Looking for fresh ideas for games for kids in your classroom? Whether you teach in a traditional classroom or are a homeschool parent (like me!), puzzles and other brain-boosting games are a fantastic tool to boost student achievement and engagement.
Games also make a fantastic enrichment activity for kids who need more of a challenge.
Throughout my years teaching, I’ve used a wide variety of puzzles, games, and other activities and my students have always LOVED them!
Now, as a homeschool mom, my own kids LOVE to play games and all of these make a frequent appearance in our home. We love to play games as a family regularly.
I hope these game ideas are helpful for you in choosing some fresh new options for your elementary classroom or your homeschool to keep those little brains active, learning, and maybe even (dare I say…) enjoying the process.
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Features & Product Aspects You Need
If you’ve ever gone shopping for toys or manipulatives for your classroom, you know the feeling of overwhelm that comes with it! Choosing puzzles and games for kids seems even more daunting. It’s all fun and games…. until you have to choose one!
But, don’t worry! No matter what type of game you’re looking for, you’ll want to make sure it offers these features if it is a physical puzzle or anything with pieces.
- Educational Value: Games aren’t just toys; they are learning tools. Quality games should provide an opportunity to engage with some form of learning.
- Age-Appropriate: Always check the age recommendation on the puzzle. A puzzle that’s either too simple or too complex might not hold your students’ attention.
Note: students formally identified as “gifted” may need games that are even more advanced than their biological age.
- Material Quality: Look for games with sturdy pieces that can withstand repeated handling. This is especially true for a classroom resource that will be handled by dozens of students every year.
- Replay Value: Great games should be fun to resolve more than once. I really love open-ended games or puzzles for this reason! No right answers = tons of chances to solve the same puzzle over and over. A great example is the classic game of Clue.
- Interactive: An excellent puzzle encourages interaction. The more students interact with the puzzle, the more they learn. If the puzzle or game can be used by multiple students at once, that’s a great bonus!
Keep in mind that these are just suggestions! YOU know your students or children best.
Also, while they aren’t true games, don’t forget that many amazing puzzles are printable! Also, now there are many fantastic non-consumable options using apps and websites
My Top 10 Games for Kids in 2023
One of my personal favorite games for kids (and adults!) is azul! You get a variety of beautiful tiles, then build mosaics.
But… it’s tricky! You need to get rid of your tiles before the game ends!
The fun part is the game is different every time!
This game is one of my kids’ favorites! You get cards that show you how to set up the cars on the game board. Once the cars are set up, you need to get one of the cars out of the grid by moving the other cars until there is a clear path!
Each card has a varying level of difficulty… and the toughest cards are tough for adults to solve!
This game is fantastic for the whole family, classrooms, and more.
This cute game is a great way to reinforce animal facts! The object of this game is to read clues about the animal pictured on your card and then your opponent needs to guess what animal you have!
This is a more laid-back game, but it’s SO fun and engaging. My boys absolutely love it!
This may be my most favorite game ever! You choose 14 tiles to start, and then the objective is to get rid of all of them by making runs or groups.
A run is 3 or more tiles that have the same color and consecutive numbers.
A group is 3 or more tiles of the same number, but any color.
Once you have some runs and groups made, you can actually steal from bigger sets to make new ones…. and that’s where the fun and strategy begin!
This is a really fun online game and there are app versions as well. Connect tiles that square themselves as you connect them.
As the squares get bigger, the objective is to keep making bigger squares until you reach the square of 2048!
This is a great game for middle schoolers learning to square numbers!
This fun, open-ended game has one objective = connect numbers to make 24!
You can start with easy numbers and work up to double digit numbers. There are even versions that include multiplication, division, and more!
This is a great game for kids who are gifted, need more enrichment activities, or other extension opportunities in math!
Ok, if you HAVEN’T heard of Wordle yet… well, I’m sure you have!
But, just in case, you get a new puzzle daily! Each puzzle is a 5-letter word and you have 6 guesses to figure out the word.
You get clues with each guess. Letters will turn green if they are correct and in the right spot for the puzzle word. Letters will turn yellow if they are correct, but not in the right spot!
This helps you with process of elimination and vocabulary skills! It’s another great game for kids who need enrichment opportunities!
This classic game is another favorite in our home. For one of their birthdays, we got them a really cool travel chess set.
They have the one pictured above and it’s such a great set to take to restaurants, on road trips, and so much more!
If your kids enjoy chess, investing in a little set like this is a total game changer (no pun intended!).
This is a bit of a twist on the games I’ve featured so far, but it’s such a good one, I couldn’t let it go!
This is a public project focusing on American history. There are multiple history scenarios available.
Kids will watch the scenario and make choices as they go…. the scenario changes based on what they choose! So, they are similar to a ‘choose your own adventure’ story, but in a way that teaches various topics in American history in great depth.
I love this because it’s not a traditional game, but it does help to teach excellent thinking skills, problem solving, and history.
Note: this is more appropriate for older students. Also, I recommend previewing the content as some of the scenarios do deal with some tough (but important!) historical topics.
If you want something quick and easy to give to your students, but still want them to have some fun while thinking… check out my puzzler sheets!
The puzzler sheets are set up as 6 puzzles on 1 sheet. This helps to maximize space and also help students practice more skills with less prep required from you.
Simply print the puzzles and make available to your students! Depending on how quickly they are able to work through the puzzles, they may be able to complete them in a day, a week, or longer!
These are easy to give to students and have them pull them out for fast finisher work. Or, you could have your students work in pairs or small groups to work on their anagram lists and to solve the riddles!
There are SO MANY ways to use these versatile puzzles!