After all, video games are nothing but engaging for children. And, as of late, researchers and educators alike have been trying to harness that very engagement into interest in teaching subjects, like engineering or science. But, what is it that really brings children back to the games that they love? Here are just a few reasons, according to Marc Sasinski of Citrix:
- They empower the user.
Gamers feel like they are in control of their own virtual world.
- They provide automatic feedback.
Video games provide users with information that they need when they need it. Take, for example, the “health” bars that show how close a character is from dying. Some games even give users hints as to what they should do next to move onto the next level or round.
- They help create a sense of community.
Gamers are, many times, inappropriately stereotyped as loners who can turn violent. It’s worth noting, though, that gaming itself can provide a community, especially if a child plays with the same friends. This can also help build collaboration with others.
- They get increasingly difficult.
It’s easy to see why video games keep bringing users back, especially as the game becomes more and more challenging. Users, though, can feel a sense of accomplishment as they beat said challenge and move on.
In Minecraft, gamers can build their own worlds with three-dimensional blocks. The game, originally created in the late 2000s, has gained popularity through the years in part because of its simplicity. And, once educators caught on that they could use it for teaching, Microsoft — the game’s owner — began tailoring it for that purpose.
Minecraft Education Edition has several lessons in subjects ranging from math, government, music and computer science for 3-year-olds and up. In one lesson plan, for example, players are to create Fred the human body and learn about where organs are, their functions and how to recreate those functions using the game.
How does that work? Sure, the game lets you build or tear down blocks, but it can also emulate actions, such as electrical wiring with “redstone.” Mimicking the real world, gamers can use switches and levers to activate the electric wiring.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Another video game, Valiant Hearts: The Great War, tells the stories of a handful of characters — most notably, Émile — during World War I. Unlike popular first-person shooter games like Halo or Battlefield that have proliferated the video-game market, Valiant Hearts features cartoon-like characters who mostly run, hide or solve puzzles.
LEGO Kids Games
LEGO — a forever favorite among children — has touted its hands-on approach to learning — particularly in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM) — with its building blocks.
A lesser known fact about the brand, though, is that is has been in the video game market since the late ‘90s, and they, too, can be educational. LEGO video games are replete with all the characters children know (think: Luke Skywalker and Captain America) and are very much puzzle-based. Gamers won’t be able to advance to the next round without completing a puzzle, helping to build children’s problem-solving skills.
Like LEGO games, PBS KIDS games will have characters already familiar to many children, like Arthur or those from “Sesame Street.” The platform, found here, is sorted into popular online games for kids and other topical games. If, for example, you’re wanting to help your child hone his or her team-building or socioemotional skills, you can select a game under those categories. There are also games that will more directly promote learning with subjects ranging from spelling to science and engineering.
National Geographic Kids
Like some of the other well-known platforms, National Geographic Kids offers teachers educational resources, including interactives in different subject areas. And, while National Geographic Kids is actually a magazine, its website is host to much more, including online educational games for kids! The games range from mad libs to quizzes about topics like sharks, Thanksgiving and space exploration. Should your child want to explore any of the topics further, he or she can likely find more information on said subject elsewhere on the website.
Built for children 10 years and older, Poptropica allows gamers to create an avatar that travels around the virtual world, named after the game. Similar to Valiant Hearts, Poptropica tells a tale that is mostly rooted in history. The online learning game allows kids to explore, start collections, read digital books and comics, and compete against other gamers.
And, if you’re looking for online educational games that will help improve reading and vocabulary, take a look at some of these programs.