Board Games Increase Educational Outcomes and Nurture Social and Emotional Development in Children
Learning Wrapped in Fun
Labyrinth believes strongly that board games enhance educational outcomes and holistic wellbeing in children. On this page, you can learn more about which games we recommend to support and complement your students’ educational experience and help all students thrive in the classroom and beyond.
Board games offer more than just entertainment; research has found that they are transformative tools for teaching. Through games, children gain problem-solving, collaboration, and communication skills as well as opportunities to develop creative and innovative thinking, to dive into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts, and to experience social and emotional growth (MESH – Mental, Emotional, Social Heath).
At any time, feel free to contact Labyrinth to learn more, or to get recommendations on games for your students. (DC-area schools and teachers can also get free games through our Teacher Wish List charity!!)
Benefits of Games (And, Our Game Recommendations by Skills Developed!)
Games like "Catan" challenge players to strategize, trade resources, and make critical decisions, mirroring real-world problem-solving scenarios. These games encourage students to think analytically, plan ahead, and adapt to changing circumstances. While most games that rely on player agency (as compared to pure luck) encourage problem solving, we recommend the following as wonderful tools for school-aged children:
Math and Logic Skills:
Did you know that the Rubik’s Cube was invented by Ernő Rubik (an educator and architect) as a tool to teach algebraic group theory? The tactile Rubik's Cube is a great example of how learning through games can be subtle and deceptive, yet, effective! Rubik was also deeply dedicated to engaging students in science, mathematics, and problem solving at a young age. He encouraged classic games like "Chess" and "Sudoku," as they require logical thinking and math proficiency. At Labyrinth, we also recommend newer games like "Ticket to Ride" which invokes spatial reasoning, thinking about probabilities, and basic arithmetic. The following games can make abstract math and logic concepts tangible and relatable, and STEM subjects less intimidating for students:
Collaboration and Communication Practice:
There is a class of board games called “cooperative games.” In these games, unlike competitive games, players must work together to overcome a common threat, or to achieve a common goal. The aim for players in a cooperative game is not to be first, the best, or to have the most points, but to work efficiently and effectively in tandem with others. Games like "Zombie Kidz" or "Forbidden Island" are great examples of cooperative games. These games require players to work together to stop zombies or to stay alive (respectively). Even competitive games require cooperation and strong communication! For example, as you set out to play any game you and the other players must decide which game to play, who will go first, what is appropriate to say to an opponent, and so on. The following list includes our favorite games (collaborative or competitive) that help develop collaboration and communication – essential skills for work, school, play and everyday life:
Creativity and Innovation Skills:
As AI (artificial intelligence) enters public discourse and as our world encounters new challenges and opportunities, creativity and innovation (not just science and technology) will be key. Toys like “LEGO” encourage children to invent elaborate contraptions, promoting inventive thinking and problem-solving. The following board games also encourage creativity and, we hope, will inspire our next generation:
When used thoughtfully, games can create dynamic and inclusive learning environments that nurture emotional growth. Games can allow children to explore and understand their emotions (even fear) in a safe and supportive environment. The following games help children understand and express their feelings:
Many children struggle with making friends and maintaining relationships. Social games like "Codenames" or conversation cubes like “Table Topics" provide opportunities for children to practice essential social interactions, such as starting conversations, taking turns, using third-party perspective, and active listening. We also recommend the following fun games:
What is Gameschooling?
Gameschooling is an educational approach that involves using board games, card games, video games, puzzles and other types of games as primary or supplementary tools for teaching and learning. Games offer a hands-on, experiential approach to learning. Practitioners of gameschooling share the aim of boosting motivation and engagement in their “classrooms”, as students can find games more enjoyable and less intimidating than traditional teaching methods!
The wide variety of board games on the market means that an educator can find games to cover a wide range of subjects, for most age groups. Gameplay can even be tailored to match specific educational goals.
If you are interested in using games as part of your curriculum, you can reach out to Labyrinth for recommendations any time. There are also many online communities through which you can receive suggestions and support (including the Facebook/Meta group found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/sustainablegameschooling).
Research in Support of Board Games' Positive Effect(s) on Learning (Check Here Monthly for Updates)
Board Games Boost Math Ability in Young Children
The Power of Board Games for Multidomain Learning in Young Children
Examining Board Gameplay and Learning: A Multidisciplinary Review of Recent Research
The Effectiveness of Intervention with Board Games: A Systematic Review