Games as Homeschool Learning Tools


What Do I Do On Monday?
Our Homeschool Journey
One Homeschooler's Story
Reading for Homeschoolers
Games as Learning Tools
Homeschooling and Socialization
High School Learning for Homeschoolers
Preparing Homeschoolers for College
Community College as a Homeschooling Tool
Who are Homeschoolers?
Homeschooling Materials and Resources
Field Trips a Great Homeschooling Tool  
XIII. Homeschooling Groups and Coops  


Homeschooling with Games and Puzzles

Long before I was a homeschooling mom I had a special passion for games and puzzles.  I grew up in a family where my earliest memory of Scrabble was that is was my job to bang on the piano to distract my mom when it was her turn (my Dad wasn’t very nice to her but that’s another story).  I loved to play word games with my mom, literatlly until the day before she passed away and anyone else who will play with me.  Not only did I use games and puzzles as a big part of my children’s learning but I later taught several semesters of a class on Learning Games at a homeschool coop in our area and presented the topic at a Homeschool Conference.  Some of this post is based on materials I developed for that conference.

Resources for Beggining Gamers

Before Sudoku became a household word I was subscribing to puzzle magazines that had Sudoku and other math and logic puzzles.   Highlights publishes a magazine called Puzzlemania which has great puzzles for younger children Usborne books also has some great  puzzle books for young learners,  I started my kids out once they could read a little doing the easiest logic puzzles in the magazines I already subscribed to and you can either get subscriptions or order back issues in value packs from  I also used to make up some of my own based on things that interested them. My husband showed me how to make up grids like they use in the magazines in Excel and that worked for all kinds of puzzles for my game class.

You Don't Have to Stick to the Rules

Thinking Creatively you can take some traditional games and adapt them to what you are learning.  I have taken BOGGLE and actually set up the letters in such a pattern to have some sounds we were working on be included like make sure there are “ch” and “sh” on the tiles and then give your kids extra points for works using those or other select combinations.  For my classes I did a challenge also with Boggle.  I made up a grid on paper filling in letters from a randomly shook up board.  First I had my own kids all list every word they could find and rewarded the one who found the most, then I created a master list of those words and played it with my class.  After they were done I compared their lists to mine and paid 5 cents a word for any legal word they had that wasn’t on my master list and then went home and expanded my list for the next time I challenged a group with this.  There were always a few more words and it gave some extra incentive to the game.

Favorite Traditional and Not So Traditional Games

As far as more traditional games there are millions of games available (see some of the web sites below).  I have picked our family favorites and ones that I find have staying power.   A great idea when family members ask what to buy the kids for birthdays, holidays, etc.

Math Games

S’math – A Scrabble like math game can be used with just addition/subtraction, with division/multiplication added up to algebraic operations.

YAHTZEE - Good for basic math skills, the strategy will keep older learners interested.

24 – There are many variations of this game now sold working on different math skills.  The original dealt with multiplication and factors.

Science Games


Check out this company, also with a homeschool connection that has all kinds of great science games. Genius Games is a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) based publishing company that strives to create high quality table-top games and children's books that are both entertaining and educational. Our hope is to create resources that are a blast to play and read, but simultaneously demystify intimidating concepts in the sciences and engage the players in a lifelong process of inquiry.:


Word Games

Tip: If you are teaching your kids word games, which they can play for life like Scrabble and Upwords buy the official Scrabble Dictonary (it’s inexpensive in paperback).  It has strange words but real word game fans know them.  If not always agree on the dictionary you will allow words from before you play.  If your really serious you can find lists of 2 and 3 letter words on-line that are valuable for the serious Scrabble player.

SCRABBLE Classic Word Game

UPWORDS: Similar to Scrabble, can change words by building on top of letters, allows more chances for younger players to play equally.

BOGGLE; Players try to make as many words with adjoining letters before the timer.  Can also be used by a group or multiple groups rotating among several set games.  Can set board to work on certain skills, vocabulary, etc.

Flustered puzzles – a reverse form of boggle (found in Dell & Official Logic) or make up your own.

QUIDDLER; A card game played in rounds.  Cards have letters and values.  Bonuses are given for longest and most words per round.  Simple and fun.

SCATTERGORIES– Players try to find words starting with the letter rolled to fit a list of categories.  This game has a lot of adaptability.  For older children you can follow the rules as written.  For younger children you can get rid or lengthen time limits, write your own category lists or play as a cooperative game.  Great for teaching creativity and thinking outside the box.

TRIBOND– There are travel versions of this game that are inexpensive (and great for travel too).  Players are given 3 words or phrases and need to find the common theme.

Geography Games

Where in the World Is Carmon Sandiago.  There are board and PC versions of these games based on the PBS series.

SCRAMBLED STATES OF AMERICA GAME  - Kind of silly but kids love it.  Learn state facts, some chance based on card pictures.  Reinforces names of States and Capitals.

RISK – World Game – involves war strategies with dice and cube like armies, there are classic and newer versions of this game.

Pencil & Paper Puzzles

Crytograms and Crytoquizzes

Crossword Puzzles – Do as a contest, each family member working at their own level.  See who finishes first or gets the most of their puzzle done, then help each other fill in missing answers.


A site my son recently sent me for a variety of puzzles on-line

Misc. Games of Strategy and Thinking Skills

Chess, Checkers, Backgammon

MANCALA – An African game involving placing small stones in a pattern.

Racko – Number sequencing game, combination of luck and skill in planning.

CRANIUM – a great family game or for a group, some of the items are hard for younger children but teams work very well. Involves word puzzles, charades, drawing, sculpting clay, humming and a lot of other creative activities.

RUMMIKUB ORIGINAL - Similar to 500 Rummy played with tiles.


Fluxx – A unique game where the rules change with the cards you play. Get a few extra, they make great gifts. Now with all kinds of expansion packs and themes.

MILLE BORNES CARD GAME - A classic French card game involving strategy and luck.  Block your opponents progress as you try to finish the race.

UNO CARD GAME – traditional and UNO - ATTACK! (with electronic dispenser).

APPLES TO APPLES – This is a lot of fun and creative, the larger the group the better.  Cards with things/expressions are matched to the dealers card and the dealer judges the best answer in their opinion.  The dealer rotates each turn.  Great for families or groups of all sizes. APPLES TO APPLES JUNIOR

Card GamesO

Rummy, 500 Rummy, Pinochle, Black Jack, Solitaire you can find rules on line with lots of variations and other games for different numbers of players.

Okay, this game can teach some skills from reading, to math, to following rules. But also this is a shameless plug for a game that my former homeschooler Josh is the co-creater of. Learn more at


Games and Web Sites

Zoombinis – Series of Logic PC games

Adventure Games (great for family play) – Monkey Island Series, Kings Quest Series (especially the earlier ones), Simon the Sorcerer (1 & 2 are best) Game Reviews and great information

Ideas for Incorporating Games into Learning:

  • Just Play
  • Family Game Nights – Rotate turns to pick the games.
  • Homeschool Game Days - also a great opportunity to trade games until the next meeting or bring games you family has outgrown and do swaps or sales.

Places to Learn About New Games and Buy If You Like

There are lots of sites out there that sell games.   These are some that offer better prices or good reviews.   Fun Books
( is also a homeschool family run business that has a selection of games, especially cooperative games.  These commercial sites are some that I found when working on the course for today, many offer reduced prices or good reviews.  Of course common games often K-Mart, Traget and of course Amazon. Interesting geography games