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Games in the Classroom: A Teaching Resource

Building a collection of games for the classroom means choosing and storing the best board games. It also requires tracking the most effective online games and keeping a catalog of the group games that your students love best.

Why Play Games in the Classroom?

  • Games are fun, appealing, and motivating to students of all ages and backgrounds.

  • Games support the curriculum—

    • Word games and matching and memory games foster language development and literacy.
    • Board games improve counting skills and spatial awareness and develop strategic thinking for improving skills in mathematics.
    • All games provide lessons in taking turns, understanding how to win and lose, and fitting in with others for social and emotional development.
    • Games provide a forum for initiative and leadership, reasoning, and problem-solving.
    • Different types of games develop small and large motor skills and hand/eye coordination.

  • Challenging and strategic games help children learn to focus and concentrate, which are essential ingredients in developing creative thought.


To build and use a collection of games for the classroom


  • Variety of age-appropriate board games

  • Index cards or computer directory of group games, those that have been successful in your classroom in the past

  • Optional: Internet access and student computers, and/or Internet access and central computer with data projector


  • Make your board games ready for the classroom by reinforcing cardboard boxes or buying appropriate plastic storage boxes, laminating cards or paper items, and taping the rules to the storage box

  • Create index cards that describe your students’ favorite group games

  • Choose Building Blocks games or other online games that support your current curriculum focus


Board Games

  1. Use traditional board games, such as Candy Land, Hi-Ho Cherry, Chutes and Ladders, Cranium Cariboo, or Trouble. But, also use teaching magazines and educational catalogs to find new, challenging games that support problem-solving and strategic thought.

  2. Introduce a new game to the classroom in small groups. This helps ensure that children understand the rules and allows you to monitor initial play. It also gets children excited about having their turn with the new game.

  3. Set aside specific times for playing board games, use board games during transition times in the classroom, or make time for board games during rainy days when outdoor- or gym-time is limited.

  4. Set up a game day or evening and invite families to join you. This introduces and reinforces the importance of game playing as a family activity. The school’s parents’ group may choose to give door prizes of age-appropriate games as incentives.

Group Games

  1. Group games are excellent tools to help children learn to take turns, work in teams, and follow rules and direction. These games can break the ice for a new group of students, make transition times more productive and less chaotic, and are excellent outdoor substitutes for rainy or cold days.

  2. Traditional classroom games include Simon Says; Follow the Leader; Duck, Duck, Goose; I Spy With My Little Eye; 20 Questions; Treasure Hunt; Find Someone Who…. "Games for Preschoolers" from KidsHealth provides detailed "how-to" directions for several traditional group games in the classroom.

  3. As you gather new games, use index cards or keep a directory of games on your computer to file your students' favorites. In this way, when parents come to help in the classroom, or if you have a substitute, they'll have all the rules of the games and know which ones work best in your classroom.

Optional: Online Games

  1. Online games for very young children are becoming more and more available and much more useful as educational tools.

  2. Choose games from government-sponsored Web sites to ensure safety, accurate information, and educational value.

  3. You may help individuals or small groups work at single classroom computers or, if available, use a data projector to introduce a new game to the whole group or to play appropriate team games.

  4. Here are just a few game possibilities and how they can support your classroom:



  • "Games for Preschoolers," from KidsHealth, provides detailed "how-to" directions for group games in the classroom.

  • "Best Board Games for Preschoolers," from Suite 101, lists and describes the top games for children who cannot read yet. All of them are great games for preschoolers, but they’re also fun for the whole family.

  • "HHS for Kids," provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, links to many excellent resources for children of all ages.
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Updated on 3/21/2012