How to Make Educational Games
Learn how to make educational games that are entertaining and fun. Get the whole family involved in making and playing games that challenge their minds while they have a good time.
You children will learn valuable lessons about art, math, and logic while making and playing educational games. Encourage your kids to be creative, but be sure to help them to understand the lessons inherent in the games.
On the following pages, you will learn how to make educational games that the whole family will enjoy.
Adults and children alike will be challenged by this clever educational game. Similar to checkers, it is a game of strategy that’s easy to make.
Liven up a game of dominoes when you play with Pictominoes, an educational game that you and your kids can make and play together.
Have fun and learn a lot when you make the Jazzy Jigsaw. This educational game lets kids express their creativity and then challenges them to solve the puzzle.
This educational game lets kids put their heroes to the test. When you make The Great Adventure, you choose both the characters and the obstacles they encounter.
Find out how many words you and your kids can make when you play the educational Spool-A-Word game. This easy-to-make game improves language skills.
Challenge your kids to get creative when they make their Jigsaw Puzzle. This educational game is fun to both make and solve.
This educational game turns study time into a good time. Play No-Bored Games with your kids, and watch their interest in school skyrocket!
Similar to Battleship, the Find the Presents game teaches kids concentration, recall, and strategy. Find out how to make this educational game.
This educational game is a puzzle that takes concentration and a sharp visual eye. Your kids will have hours of fun playing the Matrix Game.
Let your kids get creative with Brain Teaser Art. See the complex designs that they dream up when you play this educational game.
Teach your kids basic math skills with this educational game that’s fun to make. Careful! This game may make you hungry.
Learn how to make a set of checkers that’s so professional people will think it’s from a store! Get your kids involved in making and playing Checkers.
This educational game improves both recall and drawing skills. When you and your kids play Brain Teaser Art, you’ll hone artistic skills as well as memory.
When you encourage your child to keep a Weather Journal, he or she will start to recognize weather patterns. Find out how to create this educational game.
1. Pencil-and-paper games
From Battleship to Sprouts, we’ve created a must-play list of pencil-and-paper games that beat TV any rainy day. Gather some pencils and paper and check out our best of pencil-and-paper games.
You don’t need a fancy building set for this. Popsicle stick cities, card towers, even buildings out of blocks, or indoor forts out of boxes or pillows, will do just fine. If you want to get competitive, whoever builds the highest tower wins.
3. Magical Mama (or Papa)
Be your kids’ very own Harry Houdini—without the locks, chains and water tanks, of course. Simply place a coin under one of three cups and shuffle the cups around. Then ask your children to guess which cup holds the coin. Sneaky parents can place the cups near the edge of a table and secretly drop the coin. Watch your tots’ eyes light up in amazement when they learn the coin is gone!
4. Card games
Card games are great for challenging young minds and creating hours of indoor fun. Grab a box of cards and check out our favourite traditional card games.
Exercise those creative, cognitive and problem-solving muscles with a good puzzle. You can use a store-bought variety or have the kids make their own. Have your children draw a picture on a sturdy piece of cardboard or Bristol board. Then use a pencil to outline puzzle pieces directly on their drawing. Cut out the pieces with a good pair of scissors, mix them up and get solving.
Choose some of your kids’ favourite tunes and turn up the volume. Ask them to dance until the music stops. When it does, they have to freeze in whatever position they find themselves in – even if they have one leg up. To make the game more challenging, ask the kids to freeze in specific poses: animals, shapes, letters or even yoga postures. Toddlers in particular love this game.
The winner gets her very own gold medal! Make your own ribbons with this easy craft:
7. Board and family games
For a comprehensive list of the best of family games from Nursery Rhyme Games and Candy Land to Clue, check out our handy list of top 20 family games.
8. Paper-bag skits
This indoor game is ideal for larger groups — a sleepover favourite. Divide the kids up into groups. Give each group a bag filled with props, such as a spoon, toy jewelry, a sock, ball or ribbon. Then give them 15 minutes to construct a skit around the props. This game is so much fun that it doesn’t have to be competitive. If the kids want, though, they can all vote on a winning skit.
9. Indoor hopscotch
This schoolyard favourite is sure to be an indoor hit, too. Set up your hopscotch game on any floor surface. Masking tape will do perfectly to form the nine connecting squares. Boxes 1-3 will be placed in a single line, one on top of the other. The next two boxes (4, 5) will be placed side-by-side, followed by a single box (6), two more boxes (7, 8) and the final half-circle “home” base (9). Next, choose a marker, such as a coin, stone or beanbag. The first player will throw the marker into square 1 without letting it bounce or touch the lines. If successful, the player will then hop — one foot on single squares and two feet on side-by-side squares — avoiding square #1. The player may rest on “home” before hopping back. On the way back, he or she picks up the marker on square #1 and, if successful (lands within the lines, hops or jumps with proper footing, doesn’t fall), takes another turn and throws it into square #2. When the player is unsuccessful, the next player takes a turn. Players resume their turns by throwing the marker on the last box played. The winner is the first player to throw the marker home (#9), and smoothly complete the whole course.
10. DIY balance beam
While you have your masking tape out, why not make your own balance beam? We all know how much kids love walking in straight lines every chance they get. Put on some music, and one at a time the kids can take their turn walking one-foot-over-the-other across the straight line of tape. Make the game more challenging by having the kids walk backwards or balance with one foot on the line.
11. Hide and Seek
No list of indoor games would be complete without Hide and Seek, now would it? In this classic game, one person (“It”) covers his or her eyes and counts aloud while the other players hide. When “It” is finished counting, he or she begins looking for the hiders. The last hider to be found is the next “It.” Warning: this game is often a source of giggle fits. Families with older children might want to take things up a notch and play Hide and Seek in the dark. Just to be safe, make sure there are no loose items on the floor. If you want, allow “It” to carry a flashlight or turn the lights on once “It” finishes counting.
12. Treasure hunt
Kids love finding hidden objects — especially when there’s a prize at the end. Simply write your clues on some slips of paper — get creative. Place the first clue somewhere easy to find, like inside your child’s snack or cereal bowl. Then leave as many clues as you like around the house, making a trail to the final clue. Instead of a prize, the treasure hunt can lead to various coins around the house. This way the kids get to collect all the coins and put them in their piggy banks in the end. If you want to create the most amazing treasure hunt, follow these 11 tips.
13. Indoor bowling
A great way to reuse water bottles (or you can purchase an indoor bowling set). Line six-10 water bottles up at the end of your hall or living room. Place a line of duct tape at the starting line. Grab a medium-sized indoor ball and start bowling! If you want, keep score and give out trophies at the end. (Note: if you need to stabilize the water bottles or make the game more difficult, simply fill them up with some water. Don’t forget to screw the tops on tightly!)
14. Hot Potato
This game will have everyone giggling. Ask the kids to sit on the floor in a circle. Turn on some tunes and have them pass the potato (a bean bag or soft ball) around the circle as fast as they can. When the music stops, the player holding the potato leaves the circle. Keep going until only one player is left and wins the game.
15. Picnic memory game
Former preschool director and grandmother of three, Marsha Colla, has some innovative games up her sleeve, including this fun and simple verbal memory game, which, Colla says, “challenges the children and makes them giggle.” To play, everyone sits in a circle. The first player says, “In my basket for the picnic, I packed…,” and then says what item he or she packed. The next player then says, “In my basket for the picnic, I packed…,” and then recites what the first player packed and adds his or her own item to the basket, and so forth.
16. The listening game
One of Colla’s go-to games for her preschoolers and grandchildren, this game is sure to both educate and delight little ones. Take out several miscellaneous items. Have the children look at all the items, and then take them away. Next, ask one child to hide his or her eyes and listen as you pick up an item and make sounds with it. Ask the child to guess which item made the sound. Examples of items might be a comb (run your fingers along it), a glass (gently tap it), cymbals, shakers, sandpaper, blocks rubbed together, a pot and spoon. Be creative and have fun!
You don’t have to go outside to enjoy bubbles. For this game, you need a plate and straw for each player, some dishwashing soap and water. Place a dime-size drop of dish soap at the centre of each plate. Pour a little water onto the plate and gently mix with the dish soap until some suds start to form. Have the kids place the straw in the suds and blow very gently. Watch as massive bubbles start to form. To make this competitive, see who blows the biggest, or longest-lasting, bubble.
18. Simon Says
This traditional favourite will never get old. To start, choose one player (probably a parent for the first round) to be Simon. The rest of the players will gather in a circle or line in front of Simon as he calls out actions starting with the phrase “Simon says”: “Simon says…touch your toes.” The players then have to copy Simon’s action, touching their toes. If Simon calls out an action without uttering the phrase “Simon says,” the kids must not do the action. If a child touches his toes when Simon didn’t say…, he or she is out of the game. There are lots of great ways Simon can trick players into doing actions when Simon didn’t say: Simon can perform an action without uttering a command, for example, or he can perform an action that doesn’t correspond with the command. Fun! The last player left in the game wins and becomes the next Simon.
19. Touch-and-feel box
Most preschoolers flock to the classroom sensory table as soon as the teachers pull it out. So there is little doubt they will love this entertaining challenge. Find a shoe box or any box that has a lid on it. Cut a hole in one of the sides of the box —large enough for your child to fit her hand in. If you want, get creative and decorate the box with glitter and question marks. When you’re ready to play, put an item inside the box and have your children guess what it is. They can ask questions about the item if they need to, or you can offer clues. Get as ooey-gooey as you wish (fresh pumpkin seeds or slimy spaghetti are great choices for Halloween), or use such simple objects as a brush, a toy, a piece of fruit. To make it competitive, you can give a point to the first child to name the object.
20. Indoor basketball
You can’t be too little for this version of basketball. All you need is a bucket and a rolled up sock (or a small, light ball). Each player takes a turn at throwing the sock-ball into the bucket. When a player scores a bucket, he or she takes a step back and throws again until missing. The player who shoots the ball in the bucket from the farthest distance wins.
Classic Outdoor Games for Kids
Hide and Seek
Everyone has played this one. Most parents have played with their kids, since hiding and finding is a common interest of small children. I’ve heard of all kinds of variations on this game. Sometimes you count to twenty, sometimes ten, sometimes one hundred. Sometimes there is a home base that you can run to and tag, becoming “safe,” sometimes you just wait to be found. The general idea is that one person is “it,” that person closes his or her eyes and counts to a certain number without looking and then he or she tries to find the others. Number of Players: Ideally at least three. Equipment: None.
Kick the Can
This game is a variation of tag and hide & seek. One person or a team of people are designated as “it” and a can is placed in the middle of the playing area. The other people run off and hide while the “it” covers his or her eyes and counts to a certain number. “It” then tries to find everyone. If a person is tagged by “it”, they go into a holding pen for captured players. If one of the un-captured players manages to kick the can, the captured players are released. The game is over once all the non-“it” players are in the holding pen. Number of Players: Ideally at least three. Equipment: A metal can.
Capture the Flag
This game is most fun when played with a large group. Split the group into two teams, each team having a flag or other marker at the team’s base. The object of the game is to run into the other team’s territory, capture their flag and make it safely back to your own territory. You can tag “enemy” players in your territory, sending them to your jail. They can be sprung from jail by a member of their own team running into your territory, tagging them and running back, with one freed person allowed per jail break. It is sometimes played that all the people in jail could hold hands and make a chain back toward their own territory, making it easier for members of their team to tag them. We also played a similar game called Steal the Sticks. It had almost the same rules, but several sticks were used instead of one flag. Number of Players: A large group. Equipment: Two flags or other markers.
Fun for kids of all ages, this game involves a large round parachute, preferably with handles, with people holding the parachute all around the edges. It helps if someone is in charge telling people what to do. Players can just ruffle the parachute up and down a little bit, they can go all the way up and all the way down, or all the way up and then run underneath, sitting on the edge of the parachute, which can create a bubble of air with everyone inside. Players can also place light objects such as wiffle balls or beanbags on top of the parachute, and make them jump by ruffling the parachute. Also, one person can sit in the middle of the parachute and everyone ruffles it near the ground. If there is a smooth floor and a light child, the child can sit in the middle on top of the parachute and everyone else can walk partway around still holding the parachute edge. Then everyone pulls backward, spinning the child. There are countless variations. Number of Players: Depends on the size of the parachute, but usually eight to ten. Equipment: A play parachute. These aren’t as hard to find as you would think. Try here and here.
This game works best on a street with little to no traffic, or in a large paved area of some kind. You need bikes, wagons, pedestrians, scooters or whatever is available. One person directs traffic to make sure kids don’t run into each other. It is more fun than it sounds, and helps kids learn about waiting to cross the street and about traffic safety. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: Bikes, wagons, scooters, anything on wheels.
This ball game is played on a square court further divided into four smaller squares, numbered one through four. One player stands in each of the squares, with the highest ranked player in number one, lowest in number four. You bounce the ball among the players, bouncing once in the other person’s square before that person catches it. When I played this as a kid, we had countless additional rules to choose from. The person in square one got to choose the rules. Anyone who violates the rules will have to move down in the ranking, or be eliminated with another player rotating in to square four. Number of Players: Four, unless you take turns. Equipment: A four square court or sidewalk chalk, a playground ball.
Use some sidewalk chalk and make a hopscotch grid. Number the squares from one to nine. Pick a rock that is good for tossing. Small ones can bounce too much, and larger ones are hard to throw. Start by tossing the rock onto Square 1. Hop over the rock and hop with a single foot or both feet (to follow the hopscotch pattern) all the way to the end. Turn around and come back, stopping on Square 2. Balancing on one foot, pick up the rock in Square 1 and hop over Square 1 to the start. Continue this pattern with Square 2. And so on. If you toss your rock and miss the correct square, your turn is over. This game can be played with any number of people, but only one person can go at a time. If it’s raining or dark or too cold, you can get indoor hopscotch mats or foam pieces, or just find a pattern on the floor to follow, perhaps using a beanbag instead of a rock. Number of Players: One at a time. Equipment: Hopscotch grid, rock or beanbag.
Jump-Rope and Double Dutch
One of the biggest ways I spent my recess time as a young girl was jumping rope. I got quite good at it for my age, both in speed and in skill. It was fun to jump by myself, but it was even more fun to have a long rope and jump with a couple of friends. That’s where jump-rope rhymes come in. They turn a simple exercise into a fun game, to compete against yourself and others. Then there’s double dutch. I was always in awe of the older girls who could do double dutch. The first time I tried it, I got tripped up almost immediately. However, once you understand how to do it, it isn’t as hard as it looks. Number of Players: One for single jumping, three with a longer rope or for double dutch. Equipment: One or two jump-ropes.
This game requires three people, or just one or two people with really good chairs. It is easily done inside, assuming a sturdy floor. This game resembles regular jump rope in that you jump. A lot. But you jump in a pattern. Two people (or chairs) put their feet inside the rope and stretch them out, standing far enough apart for the third person to jump between them. The third person, or jumper, faces one of the people holding the rope and jumps in a pattern of left, right, inside, outside and on the ropes. What pattern you use is up to you, but all the players should use the same one. The game is started with the rope around the ankles. Once the jumper does the jump correctly, the rope is moved up to the calves. Then to the knees, then the thighs. Usually it doesn’t get any farther than that. Once you miss, it is someone else’s turn. Number of Players: Preferably three, but it can be done with one or two. Equipment: A stretchy-type rope or 5 to 6 meters of rubber bands tied together in a circle.
This game can be played on any flat surface, indoors or out. The player scatters the jacks on the playing surface, often by just tossing them out of one hand, as if rolling dice. The ball is then tossed up, is allowed to bounce once, and is caught before the second bounce. The player tries to scoop up jacks and catch the ball with one hand before the ball’s second bounce. The number of jacks to be picked up goes in order. First you pick up one (“onesies”), then two (“twosies”), then three and so on. There are many variations to the rules of this game including things like “pigs in the pen” and “double bounces.” Jacks is one game I wish I had played as a girl, but it was much more common when my mom was a child. Number of Players: Any, taking turns. Equipment: A set of jacks and a small rubber ball.
The general rules specify that you draw a circle in the sand or on the sidewalk, and then take turns trying to knock each other’s marbles out of the circle with your one large marble. As with the other games, there are countless variations. I haven’t played this game at length, though, because I always seem to hurt myself flicking the large marble into the ring! You can also use a marble mat which contains different point zones. Number of Players: At least two. Equipment: Chalk, large and small marbles.
Red Light, Green Light
With enough room, this game can easily be played inside. One person is the traffic light at one end, and the other players are at the other end. When the traffic light faces the group, he or she says, “Red light!” and everyone must freeze. The traffic light then turns his or her back and says, “Green light!” while the group tries to get as close to the traffic light as possible. The traffic light turns around quickly, again saying, “Red light!”, and if anyone is spotted moving, they have to go back to the starting place. The first person to tag the traffic light wins and gets to be the next traffic light. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: None.
Mother, May I
This game is set up in the same way as Red Light Green Light. One person in the group asks the person in the front, “Mother, may I take steps forward?” The person at the front then says, “Yes, you may.” or “No, you may not.” You can vary your requests by including options such as taking baby steps, spinning steps, leaps or whatever strikes your fancy. Again, the first person to tag the person in the front wins and is the next person in the front. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: None.
This game can be played anywhere, even in a car or other small space. One person is Simon and starts by saying, “Simon says, ‘[insert action here]’. ” Everyone must then do the action. However, if Simon makes an action request without saying, “Simon says” to begin the request, anyone who does that action is out. The last person still playing in the end will be Simon for the next round. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: None.
It seems that everyone knows how to play tag, but just in case it wasn’t in your childhood game playing repertoire, here is how you play. A group of kids decides who will start out as being “it.” That person chases the other people around, trying to tag one of them with their hand. The newly tagged person is now “it.” There is often the rule of “no tag-backs” where you can’t tag the person who just tagged you. The game ends when everyone is tired of playing. Number of Players: Any size group. Equipment: None.
In this fun version of Tag, you tag each other’s shadow with your feet instead of tagging their body. Thus, it must be played on a sunny day. The closer to noon, the greater the difficulty. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: None.
This is a variation of Tag where if the person who is “it” tags you, you have to freeze where you are. Another participant can tag you to unfreeze you. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: None.
A variation of Freeze Tag where the person unfreezing the frozen player has to call out a TV show title. That show then can’t be used again during that game. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: None.
This variation of tag is played in a swimming pool. Whoever is “it” closes their eyes and yells “Marco!” The other players then yell “Polo!” The “it” person has to tag one of the others, and then that person is “it.” Be sure to play in a pool that is not too deep for any of the players. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: A swimming pool.
Blind Man’s Bluff
A favorite game in Tudor and Victorian England, this game is yet another variation on tag. The person who is “it” wears a blindfold and tries to tag the other players. Be sure to play this in an area safe from obstructions and other hazards. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: A blindfold.
Divide everyone into two teams, each forming a long line, holding hands, facing the other team. The two teams should be around 20 or so feet apart. The teams take turn calling out, “Red Rover, Red Rover, let come over!” That child leaves their team’s line, runs as fast as they can toward the other line and tries to break through the held hands. If they break through, they get to take someone back to their team. If they don’t, they join the new team. When a team only has one person left, that person tries to break through the other team. If they do not, then their team loses. If they do, they gain a player and play continues. Number of Players: Any decent size group. Equipment: None.
Heads Up, Seven Up
Dating back to at least the 1950s, this game is one we played in elementary school. In my experience, it was usually done in the classroom with everyone at their desk. To start the game, seven players go to the front and the teacher says, “Heads down, thumbs up!” Everyone still at their desk puts their head down, extends an arm and stucks their thumb up. The seven kids that were at the front go around and each press one person’s thumb down. Then they all go back to the front of the room and the teacher says, “Heads up, seven up!” The players at the desks raise their heads and the seven whose thumbs were pressed down stand up. Each in turn names the person they think pressed down their thumb. If they are correct, they change places with the presser. Then the game can start again. Number of Players: Minimum of 14. Equipment: Desks at which to sit.
This outdoor game is a lot of fun. Every player gets a number and crowds around the person who is “it” for that round. “It” then tosses the ball straight up and the other players run away. As the ball reaches the top of its toss, “it” calls out the number of one of the other players and then runs away also. The player whose number was called must run back and catch the ball (or chase after it if it is bouncing around). Once that person has the ball, they yell, “Spud!” Then everyone else must freeze. The person with the ball must try to hit one of the players with the ball. If they do, that new person gets a letter (first S, then P, then U, then D) and is now “it.” If they miss, the person who threw the ball is “it” for the next round. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: Playground ball.
Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?
Played inside or outside, the group sits or stands in a circle and holds their hands together in front of them. One person takes the button and goes around the circle, pretending to put the button in someone else’s hands. They actually deposit the button in one person’s hands, but then continue the rest of the way around the circle, pretending to put it in everyone else’s hands. Then going around the circle, each player tries to guess who has the button now. Before each person’s guess, the group asks together, “Button, button, who’s got the button?” Then the player can state their guess. Once the player with the button is finally guessed, that person distributes the button during the next round. Because a button is used in this game, be sure that all the kids playing are old enough so as to not choke on the button. In another version of this game (and the one that I am more familiar with), one child stands in the middle of the circle, and the button gets passed around the backs of the rest of the group. Those without the button pretend to pass it. When the passing stops, the player in the middle has to guess as to who actually has the button. Number of Players: Any size group. Equipment: A button.
This incredibly portable game can be played anywhere. If you are playing alone, you can make various string shapes on your own hands. With two people, you can play a bit of a game, transferring the shapes back and forth and creating new ones. Learn from someone if you can, but otherwise there are some good books on the subject. Make your own string, or buy a book on how to do it, which often comes with a string! Number of Players: One or two. Equipment: A string, approximately 36 inches long, tied in a circle (length varies, so find one that works for you!).
The first hand-clap game most people have played is Pat-a-Cake with their parents. Songs and patterns get much more complicated from there. Usually there are two people involved, doing a series of clap patterns on their own and each other’s hands while singing or chanting a rhythmic song. There are many rhymes listed online, but if you can learn from someone else or see it in a video, that is best, so that you can get the notes of the song and the rhythm of the clapping. From “Miss Mary Mack” to “Miss Susie” to “Say, Say, My Playmate,” there are countless hand clap games to learn. Number of Players: Usually two, but creativity can allow for a third or fourth person. Equipment: None.
Crack the Whip
Though often played on ice while wearing skates in the winter, this game is much safer, though possibly less fun, when played on grass. All the players hold hands in a line. The person at one end of the line skates or runs around, changing directions quickly. The tail of the “whip” of players tends to get moved around with a lot more force than players closer to the front. The longer the tail, the harder it is to hold on. If the players at the end fall off the end of the tail, they can attempt to get back on, perhaps in a position closer to the front. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: None.
In a circle, arrange chairs facing outward to total one fewer than the number of players. An additional player needs to be in charge of the music. When the music starts, the players walk around the chairs. When the music stops, players sit down in the nearest chair as soon as they can. The one player who does not have a chair is out. One of the chairs is then removed, and the game continues in this manner. The player that sits in the final chair is the winner. This game is traditionally played inside, but it can also be played outside with outdoor furniture and a portable music player. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: Music player or person making music, chairs.
This game is one in which most people end up laughing quite a bit, so if you’re in the mood for silliness, give it a go. Players sit in a circle. One person thinks up a sentence or phrase and whispers it to the next person. That person repeats it to the person on their other side. This continues around the circle. When it finally reaches the last person, that person says the sentence out loud. Hilarity ensues. The ending sentence is usually quite changed from the beginning sentence, since errors tend to compound as they go around the circle. Number of Players: A small group. Equipment: None.
Choose one person to be in charge of the music. When the music starts, everyone else dances, the crazier the better. When the music stops, the dancers must freeze in their position. Anyone caught moving after that is out. Play continues until there is one person left, the winner. Number of Players: Any number. Equipment: Music player or person making music. You can find more activities in The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls, as well as some jump rope and hand clap rhymes.