the SAT or ACT – assuming your child isn’t sick of it by then. The controls take a little while to master, so it could frustrate some kids at first. 

Smarty Pants (Nintendo Wii $15.89)

Ages: All

Smarty Pants

Smarty Pants is different than any other trivia game, because it has gameplay targeted at different ages. This makes it easy for everyone in the family go play along and avoid those nasty generational disputes. It is also very inclusive of different nationalities and can be filtered for specific countries. The website boasts that it has over 20,000 questions, which will keep the family playing for hours. Smarty Pants has also come up with a creative way to break ties, with dance offs and tug-o-wars. The only downside to this game is sore losers. 

National Geographic Challenge (Xbox 360/ Playstation 3/ Nintendo Wii $34) 

Ages: All

National Geographic Challenge

Up to four players try to take over different countries by answering geography trivia questions and completing puzzles to develop good imperialistic skills. There are also mini games to keep even the youngest explorer interested. Some reviews have said that the controls take awhile to get used to and that can be frustrating. This is the game for any kid who is interested in geography and wants to travel. In typical Nat Geo fashion, there are beautiful pictures of the places each explorer is visiting. 

Next Page: Video Games for Computers

Video Games for PC and Mac

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Brainiveristy (Windows $17.50) 

Ages: 8 and up

Brainiversity

More than a game, Brainiversity is a logic test. It offers different puzzles like matching, and finding differences. This game doesn’t go over specific subjects, but it will keep a brain of any age sharp. There is a little lightbulb named Edison that follows the player through tests who is reminiscent of the paper clip in word, so he starts out cute as first but can get annoying over time. Luckily, you can turn his voice off. Another annoying feature is the user isn’t penalized for getting answers wrong, so it can teach children that going faster is better than being accurate. 

Hearing Music (Mac/Windows $58)

Ages: 5 and up

Hearing Music

This game is made to develop a keen music ear. It isn’t used as much for learning how to read music but it will test the player on listening back, repetition, and changes in music with a progressively increasing difficulty. Another nice feature about Hearing Music is its tracker that shows a student’s progress that only an adult or teacher can see. The music used throughout is well-known classical music, so it is a good way to introduce your kids to something they might not be as exposed to. 

Crazy Machines: The Wacky Contraptions Game (Windows Vista/Mac $10)

Ages: All

Crazy Machines: The Wacky Contraptions Game

Crazy Machines focuses more on logic and less on learning a curriculum but it is a great way to teach kids about how things work. To play, you set up a board and see what happens when you turn certain gears and pull levers. This is a good representation of basic ideas of physics and gravity. It’s is like having a virtual Mythbuster lab, complete with explosives, robots, and cause and effect. There are hundreds of combinations and things to experiment with. It is geared (pun intended) toward specific interests, so only try it out if your child likes to know how things work. 

Next Page: Websites with Educational Games

Websites

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Though there are good educational games on the internet, there are even better collections of games out there, all of which are free. For more great options, check out our full list of great websites for kids.

Light Up Your Brain

Ages: 7-12

Light up your Brain

This website is primarily known for offering children’s audio books, but it also has a good collection of games. Unlike the other sites on the list, these games generally focus more on logic than reading or math. Most games are similar to the popular Cut the Rope  games, so while they aren’t actively teaching a certain subject, they are making those tiny developing brains work, which is more than I can say for Flappy Bird. It can be hard to tell which games are appropriate for which ages, so it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right ones. 

Free Multiplication

Ages: 7-12

Free Multiplication

As stated plainly above, this site deals solely with math games. Every game allows a kid to choose which table he wants to study and makes multiplication as fun as it can possibly be. While they are great practice, many of these games are similar and can feel more like homework than a game. There are also addition and subtraction categories to create a well-rounded future mathlete. The longer your child thinks these are actually games, the better. 

ABCya

Ages: 5-12

ABCya

The most useful part of this website is that games are broken up by grade, so it makes it really easy to find a good selection for the right age. The games are also varied so kids can grow up playing them and not feel like they’re playing the same ones. Subjects vary from math, to spelling, to social studies. ABCya also offers interactive audio books, but the games are the real draw. Some games end with a bonus game, which is a fun reward for working on parts of speech, or multiplication tables. The only thing to look out for is there are a few ads on the site, nothing too intrusive, but kids could click on them and end up being redirected. 

Knowledge Adventure

Ages: 3-12

Knowledge Adventure

Like ABCya, Knowledge Adventure splits games by grade level, age, and subject matter. It’s database of games is huge and offers a variety with familiar characters such as characters from How to Train Your Dragon . There is also a nice variety of arcade type games for breaks from learning. Because there are so many options it can be hard to choose the right one for your child, so it might take a few tries. There are also ads on the side that encourage children to click them, which then leads them to a different site. 

Kidz Page

Ages: All

Kidz Page

Some of these games will direct you to different websites, which can be frustrating for a kid, so make sure to stay away from sponsors’ games. Another frustrating aspect is hidden ads in some games that will take the player to a different site halfway through game play. It can also be hard to sort though the arcade type games to get to educational ones, but there are some good ones on there. It just takes a bit of digging. This is a site where usage might have to be more closely monitored for young kids because of the high volume of ads.

What do you think of our list of the best educational games for kids? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.

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