TOP PICKS | 32 TOOLS

Best Summer Learning Games

Anything remotely school-related is a total summer-break bummer. But that doesn't mean the learning has to stop. This list of the best summer learning games has titles that are just as engrossing as other at-home games but come with the added bonus of being teacher-approved. These games have what makes games great (player agency, just-one-more-turn gameplay, and challenging scenarios) plus learning outcomes seamlessly blended into the experiences. The results are awesome, super-secret learning games that kids will find fascinating.

ELA and Typing Games for Summer Learning

Poio by Kahoot! Learn to Read

Kid-centered early reading game leans into discovery and delight

Bottom Line: This is a smart spin on phonics with a deep commitment to a kid-driven, fun-first experience.

Grades: Pre-K–2
Price:
Paid

Word Tag: Epic Adventure Game

Paint vocab words on walls, hear definitions, complete sentences

Bottom Line: Students may find the game fun, but teachers will need to supplement with other vocabulary activities and may object to the focus on tagging.

Grades: 2–6
Price:
Free

WordWhile: Casual Literary Fun

Clever fill-in-the-blank game playfully promotes literature

Bottom Line: A different spin on reading the classics can engage students in the short term, but teachers should find ways to extend learning.

Grades: 3–12
Price:
Paid

Epistory - Typing Chronicles

Practice typing by exploring and defending a world made of paper

Bottom Line: Great for practicing touch-typing skills, this adventure game draws players in with a slowly revealed backstory.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Paid

Textadventures.co.uk

Play or design text adventures, but creation can get technical

Bottom Line: Text adventures can be a blast to play and make, but the Quest game-making tool, while offering some decent support, can be tough to use effectively without coding experience.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Free

DEVICE 6

Inventive, interactive short story puzzles, scares, and delights

Bottom Line: Utterly unique, short experience packed with exploration, mysteries, and surprises, but will take inventive teacher to wrap around.

Grades: 8–12
Price:
Paid

Game Design and Coding Games for Summer Learning

ScratchJr

Drag-and-drop programming is an effective intro for budding coders

Bottom Line: With a little adult help, this is a rich platform for getting kids into programming and digital creation.

Grades: K–2
Price:
Free

Codeable Crafts

Animate stories with accessible drawing tools and coding blocks

Bottom Line: Kids get a simple peek at computer programming principles by animating stories using their own creations.

Grades: K–3
Price:
Free

The Infinite Arcade by Tinybop

Simple game-design app has endless creative potential

Bottom Line: Letting students design, play, improve, and share their own games opens up opportunities for learning potential in many subject areas.

Grades: 2–6
Price:
Paid

Construct 3

Ideal 2D game builder supports students to create, innovate

Bottom Line: Limitless game options, reasonable cost, and extensive support make this programming environment perfect for an educational setting.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Free to try

GameMaker

One of the best creation tools available for aspiring game developers

Bottom Line: Provides teachers with the best choice for a full unit or class on game design, and gives students a tool to help them realize their game-making dreams.

Grades: 7–12
Price:
Free, Paid

Garry's Mod

Complex physics sandbox is daunting but rich

Bottom Line: This physics sandbox ramps up the complexity but not the usability, leaving it up to the right teachers and students to unlock its benefits.

Grades: 8–12
Price:
Paid

Science and Physics Games for Summer Learning

The Robot Factory by Tinybop

Improve designs, collect favorites in robot creation sandbox

Bottom Line: A well-made and enjoyable STEM app that leverages what's great about play -- experimentation -- to spark engineering interest.

Grades: K–8
Price:
Paid

Busy Water

Solve, create, and share puzzles that gush with STEM learning

Bottom Line: This challenging yet kid-friendly set of logic puzzles wonderfully allows kids to solve problems and experiment with light science concepts.

Grades: 1–5
Price:
Paid

Contraption Maker

Solve problems, puzzles, brain teasers while creating wacky machines

Bottom Line: Hands-on problem-solving leads to great fun and independent learning with the right curricular wraparound to connect what kids are doing with what they need to know.

Grades: 3–8
Price:
Free, Paid

Bridge Constructor Portal

Engineering game is a blast to play, needs extensive teacher guidance

Bottom Line: It's a solid game not designed for education, but in the right hands it could be a great hook for an engineering unit.

Grades: 3–12
Price:
Paid

Tyto Online

Ambitious science role-playing game has bright future

Bottom Line: Diverse characters, immersive experiences, and useful teacher tools make this life science RPG worth checking out.

Grades: 6–8
Price:
Free to try, Paid

Mars Horizon

Authentic space agency sim focuses on logistics, planning

Bottom Line: This sim is backed by major space agencies, so it's a neat and trustworthy way to learn about the challenges of past and future space exploration.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Paid

Kerbal Space Program

Design and launch a rocket into space in realistic astrophysics sim

Bottom Line: This accurate rocket sim encourages trial-and-error learning and makes for great (and often explosive) physics and engineering experiments.

Grades: 9–12
Price:
Free to try, Paid

SEL and Social Studies Games for Summer Learning

Journey

Gorgeous, moving adventure -- a jewel of social and emotional learning

Bottom Line: Journey is a must-play experience and a shining beacon of the good that games can do.

Grades: 5–12
Price:
Paid

Humankind

Refinement of strategy game formula supports historical exploration

Bottom Line: Like any consumer-oriented game, this experience will absorb and delight students far more than "educational" games, but it'll require open-minded and creative teaching.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Paid

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Unique cooperative adventure with lasting social and emotional impact

Bottom Line: With good support, an extremely powerful game to build empathy.

Grades: 7–12
Price:
Paid

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

Slow but alluring game uniquely depicts how folklore shaped America

Bottom Line: While it's not perfect, it could serve as a nice complement to a unit on American folklore or as a way to inspire students to write their own tall tales.

Grades: 7–12
Price:
Paid

Political Animals

Charming political campaign sim mixes data analysis and civics

Bottom Line: It's a highly entertaining and surprisingly deep way to help students see the strategy -- as well as ethical choices -- involved in elections.

Grades: 8–12
Price:
Paid

Gone Home

Compelling narrative game fosters empathy, self-reflection

Bottom Line: If you're searching for a unique way to analyze storytelling from a social and emotional angle, look no further.

Grades: 9–12
Price:
Paid

Everything

Philosophical game invites students to ponder everything's existence

Bottom Line: Meaningful and humbling take on interconnectedness, but in that existential sort of way that's highly individual and potentially hit or miss.

Grades: 10–12
Price:
Paid

Critical Thinking Games for Summer Learning

Kahoot! DragonBox Learn Chess

Gentle chess puzzle game ideal for young newbies

Bottom Line: For kids who are new to chess but want to learn how to play, this fun intro to the game provides a well-done tutorial combined with a light overarching storyline.

Grades: 1–8
Price:
Free to try

Minecraft

Spiraling sandbox of adventure and creation gets kids to dig deep

Bottom Line: An irresistible and seemingly limitless incubator for 21st-century skills that, with a little guidance, can chart new courses for learning.

Grades: 3–12
Price:
Paid

FTL: Faster Than Light

Failure is frequent and fun in this strategic starship sim

Bottom Line: This starship simulator isn’t easy, but gritty kids will learn from failure and practice systems thinking.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Paid

SimCity

Exciting city simulator great for online play

Bottom Line: SimCity does a great job teaching kids about cities by putting them in control of designing them, but this game needs a constant Internet connection.

Grades: 6–12
Price:
Paid

Geocaching

Leave and locate hidden packages in a real-world treasure hunt

Bottom Line: Kids learn problem-solving, teamwork, and mapping skills, but the site doesn’t provide instruction or explanations for most of those topics; educators will have to fill in the gaps.

Grades: 7–12
Price:
Free, Paid

Surviving Mars

Colonizing Mars is in our future, but why wait?

Bottom Line: Lots of potential and perhaps much better in a year or so of updates; use this in a class about space exploration and the harsh realities of colonization.

Grades: 7–12
Price:
Paid

More Top Picks for You

  • Great History and Geography Games

  • Learning Games That Put Play First

  • Great Social and Emotional Learning Curricula and Programs