Games in Your Homeschool: Learning Through Play

While many people set out to homeschool from the very beginning, I did not. As a school psychologist and product of public schools, I always assumed that my children would attend public school. And then I was blessed with an asynchronous, twice-exceptional child and public school did not work. We found ourselves suddenly, unexpectedly homeschooling and we’ve never looked back.

Among the biggest of homeschooling perks in my world is the fact that our family is able to play games frequently. We don’t have to try to squeeze in a family game night on an already jam-packed weekend, but rather we can play daily and sometimes multiple times daily if we desire.

Games in Your Homeschool: Learning Through Play

Using Games in your Homeschool Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, GeekMom, homeschooler, play, educational games, board games, homeschooling
Here are my three kiddos, playing Cardline Animal. Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

The Importance of Play

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The public school bus stop is in front of our house. The bus for the elementary school leaves at 7:55 each morning and returns home at 4:00. This time of year, darkness has fallen by the time the kids reach their front door. My children will often notice the bus and ask, sadly, “But mom, when do they play?”

Play is the science of childhood. Children learn how to navigate their world through play and I am so thankful that homeschooling allows my children plenty of time for play.

My children are currently 8, 6, and 5 years old. We enjoy a variety of homeschool curricula, but our homeschool routine includes carefully-selected high-quality books and games. Yes, board games! Why you wonder?

  • They are fun.
  • Games are educational.
  • Games build relationships.
  • Games make memories.
  • Board games provide hours of entertainment!
Using Games in your Homeschool Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, GeekMom, homeschooler, play, educational games, board games, homeschooling
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Using Board Games in Your Homeschool as Educational Tools

Children are doing so much more than simply having fun when they are engaged in play. Playing games works on a host of skills, including:

  • Social skills
  • Verbal communication
  • Self-regulation
  • Turn-taking
  • Sharing
  • Listening
  • Cooperation
  • Focus and attention
  • Following directions
  • Creativity
  • Learning to handle wins and losses
  • Cognitive skills such as counting, color/shape/pattern recognition, math skills, strategy, problem-solving, early literacy, etc.

Playing a game presents countless opportunities for teachable moments and skill development. There is something to be said for the hands-on, experiential learning that games provide.

Using Games in your Homeschool Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, GeekMom, homeschooler, play, educational games, board games, homeschooling
My daughter loves ThinkFun games, including Balance Beans. Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

How to Pick the Perfect Games for Your Homeschool

Board games are wonderful for families. A game costs less than the cost of taking your family to the movies and yet it provides you with countless opportunities for entertainment and memories! In order to pick the right game you must think of the following:

  • Recommended number of players – You do not want to purchase a two-player game for a family of five.
  • Age recommendations – When selecting a game, be cognizant of the ages of the children and the recommendations made by the game manufacturers.
  • Time to play – Families these days are busy, and some families are busier than others. Most games now have an average game length on the side of the box to help with your selection.
  • Ease of use – Is this a game that the family can play right out of the box? Will it be easy for all members of the family to understand?
  • Fun factor – You want the game to be fun for all ages!
  • Challenge – If the game is too easy, the family won’t play it often. The same goes for super-complicated games.
  • Longevity – You don’t want to pick a game that the family will outgrow quickly.
Using Games in your Homeschool Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, GeekMom, homeschooler, play, educational games, board games, homeschooling
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Here are some ways you can use board games in your homeschool routine:

  • Just for fun
  • Skill practice
  • Introduction to a topic (for example, I introduced the concept of coding with games like this one.)
  • As a way to wrap up a unit study
  • As a way to keep learning a given subject when a child is struggling. For example, my 7-year-old will periodically become extremely frustrated with math. We have a bunch of math games that I pull out to use during that time until he’s ready for  more formal math instruction.
  • Survival!! One winter, we had an 8-week board game challenge and it was a blast!

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me: Do you use games in your homeschool? What is your family’s current favorite? Share here!

Using Games in your Homeschool Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, GeekMom, homeschooler, play, educational games, board games, homeschooling
Image source: Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

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Cait is a school psychologist, mom to three amazing children, and an unexpected homeschooler. She loves nature, good books, board games, strong coffee, and dancing in her kitchen. You can read about all of these things and more at My Little Poppies. Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast. She is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and G+.