5 Educational Video Games for Summer

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May 8, 2015
Summer is coming fast and, before you know it, kids will be begging their parents for the latest video games to help pass the long, hot break. While many parents might see video games as a mind-numbing waste of time, there’s actually a strong case to be made for games being valuable learning tools with potential to develop cognitive function as well as career skills for the real world. Even the U.S. Department of Education sees the value of gaming, hosting the upcoming Games for Learning Summit.

However, parents don’t need to wait for games to enter the classroom to reap the benefits of educational games for their children. With this in mind, I wanted to share our picks for the top family-friendly games that offer fun, engaging learning experiences as we head toward the end of the school year.

Here are five of the best options for the summer:


 ROBLOX (available on desktop, mobile)  isn’t a game in the traditional sense. It’s a virtual playground and toolbox that lets anyone build their own game and share it with the platform’s millions of players. ROBLOX Studio, the game creation environment, enables people do everything from build an immersive 3D world using simple blocks and models shared by the community, to wire up a physically simulated mechanism, to code a hardcore game and even earn some money off its success. Regardless of how advanced a player is, ROBLOX is a positive, social, and creative outlet where people learn by doing.

Minecraft (available on desktop, mobile, Xbox) is a sandbox game where players mine and craft (go figure) materials they can then use to build whatever they imagine. The game caters to people of all ages – young players love the ease of placing cubes in a world that feels alive with animals and the occasional “creeper,” while adults have demonstrated the game’s seemingly unlimited scale by creating massive, detailed worlds with the help of other players in multiplayer servers. While only the most dedicated Minecraft players ever get to the point of engineering their own “mods” (short for modification) for the game, the vanilla version is a great way for people to be creative and design their own narrative in a world with just a few simple rules.

Garry’s Mod (available on desktop) is a physics-based sandbox game. Originally, it was a published as a mod for Valve’s Half-Life 2, but it eventually transformed into a standalone game available via Steam. Players can drop existing items and “props” (or create their own) into their workspace and manipulate them using physics tools – more advanced players have taken it a step further and made popular multiplayer mini-games out of their Garry’s Mod experiments.

Project Spark (available on Xbox) is the first console-only game of this bunch. It comes packed with a library of assets that players can place and wire up with a logic system to create their own gameplay, as well as world-building tools to design 3D environments spanning multiple styles. Once players create something cool, they can publish it to a community games hub and let other Spark players experience it – or, if they have their own ideas, duplicate and customize the project.

LittleBigPlanet 3 (available on PlayStation) is Sony’s answer to Microsoft’s Project Spark. It has a drastically different style, though, both in terms of aesthetics and gameplay – the game is a side-scrolling platformer at its core, meaning players move across two dimensions, and it features a pre-built story mode that challenges players to solve puzzles as various cute characters and unravel the story. The series is best known for its level editor, which lets players design their own levels, puzzles, and physics-based contraptions, and ultimately publish them to a shared community space for other players to check out.

What’s great about these games is that they’re rooted in fun rather than being created for (and tagged with) the express purpose of “education.” They happen to have tremendous upside by instilling creativity in players, and giving people of all ages and skill levels a chance to explore their imagination and the tools to build and share something.

Compiled by  ROBLOX team