Making Learning Fun

Gameschooling is increasingly popular with parents and teachers alike. Developing critical thinking, building subject knowledge while having fun? Yes please! So you’ve bought some Genius Games, now what?! (You haven’t? Go ahead and check out. We’ll wait!)

As much as we’d love to say choosing is the hardest part, as teachers and parents we know that’s not the case!

Here are 10 Best Practices for Gameschooling to help you on your way:

  1. Choose games they’ll be interested in or even better, let them choose

     When you first start gameschooling, choose games they will want to play--by subject they’re interested in, art they’re drawn to, or a game mechanic they love. Making kids play a game they don’t want is not an ideal start. Genius Games likes to keep it all fun with gorgeous art so you can’t go wrong. Later, you can introduce games you’d like them to play for educational reasons. Since they love playing games with you, they’ll be keen regardless.
  2. Learn it first

    My top tip to parents and teachers everywhere: do not sit down with the kids to learn a new game together!‐particularly when they’re young. This may work with teens, but otherwise pouring over the instructions is a post-bedtime activity for you, Mom and Dad. I like to get the game out and watch a youtube, set up the board, and play a round as 2 or 3 players myself to get a feel for it. Trying to wrap your brain around a game as well as teach the kids and keep it fun is often a recipe for disaster. Once you’re ready to play, they can still watch a youtube first while you set up.
  3. Choose your game time carefully

    Tired children do not the best gamers make. Family Game Night might need to be Family Game Brunch! End of the school day classroom gaming sounds good in theory, but you may need to bump that to the morning to get more out of it, especially at first. Avoid playing with hungry kids! Choose your time of day carefully, and feed them first! You can build back up to your Family Game Night dreams later.
  4. Engage your toddlers elsewhere

    Maybe it’s naptime or maybe it’s app time, because toddlers can really throw a game (literally and figuratively). It’s best to do something special with them before game time. It’s safer to sit with your older kids when toddlers are doing their own thang.
  5. Play open or cooperatively

    The point of gameschooling is to combine learning with fun, so it doesn’t matter if you need to fudge the rules for a while! Playing open is my favourite way to play with younger players. I keep all my cards or items visible and talk through my strategy on my turn. Flipping a rule or two to add cooperative elements to a game evens the playing field when playing with a teen and a 10 year old for example. Playing with a handicap can mitigate end-of-game upset while little ones are still learning how to lose graciously. 
  6. Talk it through

    Whether you’re a rule-stickler or not, talk through your turn. Your aim isn’t to beat them (sorry, competitive souls, it’s really not!) but to have fun and develop skills. Talking through your thought process on your turn will help children learn the game, and learn it well. Later you can play competitively with them.
  7. Behave how you’d like them to behave

    Monkey see, monkey do. If you don’t want your 10 year-old shouting “IN YOUR FACE!” when they make a move, then maaaybe don’t do that. If you’d like them to say “Good game. Thanks for playing!” when they win, then do that. Be a good sport and handle your games with care. They will too. You set the tone; it’s a blessing and curse.
  8. Let them win

    Controversial topic alert! Oft-debated in gameschool groups, but as an experienced teacher and homeschool mama, I’m going to pull rank and say: let them win sometimes. If you consistently beat them at games, they just won’t want to play. By discouraging them, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Keep it light and fun, let them win sometimes, and then you get the opportunity to model gracious losing too. Win win.
  9. Debrief after the game

    .Ask thoughtful, reflective questions. What strategies did everyone choose, and how did those work out? Was it better or worse than last time? What would players do differently next time? 
  10. Never punish

    Punishing game behaviour or attitude turns gametime into a battlefield. That’s the opposite of what we want! We’re seeking enjoyment, learning, and connection. So if things happen that you don’t like (which they will at some point), then empathize with the feelings without accepting the behaviours. Try hard to avoid overreacting in the moment. Later, when they’ve calmed down, you can talk about what behaviours aren’t appropriate, what would have been a better response, and develop self-regulation.

BONUS: Have fun! If it’s not fun, then what’s the point?! Happy gameschooling.

Cytosis: A Cell Biology Game - a worker placement game that takes place inside a human cell! 

Periodic: A Game of the Elements -  strategy board game designed around the periodic table of elements

Nerd Words: Science! - an uproarious science word game where two teams must decipher one-word clues to find the correct science term in a minute or less.

 

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