Our family loves to play board games, so we often used educational games for learning in our homeschool years. Check out this blogpost to see the many benefits of using games for learning. They can be used to teach information or to review information already learned and there are many different game formats available.

Unfortunately, games can be expensive to buy for every learning need, so I recommend making your own to save money. You can even have your children help you make the games!

For most of the homemade games I’ll share here, the board is made with a manila folder, so I recommend purchasing a pack of manila folders.

The information I’m sharing here is from Janice Vreeland who did a workshop on making educational games which I attended many years ago. (After thoroughly searching, I have been unable to locate her. I believe she has discontinued her business. Her ideas are so good, I think they should continue to be shared.)

This is a two-part blog, with five game formats listed here and more to come in part two, so stay tuned for more!

(There are some affiliate links included in this post.)

Search/Memory Game

This format works well for information you want your child to memorize.  You’ll make a playing grid that holds 24 – 2” by 2” cards using a manila folder, a ruler, and a marker. You’ll also make sets of two matching cards with the information to be memorized. This game works best for learning or reviewing information you can put in pairs such as: sight words; capital/lower-case letters; addition problems/card with the answer; spelling words; coin picture/coin value; clock picture/digital clock with matching times; picture of a fraction/written fraction; math problem/answer; body part/picture of body part; prefixes/meanings; suffixes/meanings; picture/beginning consonant; state/state capitol, etc..

What you need: download this free template to make your game cards. You can either type the information on the cards and then print on cardstock or write in your information on the cards after printing. You’ll also need a scissors to cut the cards apart. Using a manila folder, draw grid lines on the inside of the folder for the search grid making the spaces 2” by 2”. You can fit three rows of four spaces on each side of the folder. Cover both cards and board in contact paper if you wish. Directions for play are on the free template.

search gridsearch grid with cards

Go Fish

The pair cards from the Search/Memory games above can also be used for playing ‘Go Fish’. So any of the above options for game ideas work for ‘Go Fish’ as well. It can be played with 2-3 players (or up to 6 players if you make more cards).

Rules of play: Shuffle the deck and deal out 5 cards per player. The rest of the deck is set face down in the middle between the players for a draw pile. The players look to see if they have any matches in their hand and if so, they set them in down in front of them, showing the other players. The first player asks one of the other players if they have a specific card that he has in his hand so he can make a match. If they don’t have the card requested, they say “Go fish” and the first player draws from the draw pile in the middle. If he gets a match with any card in his hand, he lays it down in front of him and may go again.  If it isn’t a matching card, the play goes to the next player.  The game proceeds like this until one player has matched all the cards in their hand. The winner is the one with the most cards matched.

go fish

(The players hands are revealed in this picture so you can see how the game works. In the real game, players do not reveal their cards to the other players.)

Generic Path Game:

This format works well for reviewing information learned or to study for a test.  It consists of a board with a path for the players to move their piece through. Cards are used to ask the question for review and an answer key is used to determine if the answer is correct.  A die is rolled to determine how many spaces to move for a correct answer.  Specific colored spaces could require the player to “move back 2 spaces, ”or  a different type of sticker could require that the player “move up one space” to make the game more interesting. This format works well for math problems, science, or social studies information, etc. These games can be played with 2-4 players typically, but more could play if you make enough cards.

What you need: a manila folder, stickers (round stickers work well, but you can also have fun stickers for spaces to add variety, etc.), index cards to write the questions on, a die to roll for movement, playing pieces (you can use these from the link, coins, or make your own playing piece with stickers and cardstock), and an answer key if needed. You’ll need brads and an octagon and two hexagons cut out of cardstock if you wish to make a spinner path game like the last variation shown below.

winnie the pooh game

The second game shown here is used for helping children learn to read music and is another format for the path games.  You can write items on the spaces and have cards to match them in a different format, such as is used in this music game.  The winner is the first to get to the end.

Another variation of this game would be a spinner path game where you’d add spinners to the game to show the student how to make their moves. (for 2-4 players)  For example, a math spinner path game would have three spinners; one to tell the number of spaces to move, the second spinner to tell you to add or subtract, and the third spinner would tell the number to add or subtract from the number written on their space. The player only spins the 2nd and 3rd spinner if there is a number written on the space they landed on. (write numbers on most of the stickers in the path, only excluding a few) The player can write the equation on a white board if they wish. The first person to get to the end is the winner.

Skill Path Game:

This type of game format is great for learning skills such as skip counting, learning the alphabet, memorizing a series of items such as the books of the Bible, or for math games.   Several of these types of skill path games require a vis-à-vis marker to write on the game board. In this type of skill path game, you’ll need to cover the game boards with clear contact paper so it can be washed. This is to be played individually. The player starts with the lowest number, or first letter, etc. and fills in the circles with the rest of the information. (Either skip counting based on the value listed in that row or filling in the next item in the series such as the next letter in the alphabet, or the next book of the Bible.)

You could also make a money game using money stickers. In this version, you’d make a path with the money stickers and depending on the ages of the child, you would have them go move a playing piece down the row and either identify the coin they land on, or identify the coin and it’s value, or identify the coin, it’s value and keep a running total of the value of the coins they land on. A paper and pen could be used to keep track of the running total.

What you need: a manila folder, stickers, a marker, vis-à-vis marker, clear contact paper, and cardstock.

My son was around nine when he made this skip counting game called Count and Bark It.  He had a lot of fun making it!

Pocket Sorting Game:

This type of game works great for learning to count, add, subtract, multiply, divide, measure, days of the week, months of the year, foreign language learning, and for learning word families. You’ll have pockets on the board and a deck of cards, and each card has a pocket that the player finds with the correct answer. The goal of the game is to get the cards into the correct pockets and is played individually.

Measuring mouse is a fun version of this game. You’ll make 10 mice out of cardstock, and you’ll need ribbon cut in various lengths (1/4”, ½”, 1”, 1-1/2”, 2”, etc.) to be glued on each mouse as their tail.  The pockets on the board have the various lengths written on them in order.  There is a ruler drawn on the bottom of the board to measure each ribbon (or mouse’s tail) and the appropriate mouse is placed in the pocket with the correct length of their tail written on the pocket.

What you need: a manila folder, individual pockets, and index cards or cardstock with the matching information to put in the pockets depending on what information you’re teaching or reviewing.

I hope you’ll try out one or more of these games to see how easy they are to make and how fun they are to play.

These games are great to use for a “Learning Station Day” – check out my blogpost called “Let’s Make Learning Fun” to learn more about doing Learning station days in your homeschool.