If you, like many parents, are suddenly finding your kids home on an extended spring break, you might be wondering what on earth you can do to keep your kids learning and engaged if your school district hasn’t moved to online learning. We at CIPT believe very strongly not only in the therapeutic benefits of games, but the educational benefits too!
If you aren’t a gamer yourself, you may be wondering how in the world a video game can be a good use of time. They’re a silly hobby, a time suck, after all, right?
No! Structured and responsible gaming can benefit kids in countless ways, from boosting language skills, to encouraging teamwork and communication.
If you don’t own a game console, you can rent them from places like Rent-A-Center and Aaron’s, or you can buy used or refurbished consoles from many places (I hope that by the end of this post, I’ll have convinced you that if it’s something you’re able to spend money on, it’s a worthwhile investment).
With that, let’s get to it!
Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey Discovery Tours
In the AC Discovery Tour, you can explore all of ancient Egypt and Greece in an interactive way and learn things about historical events, customs of the time, and how people lived. You can even explore homes and learn things like the hygiene habits of people from these eras. The games are gorgeous and the worlds were recreated with an amazing attention to detail and accuracy.
Fortnite Creative Mode
In Fortnite Creative Mode, players can build structures (collaboratively with friends!) and create their own entire game using Fortnite assets. This is a great game for both cooperation and getting kids and teens to be creative and push the limits of what they can imagine and create.
Rabbids Coding is a free game for kids ages seven and up in which they can learn coding through completing puzzles.
Human Resource Machine and 7 Billion Humans
Also in the coding category are these two games from Tomorrow Corporation. Available on PC, like Rabbids Coding, you learn a bit about coding (the processes more than actual coding language here) through completing puzzles.
Ni No Kuni 1 and 2
These games are a delight to play. While they start off with a light-hearted takes on heavy topics like the loss of a parent, the games are, essentially, about kindness and using your abilities to help others and make the world better. And they’re a great way to teach kids about resource management and caring for others.
Amanita Design Games
Games from this developer are all about problem solving and exploration and all are stories told without words. And they’re all gorgeous games, which is always a bonus.
Life is Strange 2
This game is only for mature teens, as it deals with some very intense topics but if your teen fits that bill, this is a great game to learn about storytelling and writing, as it has a remarkable narrative and very deep characters. You can read our review by Ruth Cassidy here.
For anyone familiar with Gris, it may seem like an odd one for this list. Gris is a platformer that doesn’t have any obvious educational themes. However, Gris is a game about loss, hopelessness, and working your way through both, which, in my opinion, is an essential topic for kids to discuss with their parents or guardians given the current frightening situation in the world.
Snipperclips is a fun little co-op game available on the Nintendo Switch. Players use motion controls (so no, it’s not an accessible game by any means) to solve shape puzzles while working together with a second player.
Deafverse is a browser game made for Deaf teens but is also a good fit for hearing teens interested in learning ASL. Learn more about it here.
Bee Simulator is exactly that- You play as a honey bee and during your time in the game, you get to learn all kinds of fascinating stuff about bees! Read our review here.
Dreams is a game about making games and in it, once you’ve learned the basics, you can create essentially anything you can imagine. One word of caution: There is community created content available for playing, so I strongly suggest pre-selecting some games for kids to play, as they may not all be suitable, or at the very least, monitoring what community created things your kids are looking at.
Portal 1 and 2
The Portal series is both brilliant and maddening (maddening mostly because I, personally, am very bad at the sort of logic and problem solving required to play the games). The humor in these is sharp and hilarious and suitable for teens.
Tacoma and Gone Home
These two games are suitable for teens and both are incredible narrative adventures (for non game-speak parents, think choose your own adventure with gorgeous art) that are a remarkable way to introduce teens to narrative crafting, character development, and storytelling.
Untitled Goose Game
Chances are you’ve at least heard of this game, even if you’ve never played a video game in your life. It might not seem like a particularly educational game but believe me, the level of planning and problem solving players have to put into being this horror of a goose out ruining peoples’ days is impressive. And it’s super accessible! Read our review here.
Kerbal Space Program
This game is INCREDIBLE for teaching a student about physics and space things (which as I’m sure you can tell from my brilliant description here, is definitely not my area of expertise). In Kerbal Space Program, you have Kerbals, adorable little green beings, and you have to manage every aspect of a space program, from researching sciency stuff to properly crafting your spaceship so that it doesn’t explode upon launching.
This post will continue to grow as I get more suggestions from Twitter, so stay tuned!