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The best games for kids to play at school

The value of game-play as an educational technique is now well established. More and more games and platforms are being released each year that help students learn valuable skills while they play; so, which subjects benefit most from this technique and what skills do they teach?

With educational benchmarks and national assessments a constant for teachers, being able to quantify the skills children will learn and which games will work is integral to adding them to school programs.

Sandbox games

Named for the creative playground style of play, ‘sandbox’ games are those where a player creates their own world without specific goals or instructions so that everyone has their own individual experience.

Minecraft is perhaps the most successful sandbox game to emerge in recent years. Teachers across the world have embraced it to teach chemistry and engineering concepts, collaboration and empathy skills and other core subjects. Minecraft Education Edition provides structure to using the game in the classroom, with lesson plans for a range of subject areas and age groups, training for teachers, and an online community for sharing lesson ideas and experiences.


Tipped as the new language everyone should learn, coding is set to become commonplace in the classroom, and not just for students interested in ICT.

Hour of Code seeks to bridge the gap between traditional subjects and coding. Covering science, math, social studies, language, music, and art for preschoolers through to year 9 with a game-based approach to learning. The response from teachers and students alike has been incredible, with groups across the US reporting improved student recall and increased enthusiasm for learning. More than half a million teachers across the US have signed up to Hour of Code and they can access lesson plans and other resources to improve their ‘productivity’ in the classroom, while students can work at their own pace or modify teacher-guided lesson plans.


Video game consoles like Xbox, Wii or PlayStation can also have a place in the classroom. These types of gaming systems have long captured the attention of children and can now engage them in learning experiences. According to a research review in American Psychologist, playing commercial video games “may boost children’s learning, health, and social skills”.

In addition to publishing their commercial titles, many of the major consumer game companies have begun releasing educational games such as National Geographic Challenge, with a stimulating game show theme that covers history and geography with questions that can earn young players points. Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a puzzle-based game that introduces older students to World War One.

These types of video games – with their immersive environments, rewarding structure and creative narratives – can be a fantastic resource for getting students to reflect on their own thinking: practicing metacognition.

A few years ago, the idea of sitting a class down to play an hour of Minecraft would have raised a few eyebrows but now progressive educators are scheduling exactly that sort of play into their curriculum.

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