Homeschooling doesn’t have to mean painfully tearing your kids away from their games console. There are plenty of videogames with educational content that you can incorporate into their learning.
We’d argue that a lot of videogames offer valuable skills. Text-heavy RPGs or graphic novels encourage reading. Co-op games encourage teamwork. Skills like following instruction, map-reading, logic problem solving are more are frequently embedded in a host of games.
But we’re not here to agree with your children when they tell you that Fortnite is beneficial to their education. It might be. We’re not sure. But there are a host of games that are blatantly educational in a number of ways. We’ve highlighted a number of the best educational videogames below. So don’t feel too guilty when you stick the kids in front of the PS4 because you need a break. You’ve earned it.
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Android/iOS
Minecraft has long been used as an educational tool, with schools using it to bolster their curriculum for years. At its most basic, it’s an open sandbox game that allows children to build their own world. That means utilising tools to manipulate the landscape around them.
But it’s much more than that, and Microsoft are even doubling down on its educational properties by offering up free-to-download educational add-ons to the game. These allow children to explore a recreation of the ISS, for example, or look inside of a human eye. The downloadable educational worlds have been created to focus on a variety of topics that kids will benefit from, such as marine biology, Greek history, renewable energy and all kinds of other things. There are even supporting lesson plans available, offering puzzles, writing challenges and building tasks to go along with.
Available on: PC and Xbox One
Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection allows players to design and run their own zoos. It also allows you to wander around that zoo, visiting animals and learning more about them. It’s an excellent tool to teach children about animal conservation, learn facts about specific species and see their digital recreations up-close and personal. Almost every kid goes on a school trip to the zoo at some point; this allows you to do it from the comfort of your own home. Add to that the planning and management aspects, and Zoo Tycoon is one of the best educational videogames out there.
Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey sees you play as a cartoonified Grim Reaper. You’re on a mission to rid the world of monsters, but rather than fighting them directly, you do so by spelling out words. Each level presents players with a grid of letters. In a set amount of time, it’s your job to spell as many words as you can – the longer the word, the more damage you do to your opponents.
It’s a great game to test out kids’ vocabularies and spelling skills. The gameplay system in place encourages children to try to spell longer words while also offering a fun challenge at the same time.
It’s Quiz Time
Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One
It’s Quiz Time might be more of a party game, but this general knowledge quiz does have some educational merit too. Players go head-to-head to answer questions in a series of categories. Some are multiple choice, some require you to sort answers into some kind of order. The more questions you get right, the higher you score. You can choose particular categories to play, including things like Nature, History and Geography. It’s a great way to strengthen your children’s general knowledge – while also having a bit of fun.
Available on PS4 and Xbox One (other versions exist on PC and mobile)
This digitised version of the popular board game allows you to play a family game of Scrabble without the risk of letter tiles getting tossed at each other. Is that a thing that happens? I can imagine that’s a thing that happens. Scrabble, like Letter Quest, encourages children to spell words out of the letters provided to them. The longer and more complex the word, the better they’ll score. The videogame version allows players to play together locally as well as compete against CPU opponents if nobody else is around to play.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Available on Nintendo Switch
While Animal Crossing might not me the most obvious choice when it comes to educational videogames, it’s one that’s worth letting your children play around in. Not only does it encourage useful skills like inventory management, money management (paying off debt, investing, etc.) and teamwork, the game’s Museum is where the real educational content begins.
A large part of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is fishing, catching bugs and digging for fossils. These can be taken to the museum where they’ll be displayed. But the Museum also provides an excellent bit of information about every creature or fossil you collect. Children will learn facts about weird and wonderful bugs and fish, as well as about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes started life as a VR game but it’s since been ported to other formats. It’s not educational in the traditional sense, since it deals with diffusing a bomb. But what’s special about Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is how it encourages players to work together. One player is presented with a randomly-generated bomb, with a series of numbers, wires, and symbols on it. The other player(s) are given a series of instructions, and it’s up to them to carefully relay how to diffuse the bomb to player one. It’s about communication, understanding instructions, and working well under pressure – all very useful skills to have.
Available on PS4
Dreams isn’t your typical game. While there are games to play, the main draw of Dreams is as a creativity tool. Players can create their own games, works of art, and interactive experiences. While super complex things can be created with it, it’s also great for children too; providing a digital blank canvas for them to unleash their creativity onto. It’s cute, colourful and provides extensive tools for bringing ideas to life. You never know; your kid might be a budding game developer, and Dreams is a great tool to practice in.
Assassin’s Creed Origins: Discovery Tour
Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One
While the violence and adult themes of Assassin’s Creed Origins means the main game isn’t suitable for children, it packs in a separate mode called Discovery Tour. The game is set in Ancient Egypt, and Discovery Tour allows players to explore the game’s world like a virtual museum. There’s no combat or quests; it’s about visiting historical sites, learning about them, and discovering what life in Ancient Egypt was like first-hand. It’s available to buy separately on PC, too, so there’s no risk of your children accidentally launching the main game.
Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training (or Brain Age)
Available on Nintendo Switch or 3DS
Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training (or Brain Age as it’s known in North America) might be aimed at ageing adults who want to keep their brain functions tip-top, but it’s absolutely a useful tool in keeping youngsters sharp, too. It’s made up of a series of minigames, designed to be played every day, that test a variety of brain functions. You’ll do mental arithmetic, memory tests and complete word games. The games are quick and fast-paced, but are useful in improving basic skills, speed and competency. It’s one of the best educational videogames that’s worth children picking up for 10-15 minutes a day to stay sharp and focused.