The best educational board games for children

Stewart Cork / 27 September 2016

Children can improve maths, literacy and history knowledge with these fun but educational board games and card games.



Children love to play games and games can be a subtle way to teach them various skills which will come in useful as part of their education. Here is our guide to five games which are both enjoyable for all ages and which will secretly educate your grandchildren. They are all perfect for entertaining children on a rainy afternoon or after school.

Timeline

Timeline is a simple game where each player has a number of cards and take turns to put them in sequential order.

You take a card from your hand and place it where you think it goes in the timeline. Once you are happy with the spot, you flip it over to see the year of the event and reveal if you are correct. If you’re wrong you get another card. The first player to get rid of all their cards is the winner.

At first this is simple as there aren’t many cards on the table but the longer it goes on and the more cards there are on the table, the more difficult it is to work out which invention was discovered first, or which battle happened when.

There are several different sets of Timeline, so you can pick whether you want to play with science and discoveries, historical events, inventions or one of the other games available. They can all be combined if you want to make it more difficult.

There is also a version called Cardline which is aimed at younger children and allows you to compare animals on size, lifespan and weight.

Timeline sets are RRP £13.99. Ages 8+, 2-8 players.

Paperback

Paperback is a more strategic alternative to Scrabble. Each turn players make a word from the cards in their hand, however instead of immediately getting points towards their final score, they will get another card to put into their deck which is shuffled frequently.

Playing a higher scoring word will allow you to get a higher scoring card or one with certain powers but you need to think carefully and make sure that your deck doesn’t just end up with a lot of high scoring cards that you can’t make a word out of (there aren’t many words with the letters JQZKY in, for example!)

So not only will Paperback help with vocabulary skills, but it will encourage your grandchildren to think about what cards will be useful in their deck. Once you are all comfortable with the game, you can add a theme bonus, so players will get benefit if their word ties in with the selected genre – such as science fiction, horror or crime.

Paperback retails at $24.99 which is roughly £19 at the current exchange rate. Paperback is available to buy direct from the maker Fowers Games.


Once Upon a Time, a storytelling card game

Once Upon a Time, a storytelling card game

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon a Time will help to improve creative writing and storytelling skills. Collectively all the players make up a fairy tale, however each of them has certain elements to incorporate into the story and every player has a unique ending card which they are trying to drive the story towards.

As you are all wrestling to take the plot in different directions, you will end up with stories which would probably not make it onto a bookshelf but which all participants will find amusing and may be talked about for years to come. Whilst they may not realise it, children will be analysing the key elements of stories they know to attempt to replicate them within the context of this game.

Once Upon A Time RRP £19.99, ages 8 +, 2-6 players

Codenames

Codenames was a surprise smash hit which won the coveted Spiel des Jahres award earlier this year. As well as being very popular, the game encourages players to link concepts with one another.

The game is played in two teams with one player on each team knowing which of 25 agents are on their side. However, they only know their codenames. Using one word and one number at a time, they have to attempt to communicate with their team to identify them as quickly as possible.

For example, if two of their agents' codenames are Ladybird and Strawberry, they might use the clue “red 2” so that the team know that 2 of their agents have codenames that are linked with the concept red. However, the spymaster will need to be aware of the other possible agents on the table as if one of the other team’s agents is Rose then their team could pick the wrong agent and be penalised.

The game encourages players to do a lot of thinking about language and should help to improve vocabulary and conceptual skills.

Codenames RRP £15.99.Ages 14+, 2-8 players.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride will help to improve a maths and strategic planning skills as well as geographic knowledge.

There are various versions available - America and Europe are the most popular ones – so you can teach youngsters the geography of a specific area of your choosing.

The way the game works is that everyone is managing their own individual train company and puts down train tracks between cities to claim the route for their trains to run on. Each player will have specific journeys they are trying to complete, such as New York to Los Angeles, although the journey could go along one of any number of paths, which is useful as your opponents take the route you were hoping to take.

The winner is likely to be the player whose strategic planning skills required combine best with maths skills as you will need to calculate whether it is better to abandon one route to attempt to complete another. The game might take a while to teach and so is more suited for slightly older grandchildren.

The original game based in America and the European version are available for a little under £30. Ages 8+, 2-5 players.

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