The benefits of educational games for developing minds

Sam Butterworth

Sam Butterworth is a writer and marketing manager who works for Cost Cutters Education Supplies. He is particularly interested in learning methods, how they evolve and how they can help to educate children in and out of educational establishments.

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Games have long been included in childhood educational techniques, as a means to enhance and expand upon more traditional methods. With the advancement of modern technology, the scope of educational gaming has increased to make room for additional platforms such as PCs, laptops, tablets and even mobile phones.

"Mobiles, puzzles and physical games such as ball-throwing can be used to encourage manual dexterity, balance and a range of other physiological and cognitive functions."

Most children enjoy the challenges posed by engaging in various forms of play, and it is fair to say that most games include some learning element. However, it is also very true that there are games that have been specifically designed to promote learning through play, and it is these Game-Based Learning (GBL) methods that truly fit into the educational category.

Games for Infants and Toddlers

At a very basic level, GBL can be used to promote the development of motor skills in infants and toddlers. Mobiles, puzzles and physical games such as ball-throwing can be used to encourage manual dexterity, balance and a range of other physiological and cognitive functions. Two-handed play is particularly encouraged, as using both hands has been shown to develop interactivity between brain hemispheres, which is absolutely essential for early years development.

Games for Children

As children grew, so too does their capacity to understand and use more complex educational games. At this point it is fluency that must be encouraged – fluency of physicality as well as language, memory, attention and understanding. Games that equate learning with positivity and fun are to be preferred, as these will grab the student’s attention and help them to turn information into meaningful content.

Educational games for primary and middle-school children tend to place an increased emphasis upon social interaction than games for younger children; the latter of which may, however, be shared with if required. "Encouraging social interaction at primary and middle-school age is essential, and can be of particular benefit to shy or developmentally disadvantaged children."Nevertheless, encouraging social interaction at primary and middle-school age is essential, and can be of particular benefit to shy or developmentally disadvantaged children. At this age, consequence-based games allow students to form a better understanding of the ramifications of their own actions, which in turn leads to better decision-making and increased accountability. Popular forms of the type include board games such as Monopoly, skill games such as football management simulations, and certain computer games.

Games for Teenagers

Game-playing is not the sole domain of younger children and infants. Employing games as a method of promoting education for older children and teenagers can provide numerous benefits to learning. For example, just as simple rhymes may have been used during infancy to promote primary language acquisition, so too can more mature games be played to encourage the development of secondary language acquisition or to promote learning retention through the use of mnemonics and similar language devices.

The Controversy of Video Games

Video games have been much maligned by both parents and educators, who have observed the negative effects of overindulgence and the influence of violent gaming on the behaviour of suggestible children. However, it is important to make special note of the positive influence that video games may exert on a dexterity, cognitive function and even self-esteem in children. In particular, a study conducted by Dr. Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University seemed to show that the feelings of accomplishment gained by children who engage positively with reward-based video games may encourage them to take productive risks elsewhere in their lives.

Do you use GBL in your classroom? Share your experiences below.

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