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Games To Get You Back To School
This week marks the beginning of a new school year. With summer gone, our younglings must now make their seasonal migration back to the halls of learning. And if you’ve spent even a moment speaking with the younger generation on the subject of school, chances are you’ve gotten one of two reactions: they were either ecstatic at the chance to finally return to class to learn a host of new knowledge, or they had a few choice words for their parent or guardian regarding the merits of their so-called “education”.
But at Mission: Fun & Games, we know that learning doesn't have to be a chore. There are a million different learning styles out there, and some of them are better engaged through play than by reading a dry textbook or listening to long lectures in front of a white board. And while we can't help you study for provincial exams, or tutor you in advanced algebra, we can hook you up with some of the best educational board games that the hobby has to offer! (Don't tell the kids though - many of them are, in fact, allergic to the phrase "learning can be fun!")
Below, you will find a selection of board games tailored to the educational needs of a variety of school subjects. Take a look and see if any of them would make a good addition to your child or student’s after school homework session!
Playtime: 60-90 min.
Biology may be the squishiest of the highschool sciences (seriously, did you ever have to dissect a frog, or extract dna from a banana? Totally squishy), but it can also be one of the most rewarding to learn. Any parent or teacher who has a child aiming to become a doctor, nurse, or biologist should be finding new ways to engage with and develop their love of the life sciences - preferably having fun while doing so! Luckily, we have the perfect board game to recommend to all of the budding biology students out there!
Cytosis is a game which tasks its players with managing the inner workings of the building blocks of life - cells! On their turn, each player must use their cell worker pieces to collect cell resources (mRNA, ATP, etc.), in order to convert them into enzymes, hormones, and receptors. Doing so scores Health Points, which are counted up at the end of the game to determine the winner!
Cells and their processes are one of the most complex subjects to learn in K-12 biology. Cytosis helps students grasp these processes by breaking them down into separate mechanisms, with its mechanics, visual design, and art direction helping to organize the information that they need to learn in a way that is not only fun, but required in order to excel at the game.
Each copy of Cytosis also includes the Virus Expansion, which adds an invasion of infectors to the mix, making it harder for players to get their cells working properly - just like in real life. Which reminds us, flu season is coming up - don’t forget to get your vaccinations!
Playtime: 15 min.
The Timeline series of games is a light, fun, and fast way to learn about history. The Timeline: Canada entry in the series lets you teach your child about Canadian history while having a blast at the same time!
Timeline: Canada is played with a deck of cards, each depicting a different historical event in Canada’s history. Written on the back of each is the year in which the event occurred.
At the beginning of the game, each player is given a hand of five cards from the central deck, making sure not to look at the side of the card containing the year of the event. Three cards are then placed in the center of the play space, with their dated sides facing up in chronological order.
Taking turns, each player chooses a card from their hand and tries to guess when that event occurred in the timeline in relation to the three cards in the center, placing it either before, after, or in between the cards on the table. They then flip the card over, seeing if they have correctly placed the card in the chronological sequence. If they guessed right, then the card remains on the table, adding to the timeline. However, if they guessed wrong, they must discard the card and draw a new one into their hand.
As the game goes on, the timeline becomes longer and longer, forcing players to be more and more precise with their guesses. The first player to get rid of all the cards in their hand wins!
The Timeline series also comes in other versions, such as: Classic, Events, and Inventions! There is also a full sized version of the game, called Timeline Challenge, that is compatible with all of the other smaller versions and adds new cards, challenges, and ways to play.
Playtime: 30-90 min.
Growing up, chemistry labs were one of our favourite periods in school. The experiments gave us a hands on way to learn about the building blocks of matter in a way that descriptions in the textbook and lectures just couldn’t capture.
Just like in the lab, Compounded replicates that joy of discovery, as you and your child take on the role of lab managers, racing against one another to construct various chemical compounds. Successfully combining element into compounds scores a player Atomic Points (AP), which are tallied at the end of the game to determine the winner. Players are encouraged to push their luck in order to secure the most valuable compounds before their opponents.
But, as anyone who has ever worked in a lab with high school students (or college students for that manner) knows, things don’t always go as planned. Some of the most valuable compounds are volatile, explosive, or corrosive, and trying to complete them can result in unintended consequences. Lab fires are a constant hazard, so keep your fire extinguisher ready!
While the game is primarily competitive, players may trade elements and laboratory tools, making it easy for players to help each other out. The “Lab Partners” game variant takes this to the next level, exponentially expanding the opportunities for players to help one another.
Playtime: 15 min.
Math is one of those subjects that has the potential to fly over a student’s head, especially amongst young learners. Secret Code 13+4 is the ideal way to get younger students to engage with math in a way that won’t tax their concentration or attention span.
In Secret Code 13+4, players slip into character as cat burglars breaking through the security of a museum. Players must race against each other to be the first to break through a series of light barriers. The first one to reach the end, wins.
Each light barrier has a numerical value assigned to it. On their turn players roll a pool of six dice. If one of the dice produce a result equal to the number of the light barrier that the player faces, they may spend that die to break through. If no dice show that number, they must instead use the other dice - adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing them - in order to get the result they need to crack the barrier. As the pool of dice dwindles, player’s must get more creative with their math in order to proceed. When they run out of dice, or are unable to produce the necessary number to break the next light barrier, the dice are passed to the next player.
Secret Code 13+4 teaches kids to think on the fly, developing their basic math skills in a fun and creative manner. Its colourful components are a far cry from the black and white workbooks and homework sheets that they are used to. Why not take a break and play a game of Secret Code instead?
Playtime: 15-25 min.
Okay, these aren’t technically a subjects, but the development of pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, and dexterity skills are just as important to develop in young learners. Q-bitz is an award winning game (winner of the National Parents Publication Award, iParenting Media Award, and Tillywig Brain Child Award, among others) that helps train your child to process visual information, practice their manual dexterity, and develop their spatial reasoning by manipulating its coloured blocks.
Q-bitz is played over several rounds in which players must replicate a pattern using the Q-bitz blocks. The way in which they do this varies depending on the round.
In the first round, players draw a Q-bitz card from the deck and must race each other to copy the pattern that they see printed on it. In the second round, players must instead repeatedly roll their blocks like dice in order to find the results they need to replicate the pattern. In the third and final round, players take a Q-bitz card from the deck and must spend ten seconds memorizing it, after which they must work from memory to reconstruct the pattern, with the player that gets the closest becoming the winner for that round.
Each of the various rounds lets your child exercise a different skill: dexterity in the first, pattern recognition in the second, and memorization in the third. And all three rounds require players to flex their spatial reasoning skills as they manipulate the coloured cubes in order to recreate the patterns they see on the Q-bitz cards. These skills - pattern recognition, spatial reasoning, and dexterity - are harder to directly train in a classroom setting, making Q-bitz an excellent way for kids to practice them.
And if you happen to be a teacher, you’re in luck! Q-bitz also comes in a Classroom Set, containing enough components for an entire class as well as an alternative team relay mode that lets students compete against each other in teams. An excellent addition to any classroom!