Not only are these mobile games engaging, they are full of helpful gains for your mini-me.
Rebecca Rachel Wong
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With many of us staying home more due to COVID-19, it's no surprise that everyone is trying to find engaging ways to keep their kids busy. Although you will certainly rely on indoor activities, it’s highly likely that digital games will also be on the “playlist”. As such, you’ll want to pick games that aren't just fun but educational, too. This way, junior will also pick up useful knowledge on topics like history, maths or language.
Advises Shem Yao, Parenting Head at TOUCH Integrated Family Group, “For educational games, parents should explain to their child that the game is a learning platform that has game elements. They should also let the child know how long the game will take and what the child will be doing and learning while playing the game.”
Yao also points out that educational games are tools to enhance children’s learning and parents should not only rely on these to teach their children. They should also make the learning on such platforms relevant to everyday life, he notes.
What: If your mini-me has zero programming knowledge but displays a keen interest in learning, consider this game instead. This friendly activity which anyone can play is perfect for coding newbies. Disguised as a fun game, it introduces concepts like sequencing, loops, procedures and more. The aim: To arrange symbols on a screen, so as to get a tiny robot to navigate a maze and turn on the lights. Players can command the robot to jump, turn and walk, among other actions. The maze will get increasingly complicated as players progress through various levels.
Age range: Ages 3 and up.
Cost: Free for Lightbot: Code Hour; US$2.99 for Lightbot: Programming Puzzles on iOS and Android.
Worth noting: The game has two versions. Lightbot: Code Hour, featuring 20 levels, is free, and is available on mobile and as an online flash game. The full edition ― Lightbot: Programming Puzzles ― is a paid app offering 50 levels.
What: This extensive series of free Internet games features characters from popular cartoons ranging from Sesame Street and The Cat in the Hat to Arthur. Mini-games are split into numerous categories, focusing on maths, science, engineering, vocabulary, music and teamwork. Don’t worry, an endless array of options will both entertain and keep your kids informed. We recommend Space Race Odyssey, an environment-centric game where they’ll sort and collect trash.
Age range: Ages 4 and up.
Worth noting: Aside from online games, the US-based PBS Kids website has plenty of free resources for kids and parents. This runs the gamut of cool printables for younger kids, e-books and music playlists, to even a newsletter with suggestions on helping your young ’uns play and learn at home.
What: National Geographic’s own series of adventure-based mini-games for kids teach them about an array of thrilling subjects such as cipher-breaking, marine biology and Greek mythology. Featuring adorable graphics and quirky characters, youngsters can test their knowledge on everything from dinosaurs and outdoor sports to space exploration when they attempt the quizzes.
Age range: Ages 5 and up.
Worth noting: To boost children’s know-how, the National Geographic site for kids boasts an impressive directory of descriptions of countless animal species, along with helpful videos featuring fascinating facts about each creature.
What: This 1985 video game, Where on Google Earth is Carmen Sandiego?, has been reinvented for 21st century kids. In the reimagined game, players have to track the titular character, who steals famous treasures from around the world. Gameplay involves visiting various landmarks and talking to characters in each country, while clues test the player’s geography and general knowledge skills. The ingenious use of Google Earth allows kids to see the destinations in real-time, too. The game, which can be played on Chrome, Android, and iOS, features three missions.
Age range: Ages 7 and up.
Worth noting: The games are actually a tie-in with the 2019 Netflix animated series Carmen Sandiego. It’s worth watching the TV series together with junior, too, as it boasts exciting storylines and tons of educational trivia.
What: This is the game for your mini-me if you want them to learn to be a responsible global citizen!Inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, World Rescue is a narrative, research-based game. Players help five young heroes to solve global problems such as displacement, disease, deforestation, drought and pollution. Gameplay is set in multiple countries such as Kenya, Norway, Brazil, India and China. The game can be played on iOS and Android apps.
Age range: Ages 7 and up.
Worth noting: While gameplay is free, do note that the app offers in-game purchases in the form of SuperPower Packs. Monitor junior to make sure he isn’t making additional purchases on his own. That said, you can use the game as a springboard to chat to your child about important social issues affecting our world, and how they can make a difference by volunteering or starting their own initiatives.
What: A recreation of the classic 1990s puzzle game, the goal is to guide the little blue creatures, known as “Zoombinis”, to a new and safe home. To guide these Zoombinis to freedom, players must battle evil enemies, as well as solve difficult puzzles and problems using mathematics, deduction, pattern-spotting and hypothesis testing. It is available as an app on Android and iOS, and as a computer game on Steam.
Age range: Ages 9 and up.
Cost: US$2.99 on iOS and Android
Worth noting: The game encourages kids to explore and test ideas on their own, so don’t expect any tutorials. So, younger children may find it challenging, unless you offer support. If your little player gets stuck, check walkthroughs for help. Also, grab this chance to talk to your kids about persevering when solving tough problems, a skill they will definitely need throughout life.
What: Rest assured that this game is far from the snooze fest its title seems to suggest! The objective is to program little office workers to carry out specific tasks given by a boss. Gameplay involves approximately 40 programming puzzles. In each puzzle, players create a list of commands to control the movements of their office worker avatar. Kids will learn to brush up their coding skills through the application of real programming commands in a game setting. Can be played on both mobile and PC/Mac.
Age range: Ages 10 and up.
Cost: US$4.99 on iOS and Android
Worth noting: The game will be challenging for kids who aren’t familiar with beginner programming concepts, even though it explores coding basics. If you have any programming skills, you might want to sit in during the game to provide support. Various walkthroughs and visual tutorials are also available online.
What: This long-running series of mystery games based on the world-famous teenage sleuth will definitely entertain your offspring! Featuring entertaining plotlines, exciting locales and educational elements each game features a mystery that the protagonist Nancy Drew has to solve. This involves cracking puzzles involving language, mathematical, deduction and problem-solving skills, among others. Kids also get the chance to learn about different cultures and civilizations through reading in-game material, based on where each mystery is set.
Age range: Ages 10 and up.
Cost: US$9.99 to US$19.99, depending on each game’s release date
Worth noting: When buying the games, do opt for a free strategy guide, in case your child gets stuck during gameplay. Given that the games are inspired by the original Nancy Drew novels, encourage your child to check out the books series as well. This will give them a healthy break from staring at the screen, and foster an interest in reading as well.
Board games to check out
Since you won’t want your offspring glued to the screen all day, we’ve rounded up the latest fun board/card games you can also check out as a family:
Created by SGAG, Off Track! is a strategy game with plenty of local flavour. Players, who will receive several cards each, will need to build MRT tracks to get to their required destinations. Depending on each player’s character, every person will get a different end point, with some even required to disrupt other commuters’ train lines.
During this exciting strategy game, each player has to assemble their own unicorn army using Magic, Instant, Upgrade and Downgrade cards. The ultimate goal is to be the first player to collect seven unicorn cards.
We all know the classic Connect 4 Game, in which players take turns to drop coloured discs into a grid. Today, the game has been reinvented with a fast-paced twist. Two players bounce colourful balls into the grid simultaneously, trying to fill its holes vertically, horizontally and diagonally. It’s game over when a player achieves four colours in a row.
In this nature-inspired game, players craft their own 3D planet ― the goal to attract a variety of animals. Players rely on both luck and strategy to pick and place tiles on their “planet core”, in order to create the most populated and diverse planet.
Players are bird enthusiasts hoping to attract the best birds to their network of wildlife preserves in this very competitive card-driven board game. In each round, every person draws from 170 beautifully-illustrated bird cards in order to score points for achieving different objectives.