If you had told me at the start of 2020 that I needed to prepare to teach my children at home for a year, I would have laughed. While I had toyed with the idea of homeschooling once upon a time, that was before I was a work-at-home mom running her own 6-figure business. In fact, I was so excited to think that come Fall 2020, both my kids would be in school full-time — oooh the things i had planned!
Make plans and God laughs, right?
So with the worldwide pandemic keeping us trapped in our house, I found myself scrounging for things that would keep my kids occupied in fun, but educational ways.
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Teaching Math With Pokemon Cards
My husband, who is an avid gamer, pulled his Pokemon cards out of storage and started to thumb through them. The game has complexities, but at its core, it’s addition and subtraction, and it’s packaged in a fun card game with bright, cute pictures. We sat down and figured out a way to make it accessible to our 5 and 6-year-old children while making sure it still felt like a game. The result is something the kids beg to do, not realizing they’re also learning math at the same time!
How to find Pokemon cards
The first thing you’ll need to do is get some cards. If you still have some from your youth, you might want to price check them first – old cards from the late 90s up through the 2000s are potentially very expensive and could yield you some extra cash. For what we’re doing, all you need is basic Pokemon and some corresponding energy cards.
You can find these all over:
You can buy them new in packs, but that can get expensive quickly.
Flea markets are good to find old collections.
Sometimes you can find them in antique malls, or thrift stores.
The Facebook Marketplace is a fantastic option to find Pokemon cards. If you find someone who is selling and you tell them you just need Pokemon and Energy, they will almost always be willing to sell you their extras cheaply.
Learning to play Pokemon (very simply)
You’ll notice that Pokemon cards have…a lot going on. The first thing we did when teaching our kids is to ignore the majority of that, and focus instead on three boxes:
The hit points (HP), the Attacks, and the Energy cost of the attacks. These spots are where basic addition and subtraction happen, and the rest of the cards require higher-level thinking. The version of the game we play with our kids is dramatically lessened in terms of complexity.
First, build a deck for each player. We keep ours to 30 cards – 15 Pokemon and 15 energy. The kids pick out their favorites and then we put in the corresponding Energy cards (Pikachu is electric type, so we need electric Energies).
Start the game by setting 3 cards aside from the top of your deck. Those are prize cards and you get to pick one up each time you knock out the opponent’s Pokemon. When you’ve picked up all three, you win.
Playing the Game
Start the game by drawing 5 cards.
Pick 1 Pokemon from your hand to go in front; that’s who will battle first.
Any other Pokemon in your hand go behind that one, on your “bench”. If your front Pokemon has their HP reduced to 0, then you move another one up to take their place.
Place 1 Energy card on any Pokemon on your team that you want. It’s best to play Energy on your front Pokemon first, as they’re the ones who will be attacking (and getting attacked).
If you have enough Energy attached to the Pokemon to do a move, then they can attack. Subtract whatever damage the move does from the opposing Pokemon’s HP. This is where learning math comes in – we use little glass aquarium beads or coins to count out damage. It makes it easier for littles to conceptualize math when it’s a matter of adding or taking away concrete objects like tokens.
Once a Pokemon has taken more damage than their HP, they are “knocked out” and put aside. Then, a Pokemon from the bench moves up to take their place. Finally, the player who knocked out the Pokemon gets to draw a prize and add it to their hand.
Keep going until someone has drawn all three prizes – they’re the winner!
If you’re keeping it very simple, it’s basically a matter of letting your children pick their favorites and make a deck. There is a strategy that comes into play because you can only play 1 energy per turn, and sometimes you want to put it on your Pokemon on the bench. This is because when your front Pokemon gets knocked out, the one you bring up to replace it can immediately attack if you put energy on it already.
Learning math with Pokemon cards
So what I laid out is a VERY oversimplified explanation of the game, but I want to dive into why it’s so great for teaching math. The game is about dealing damage and knocking out Pokemon, but it’s done in big, clean increments. The words are simple and the colors and characters are engaging – kids learn better when they care.
In fact, one of the best things you can buy for your kids if you want to do this is an Elite Trainer Box. It comes with 8 packs, pretty counters for damage, and enough cards to build a deck. The whole box itself is sturdy cardboard to hold your collection, too. You can use anything as counters, though – change, those little glass aquarium rocks, and so forth. We used M&Ms once, but our Pokemon kept inexplicably losing damage counters and the game took 2 hours.
Before our kids could read at the level they can now, I read the cards to them and explained the math. They put on the damage counters, or removed them (some abilities heal). Every aspect of the game gives you the opportunity to count but in small amounts that are great for little thinkers. You need a certain amount of energy to use abilities, and those abilities do a certain amount of damage, and each Pokemon has a certain amount of HP.
Putting it together
So let’s recap:
Find some Pokemon cards, either at a yard sale, in your basement if you’ve kept them, or pick up an Elite Trainer Box for maximum value. I do not recommend buying packs. You can check Facebook marketplace – there are often people on there selling repacks with everything you’d need to play and for relatively cheap. Players are always looking for ways to offload their extras.
Let your children pick their favorite Pokemon and build a deck. If they’re under 7, I recommend just using “basic” Pokemon and energy in your decks. Trainers and evolutions make the game more dynamic and fun, but this is about teaching math and game basics first. Add the cool stuff later.
Decks should be 30 cards (the real minimum is 60 but that’s excessive for what we’re doing). Also gather up some counters for damage.
Start the game with 5 cards, and set aside your three prize cards. Also put a starting Pokemon from your hand out front, and the rest on the bench behind it.
The youngest person goes first! No cheating, mom and dad.
Start your turn by drawing a card, playing Energy on one Pokemon and if you can do a move, do it.
Let them count out the damage and place the counters. If their mathematic understanding is more advanced, you can have them compare the damage on the Pokemon to their HP, and state the difference to determine if the Pokemon is knocked out.
The winner is determined by whoever draws their three prize cards first. Prize cards are drawn by knocking out your opponent’s Pokemon. The drawn prize cards go into your hand.
This is a very simple overview of the game, but it’s enough to engage little minds and get them thinking about math. Then, as your kids get older, it can be something they want to keep playing. Card games are often laughed off by parents as money-sinks, but they really are valuable for teaching reading, math, and advanced concepts. The complex interactions teach strategy and innovation, and it’s a great way for kids to socialize.
Do you have any unique and fun ways you’ve been teaching your kids math or reading? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below! Or, perhaps a better question – who’s your favorite Pokemon?
When I served in AmeriCorps from 2009-2011, one of the requirements was that we make MLK Day a “day on, not a day off.” What this meant was that even if the establishment we were stationed at was closed, we were to commit ourselves to work that day in the form of volunteering.
Now that I have children of my own, it’s all the more important to me to establish this idea of service to others. I’ve previously spoken about volunteer ideas for those with kids, but as I write this we’re at the start of 2021 – and still in the midst of a worldwide health crisis. So as we head toward this Day of Service, I find myself wondering – what socially distant volunteer opportunities can I do with my two young children?
Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I may make a commission off any purchases made, at no extra cost to you. This in no way impacts my recommendations of any products or services mentioned below.
Socially Distant Volunteer Ideas for MLK Day
My little ones are in Kindergarten and 1st grade, so for the most part I’m coming from the perspective of me having to do a majority of the work in this effort. While I very much look forward to the day when we can safely work together at a service site, I won’t let that impede what we can do today.
Help Around the Neighborhood
Even though hanging out face-to-face with your neighbors right now isn’t a safe idea, there are certainly things you can do to help better your neighborhood and the community at large.
Fill a Micropantry
When the pandemic first hit, residents around our city didn’t hesitate to take action. One of the things that came up often was the establishment of micro-pantries. Much like a “little library”, these pantries are a take what you need, give what you can sort of project. They’re especially great for those in need who may not have transportation to a bigger food bank.
Snow Shovel Coupons
We’ve had one snow fall thus far this year, but I’m hopeful for more – heh which isn’t something I’d normally say, but it’s already been 10 months of isolation and I don’t see us going anywhere any time soon. One thing you can do is create “snow shovel coupons” (or yard clean-up, if you live in a warmer climate!) Drop these off to those on your street who might need the assist, like those with new babies or the elderly. Be sure to include your name and phone number so they can reach out when they need you. You could also include your email address, but keep in mind there may be some without access to the internet or the know-how for email.
Bake Bread for Friends
Ahh the good ol’ trend of bread baking in 2020 – one I will admit I myself took part in. Personally I’ve become a Challah baking expert, fearful of the task that is sour dough, but there are even easier recipes out there that require little more than flour and yeast. Brighten someone’s day with a warm, fresh loaf of bread and go ahead – keep a loaf for yourself, too. I won’t tell.
Set Up a Book Exchange
If you don’t have a little library in your neighborhood nor the desire to take on the task of building one, you can still set up a porch pick-up book exchange. Personally I’ve read far more since the pandemic hit than I have in years, so I’ve gone through a LOT of books! (*psst* if you haven’t yet read The Secret Life of Addie LaRue, it’s a MUST!!)
This service project is one I’d only recommend opening up to select friends, as you don’t want to have to constantly disinfect the space, but it’s a great way to get some new reads for the family whiledecluttering your home of books you’re done with.
Offer Virtual Tutoring
If you have a slightly older child, you might consider utilizing Facebook or Nextdoor to offer some free virtual tutoring sessions. So many kids are struggling all the more these days, that just a few tutoring sessions can literally change their lives. This is one that might even inspire a “pay it forward” situation where it snowballs from your child offering help to dozens throughout the entire community doing so.
Random Acts of Kindness
While these next service ideas are certainly ones that can be done within your neighborhood, they’re also ones that can help the community at large. With these service projects, especially if doing them on MLK Day, you might also consider including a note. This way it’s not only a random act of kindness, but one that educates the recipient on why MLK is a day on, not a day off.
Redbox Rental Surprise
If you have a Redbox in your area, consider leaving a goody bag for the next renter. This can include a couple dollars to cover the cost of the rental plus an unpopped bag of popcorn or similar goodies. And if you don’t happen to have a Redbox in your area, you could still partake in the fun by sending a love one a Redbox Movie Night Care Package!
If you’ve been around a bit, you know that creating blessing bags for the homeless is something we try to do at least twice a year. For less than $7, you can create a kit for someone that could literally change their lives. When I was in AmeriCorps, I spent a lot of time working directly with those living on the street and learned a lot. One thing I found out was that one of the most sought after things when homeless are a quality pair of socks. So while things like toothpaste or soap might be items that immediately come to mind for these kits, socks, chapstick, and bus tokens are sure to go a lot further! Whatever you include in the kit, be sure to keep scented items packaged separately – no one wants to eat a granola bar that comes with a floral aftertaste!
This is another easy one that the little kids are sure to love, but the whole family can easily partake in. Now that the holiday season is coming to an end, many of those living alone or in nursing homes find themselves once again forgotten. Take an hour or two and create some cards to send to those who might be feeling lonely in the new year. What might seem like a simple act to you can truly make someone else’s entire week so much brighter.
Rainy Day Activity Kits
I actually prefer to refer to these as “crazy day kits” – an activity set for parents whose children need a special distraction. Similar to the blessing bags, I pick up a pack of gallon size baggies from The Dollar Tree. Then I buy in bulk such items as: craft kits, coloring books, sticker sets, chalk, dress-up clothes, and more! I love that they have affordable activity options that serve as a nice little surprise for the kids and a much needed break for parents. Just don’t forget to avoid items that require parent supervision if you truly want this to be an act of service.
My husband originally suggested this idea and my gut reaction was “Seriously who still watches DVDs??” But the I checked myself (and my privilege) because hello – not everyone can afford streaming services. We recently did a big DVD clean out, including a ton of TV series, and offered them up to anyone who might make use of them. While it was hard to part with my dearly beloved 7-Season Set of BTVS, it’s worth it knowing it can be loved by a fellow Joss Whedon fan.
Yet again – simple service, but effective! Not only is this great in that you’re supporting the USPS, but you’d be surprised at how helpful this can be for someone who might not otherwise be able to get out to the post office. For example, I have an 85 year young aunt in Minnesota who still loves to send physical mail and I know that a book of stamps can go a long way in helping her stay connected with loved ones. Plus who doesn’t love getting something (other than a bill!) in the mail.
Do you have a friend who had a new baby in 2020? Or perhaps your parents haven’t seen their grandchildren in almost a year? Or heck – do you just know someone who was maybe a wee bit stressed out (har har!) Whatever the reasoning behind it, one thing you can do as a beautiful act of service is to create a photo project for a friend/family member. This is again something that your kids can help with, regardless of their age, as they can suggest photos, colors, and designs to include. Personally I love using Printerpix to create photo books! While I often use them for myself – it’s the only way I actually have physical photos from over the years – they also have so many personalized gift options. While many might say they don’t wish to remember 2020, it’s not one we’ll ever forget, so might as well focus on the fun!
Acts of Appreciation
While I’m optimistic that this year is sure to brighter than the craziness that was 2020, acts of appreciation are still very much needed. A simple “thank you” goes a long way in making someone’s day brighter, but today I encourage you to take it one step further.
This one seems like a no-brainer and possibly even a head scratcher – how can making a video call be an act of service? Well I don’t know about you, but I know there are certainly friends and family that I’ve done a poor job keeping in touch with as this health crisis has worn on. If there’s someone you’ve been meaning to connect with lately, make today the day to do so! And even if there’s no one that comes to mind, put your kids to use and have them video call a friend. Like the “crazy day kits” this can be a great distraction for parents who need a moment to themselves.
Thank Our Delivery Friends
This is another one that I think becomes a big deal during the holiday season then tapers off as we head into the new year. Provided you have the time to gather up supplies, set out a basket with bottles of water, mini hand sanitizers, and snacks. And if a grocery store run isn’t an option, you could still create a sign or even leave a note letting those dropping off your mail and packages know that you appreciate them!
Create Hope Rocks
Painting rocks might seem like an outdated trend, but I most definitely disagree. Gather up some rocks from your backyard, bust out the acrylic paints, and get to work creating rocks with positive messages. Then go for a family hike or walk around the neighborhood and place these rocks in semi-hidden areas. It’ll be a fun and day-changing surprise!
Chalk the Sidewalks
Like the idea above, this is one that is fun but effective! While winter may not seem the season to bust out the sidewalk chalk, there’s no reason not to, provided there’s no snow in the forecast. Already dealing with the wet white stuff? Chalk your windows instead! When we had to celebrate my daughter’s graduation virtually, we picked up a set of chalk markers from Amazon and went to work on the windows of our van and the front of our home. It’s a great activity for the whole family and one that can have a big impact on anyone who happens by.
Long Term Service Ideas
These are some ideas that I would recommend starting off on MLK Day, but carrying on throughout the entire year and longer.
Host a Virtual Fundraiser
This is one that people often think about when their birthdays roll around, as Facebook often suggests holding a fundraiser for your favorite not-for-profit. Why wait! As a family, vote for your favorite not-for-profit, set a monetary goal, then utilize your social media and connections to make it happen. While things like food drives are great in “normal” times, they’re not as safe an option right now. Plus did you know that raising money directly is actually a far betteralternative to food drives?
Hopefully this is one that’s already in place in your house, but if not – start today! And if your family is already great about recycling, today is a great day to remind your kids about why it’s so important.
Set Up a Moonjar
I was first introduced to the idea of amoonjarwhen my kids are itty-bitty, like way before acat convinced me to quit my jobto run this blog! A moonjar consists of three sections – spend, save, and donate. While it’s a great tool overall toteach your kids about money, it’s also a nice way to open the conversation about the importance of donating to those in need.
Speaking of helping those in need, MLK Day is the perfect day to reflect on social issues. While 2020 taught us many things, one thing that will certainly carry through is that the United States is in serious need of bettering (and has been for quite some time!) While I won’t go too far into my own political beliefs, there’s no denying that we owe it to future generations to do better. No matter your child’s age, it’s essential that you not only start conversations on social betterment, but that you keep that door open to them for the rest of your life.
Some books to consider:
No matter what service project you choose to do with your family, I hope it’s enjoyable for all. It really is so incredibly important that we instill within our children a sense of service to others. There’s so much pain and suffering in this world, but it only takes a few moments to help heal a small part of that. If we work together, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and every day beyond that, we can make it so that our children are the shift needed for a healthier, happier, safer future for all.
Buying a home for the first time can be an exciting time, but it’s not without its stresses. Finding a home, working with a realtor, and securing a loan can all be extremely difficult but ultimately rewarding when you finally get the keys to your own place.
But before you do all of that, you have to determine if you’re ready. Buying a home might sound good in theory, but these 5 tips will help you be prepared for the process.
5 Important Financial Tips For First-Time Homebuyers
Pay down your credit cards
A mortgage lender will scrutinize your finances, looking at not only your paychecks and taxes but also your credit utilization. If you have lines of credit open, paying them down under 20% utilization will dramatically increase your chances of scoring a loan.
You might think that it would be a good idea to pay some cards off entirely, but having a good payment history with under 20% utilization is better. This shows that you’re responsible with credit. Closing your cards and accounts lowers your available credit, which looks worse on an application.
Keep an eye on your credit as well, because there might be accounts open of which you are unaware. If someone else has hijacked your name and has opened false accounts, it could be a huge surprise when you go to apply for any loan, including a mortgage. Websites like Credit Karma is a great tool to keep track of your credit score and how it moves each month.
Establish some extra lines of income
Any additional income will be beneficial for you and your family, but unless it goes back 6 months or more, it will not directly affect your ability to get a mortgage. Lenders are looking for established income history, so their main concern will be your primary job.
Why establish secondary income streams, then? Simple – buying a house entails so much more than securing a loan and finding your cozy spot on the map. Purchasing a home requires moving costs, paint, changing the door locks, and probably landscaping, just to name a few expenses.
Your mortgage will cover the cost of the home and that’s it – all the other stuff is on you. Having an additional income stream for a few months while you look for a home will help you be set for all the incidentals that arise after you buy your home.
Figure out how much house you actually want
If you plan on expanding your family – or just taking in a half-dozen stray dogs or cats – then you would want a bigger home than say, a retired couple. Determining how much home you need is a crucial first step that will prevent you from overspending on 10 bedroom behemoth you can’t afford or maintain.
Using mortgage calculators is a great way to determine the expected monthly price, the minimum monthly income threshold for loan approval, and other critically important variables. Buying the right size house for the amount you can afford will leave you feeling relaxed and excited rather than stressed and unable to enjoy your new home.
Research your state’s first-time homeowner assistance programs
Each state has its own benefits for first-time buyers; everything from help with down payments to vastly reduced property taxes are all possibilities. Check with your city, state, and county as well – there may be overlapping benefits, depending on where you live.
Though the federal programs for first-time buyers have ended, your state almost certainly has something to help you and your family find your dream home.
Understand mortgage insurance
For home buyers that want to get a bit more loan than might normally be in their reach, mortgage insurance is a good option. Essentially this insurance pays the lender if you default on your mortgage, but the premiums go onto your monthly bill. The result is a larger loan and an increased mortgage monthly payment.
These are good for people who need extra help, but they can mean you’re paying a lot more over time. Typically, mortgage insurance isn’t necessary for people who put 20% or more into a down payment, and it usually goes away after you reach that threshold as well.
Do some research before you take the plunge
These are just five simple tips for first-time buyers but they’re going to benefit anyone who wants to buy a home. Take advantage of the programs your local government offers, and use mortgage calculators to find out just how much home you can afford. Keep on top of your credit, pay your bills on time, and utilize some of it from time to time.
Ticking these tips off your to-do list will help you and your family settle into the home of your dreams.
The dreaded rush to get the kids prepped for back-to-school time is upon us. New clothes, new backpacks, new pencils – new, new, new. It all costs money and you might end up in an argument or two before the end of it.
Serious question – is wine an acceptable addition to a back-to-school list (for me, I mean)?
Fortunately, with a little preparation and planning, you can get everything your kids need, some of the things they want, and still have cash left in your wallet. And maybe a little sanity left in your mind!
Netflix has come a long way since they were essentially streaming whatever content they could license. They are now a huge producer of exclusive content – for better or worse – but sometimes they really knock it out of the park.
Why Your Kids Should Watch The Dragon Prince And You Should, Too
The Dragon Prince is a show that my son stumbled upon one day while watching Netflix on his tablet. Normally he’s pretty into tablet-time, but I’d never seen him so engrossed in any other show. He talked about it at dinner, he talked about it before school in the morning and it was what he wanted to talk to my husband about when he got home from work.
And when he ran out of episodes, he legitimately cried; he was that into the story. I started to wonder about just what was the deal with this show? Could it be that good?
With season 3 just having been released to Netflix, we were determined to sit down and watch it with him. When we told him it was out, his face lit up like it was Christmas and he excitedly started explaining the backstory (which we will do in a much less sugar-hyper-six-year-old style).
Particularly if you or your children were fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was written by the same person, then this show is going to just click. Even if you’ve never seen Avatar, though, there are plenty of reasons to greenlight this show on your kids’ watchlist. Let’s take a look at why.
Epic fantasy without tedious exposition
The world here is rich with complex characters, backstories and fantastical elements, and the show does a fantastic job fleshing it all out. Particularly, it does this without out-of-place exposition, layers of indecipherable names and convoluted plot points. This isn’t Game of Thrones for kids; it’s better than Game of Thrones and it’s easier to understand.
The show is set in Xadia, a continent with elves, humans and dragons. The elves and dragons find power in the elements, giving them magical abilities and giving each faction a unique concept. There are fire elves, sea elves and so on. The humans – who always seem to ruin everything – can’t use elemental magic, so in their lust for power, they dive into dark magic. This requires the life force of magical creatures and animals, and so the humans are banished to section of the continent to ruin for themselves; we are why we can’t have anything nice.
The dragon prince himself comes into the foreground when, after 1,200 years, the humans kill the dragon king and take his egg, which holds the titular character. Without spoiling anything, the story progresses as the humans move closer to war with the elves and dragons. Season 3 picks up beautifully from where season 2 left off and everything about it is well-designed, with a complex story that isn’t heavy and doesn’t require a supplemental book to keep up.
The animation is again very similar to The Last Airbender, but even more refined. Creatures are truly fantastic and whimsical, like the little adoraburrs, but can also be impressively threatening like the dragons of Xadia. Visually, it’s awe-inspiring and really is just as gorgeous as it is good at telling a compelling story.
Dragon Prince is exceptionally inclusive
One of the very first things we noticed was that a human captive of the Sun Elves – the general Amaya – is deaf; she communicates with sign language. It’s not until you see a deaf character in a show that you realize how often you don’t see deaf characters represented. This isn’t a throwaway character, either or a half-hearted attempt at the fascade of inclusion. The creators of the show consulted with sign language experts and coalitions for the deaf to create a very real, very powerful character.
Mixed families are also represented in that the king of Katolis is raising the son of his deceased wife, whom she had in a previous marriage. The royal family is biracial as well, another aspect of everyday life that somehow gets left behind when creators write characters.
The elf assassins Runaan and Ethari are married and male. Whereas many shows might introduce a gay couple and have some characters balk at the concept or at least fidget, the show simply presents them as a couple. I asked about the characters and my son simply said something about “his husband”. It didn’t throw him off or make him ask questions; it simply was a fact that these two elves loved each other.
The primary protagonist is a literal child
Prince Ezran’s journey to reunite the dragon prince, Zym, with his mother is complex. Ezran can speak with animals, a magical ability that humans simply don’t possess. He has to make difficult decisions, and the morality of the story is not often clean-cut. Ezran is not a philosopher king nor is he held up as a perfect leader; he makes choices for the best of his people, but as a child would. This represents a lot for kids, who are often used to watching fantasy shows about adults.
Ezran is endearing, strong and authentic, and this makes the entire thing very enchanting.
It’s a genuinely funny and heartfelt story
I found myself laughing out loud multiple times per episode. The characters are charming and awkward at times, but the storytelling is top-notch and uses visuals to drive the plot as much as dialogue. During our season 3 binge, we were asking our son about characters and eventually we could tell he was getting annoyed, so we’ve resolved to re-watch all three seasons again. It is any interesting paradigm, though, being the one who won’t be quiet during a show – we like to think of it as preparing him for parenting.
The Dragon Prince deserves a binge-watch
The episodes are short, around 30 minutes each, and the show is utterly enjoyable. It’s teaching our kids bravery, inclusion and that children can make a difference and should be heard. Especially now that winter is coming and watching Netflix is a nice way to spend a lazy Saturday, give The Dragon Prince a try. Chances are you’ll join us in bemoaning that there aren’t any new episodes left and that we have to wait for season 4.
As a parent, I’m always trying to find a way to encourage learning in my kids. My son is in kindergarten and he’s great at math and reading, but homework is a struggle. He just gets antsy and I totally understand, as I think we all can; after a long day of learning, who wants to do more school?
If you’re anything like me, you want your kids to learn and absorb as much knowledge as they can, but you sometimes hit the “homework conundrum” where concerted extra education is met with resistance.
Convincing your children to play a game, however, is a lot easier than doing homework. There are tons of apps you can download and many are great, but most have a subscription fee or at the very least have ads. I wanted to find something that would engage my son and reinforce the math he was already learning, but that he could play on his own.
Teach Kindergarten Math Online
Browser-based math games
I was an adult in the 2000s when Adobe Flash games were at their peak. The nice thing about browser-based games is that they usually don’t require anything more than a click to play them, and they’re usually pretty simple. Especially right now while home learning is at its peak, finding new ways to engage little minds has never been more critical. I found this site that had all the browser-based math games I could possibly want, without needing an email or even creating an account. Better yet, they’re free, and there aren’t even any ads, which is wonderful because little ones LOVE to click on banner ads.
As I went through the site, I found dozens of math games for all manner of skill levels, but since my kids are in preschool and kindergarten, I wanted to focus in on games for them in particular.
After trial-and-error, I found that 1 and 2-star games were probably just right for my children. Using this information, I endeavored to find the best ones that would both hold their attention and be playable (ideally without my interference).
Here are some of the best ones I found, based on ease of play, ability to reinforce good math fundamentals, and of course how fun they are.
Math Plus Puzzle
I personally, as a real life adult, found this game to be pretty fun. It’s a matching game of sorts, requiring you to do some addition to clear colored blocks, not unlike Collapse. As you progress the math gets slightly more difficult, but my son did a great job, and it’s very forgiving.
It’s colorful, interesting and because of the increasing difficulty yet simple design, it’s pretty addictive. The best of the ones I played for sure.
This is the one my son liked the best, mostly because we’ve been on a Last Kids On Earth kick and he wants to fight monsters all the time. It is a little more challenging, offering math equations that you have to complete before a monster gets you. When you complete the equation, Math Boy does a flourish with his sword and vanquishes the horrible creature attacking him.
It gets faster and the math problems get more complex, and you can choose between addition, subtraction, multiplication or a mix of all operations, so this game would be good for older kids as well. In fact, of the ones I played it seems that most of the Calculators.org games scale in difficulty while sticking with a simple premise, which I love.
While my son liked this one for the monster-vanquishing, I found it tedious after a while because though the math get more complex, the monsters and levels don’t seem to change much. And how many monsters did I destroy before I came to this conclusion?
Way too many, but on the plus side I’m better at math now.
Math For Kids
This one is probably the best if you have younger kids. It allows you to set limits, like if your child only knows 1-10, the math doesn’t get more difficult than that. You can start with simple counting, then move on to addition and so forth.
Math For Kids is simple but engaging enough to keep them learning while playing a game and again the increasing levels of complexity keep it relevant as they progress.
For preschoolers – Animal Memory Game
This isn’t a math game exactly, but it does help with memory and logic. It’s literally what it sounds like – a memory match game – but without tiny cards that get lost all over your house. It’s good for preschoolers and younger, since it’s an engaging way to teach them how to use their tablet or laptop.
Math games for learning
Overall, I found the website to be a good grouping of games for kids to learn math but not realize they’re learning math.
The downsides I found were minor, though they could be improved upon. For instance, the games should be evaluated and grouped better for age range. The star-rating for difficulty is deceptive, as some games are listed as a 1-star (easiest) and involved multiplication and division, and a few games are higher difficulty but could be customized for young children just learning math.
In general I would say that was my biggest complaint – the games are there but there’s no way to search or determine what would be best for your particular learner. It took me actually playing a dozen or so games before I could hone in on the ones that would be good for my kids, which isn’t awful but again, it could be improved upon.
Ultimately these games are a good addition to your home-based learning. They’re engaging, somewhat addictive, bright and colorful and actually pretty fun. There’s really nothing to lose since they’re free and play right in your browser, so I do recommend giving them a try.