Board Games for the Elementary School Classroom
I've been planning a classroom board game article for a while. In this article, I focused on games that I think are especially good for the classroom because they:
- 1) involve some sort of skill building
- 2) do not involve tons of little pieces (i.e. Mousetrap, Operation).
It's important to have games in the elementary classroom that are both fun and involve some sort of skill building. These skills can include, but are not limited to, the following: counting, 1:1 correspondence, color identification/sorting, problem-solving/strategy work, and thinking several steps ahead. It's good to have variety in the game collection, which includes variety in game materials (cards, a board with dice or a spinner, etc.), ability levels, and length of time to complete.
Rotate the games that are available for students. If you have a center with games or puzzles as part of center time in younger grades or you have a selection of games out for indoor recess or free periods, rotate the games that are available for students. The students will stay more interested if the selection of games changes frequently.
All of these games are appropriate for home as well!
This is a classic game that has always been one of my favorites. This is a perfect game for elementary students of any age. If students get tired of the traditional method, consider teaching one of the variations detailed in the game package or research other variations. You can also consider purchasing other versions of the game, such as Uno Attack!, Uno Flash Game, or one of the character-themed Uno games (i.e. SpongeBob, Disney Princesses, etc.).
Skills: Color identification and matching, number identification and matching.
This is another classic game that has always been one of my favorites. I actually don't have a classroom set, but I've brought my own set in on occasion. Students will enjoy the dice cups and animal game pieces.
Skills: 1:1 correspondence, counting, strategy work, strategy, thinking several steps ahead.
I inherited the first Name It game in my classroom. I honestly wasn't sure how much appeal the game would have, as there is no set objective or winners and losers. But my students have really enjoyed this one. Players simply roll a dice to move around the board. Each square has a noun that you have to name, such as a sport, fruit, vegetable, or car. There are several chance squares where you will pick up cards, which have additional nouns or tasks to name (community worker, chores, etc.).
Both Name It I and II are available through PCI.
Skills: Parts of speech, vocabulary building.
Jr. Versions or Travel (Fun on the Run) Versions of Games
If original versions of games are too complicated or simply too long for your students, consider purchasing the Jr. or Travel versions of the games. (I feel old because I did not know until I searched for some of these games on Amazon while writing this article that many travel versions are now called Fun on the Run.) Jr. versions will often bring the skill level down to one that is appropriate for your students. Travel versions sometimes shorten the playing time for the game, such as Travel Clue.
This is another classic game that my students really never get tired of playing. The pop die is always a hit. There are character editions of Trouble now as well including Scooby Doo and R2-D2.
Skills: 1:1 correspondence, counting, strategy, thinking several steps ahead.
Personally, I don't like this game quite as much as Parcheesi or Trouble, but the strategy and skills are very similar. The slides and different tasks for the different number cards keep it interesting. Other versions available include: Sorry Sliders, Sorry Spin, and U-Build Sorry.
Skills: Counting, 1:1 correspondence, strategy, thinking several steps ahead.
Candyland and Candyland Bingo
Most parents I know have hidden Candyland at some point or simply rigged the game after the first or second time through the cards so some wild cards mysteriously disappeared, making the game not quite so endless. I wouldn't even include it on this list except for the fact that kids really enjoy it. The characters are cute (who doesn't love Queen Frostine, right?), and it provides a fun way to work on colors and generally work on playing games at an early age (turn-taking, etc.). I inherited a copy of Candyland Bingo in my classroom, which even older students also enjoy.
Skills: Color identification.
This is another board game that I inherited in my classroom. I have an old version of this that was available through PCI. Each player starts with a set amount of money and then earns or spends money throughout the game by completing different tasks. The player who collects $20 first wins. It is a chance game without the problem solving involved in Monopoly but is still a great game for practicing money counting skills and for starting discussions about real life money scenarios.
Skills: Counting, 1:1 correspondence, counting money.
Chutes and Ladders
Like Candyland, this game can get tedious for parents or teachers who are playing, if nothing else, because it is also a chance game. I prefer games like Trouble, which involve at least a little strategy. However, this is another game that students really enjoy. It's also a wonderful way to work on counting skills and general number sequencing. In addition, it can lead to discussions about the actions and consequences for the different chutes and ladders in the game.
Skills: 1:1 Correspondence, number sequence, counting.
This is another personal favorite game of mine. I know that there is a junior version of this game available as well. However, I have used the regular version with students as young as second grade who were successful with it. Students enjoying the word aspect of Boggle but tiring of the game itself? Try switching to Scrabble for a while.
Skills: Vocabulary building, spelling, grammar (homophones, singular vs. plural, etc.).
Another personal favorite of mine, this game is more appropriate for older elementary students (third-fifth graders). Students can play individually or in teams of two, allowing anywhere from two to six players for this game. There is a junior version of time game, which I've honestly never even seen in person, but it may make this game accessible for younger students. Other versions available include: States and Capitals, Letters, Numbers, and Bible.
Skills: Team work, problem-solving, thinking several steps ahead.
Skills Games, Bought or Created
If you're reading this and are also a teacher, I'm sure that you've created at least a few of your own games for specific academic skills. Personally, when I'm making them, I'm never sure which ones will be a big hit, but some of them have been really popular with my students. Sometimes students enjoy playing these games during indoor recess or when they've completed their work and are waiting for their next task, so make them available during these times.
This is another classic game that my students have always enjoyed. If students are looking for a new challenge, borrow a couple more sets from other classrooms and create a mini-tournament. Other versions available include: Connect 4 With Five Ways to Play, Connect 4 x 4, U-Build Connect 4, and character Connect 4 (i.e. SpongeBob, Toy Story).
Skills: Problem solving, thinking several steps ahead.