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Learning games are opportunities for academic enrichment embedded in a fun activity. Besides teaching or reinforcing social activities such as sharing, turn taking, and choosing teams, games can actually increase skills and knowledge.
Did you think that children playing cards are just having fun? Many card games are learning games in that they involve general math skills, such as matching, counting, and sequencing. Memory games like concentration focus on the skill of matching—identifying things that are alike. The card games War, Old Maid, and Go Fish also require players to aurally or visually match items that are the same and distinguish items that are different. Counting is practiced in any card game in which each player is dealt a hand. And sequencing is frequently a factor in solitaire games, when cards often have to built up in numerical order.
There are also card decks and games that are learning games with specific content area information included. There are many decks that are build like the game of Authors with books of cards that share information on a particular author and his or her work or another topic from the arts, history, or another field. Other card games teach the alphabet, colors, and other topics.
Board games are another source of mathematical learning. Games such as Candy Land®, Chutes and Ladders® focus on counting, with Candy Land® providing matching practice as well. Connect Four®, chess, checkers, and Chinese checkers all teach reasoning skills. But board games also can be more explicitly learning games with content area facts. General knowledge is covered in Trivial Pursuit® and other trivia board games; geographical understandings in Risk®, the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?® series, and a variety of National Geographic games.
Online learning games are available at a number of sites. There are games of this type appropriate for preschoolers, as well as games with an older focus and specialized content material. Word games, such as Hangman and word searches are popular.
There are a number of sites with online learning games. Although many focus on older students and specialized content areas, there are a number for preschoolers by, for example, Fisher-Price®. Online learning games featuring television characters are available from Nick Jr. For older children, look for Sheppard Software, National Geographic Kids, and Scholastic Kids.
Self-contained learning systems built like lap tops but having a limited range of functionality come stocked with learning games and may offer add-ons as well. One popular system is by LeapFrog®, maker of items such as Leapster Learning Game System. Other examples are V.Smile Nitro Notebook Interactive Learning System® and the Winnie the Pooh Interactive Computer® by VTech®.