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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

GameMaker Studio 2

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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