Gaming in education is a rapidly growing trend with lots of benefits for kids: high-quality games help children develop problem-solving, critical thinking, and creative thinking skills in a platform that is naturally engaging and motivating. I’m always looking for the best free game sites for kids so I can share them with the teachers I coach. Here’s a list of my current favorite kids’ interactive game sites for grades PreK-12:
Sites you absolutely must check out right this second–no, seriously, go
- Utah Education Networkhas curated a collection of free games from all over the web. Basically, the UEN has done the hard work for you and pre-screened the sites so every game they link to is useful and developmentally appropriate. There’s something for every subject and every grade, and the interface is attractive to kids and easy to use. Look in the sidebar on the righthand side and click K-2, 3-6, or 7-12 interactives.
- Sheppard Softwarehas top-quality games for every subject spanning preschool through middle school. Fun and easy to use. There are ads on the site, so be sure to teach young students not to click on anything to the left or right of the game.
- BrainPOP’s GameUpis a collection of free games for grades 4-12 in social studies, science, health, and math with no advertisements and no login required. The team at BrainPOP looks through hundreds of online games by various publishers and selects the ones that are of the highest quality, so only the best games make it onto the site. BrainPOP also lists corresponding movie topics you can play if you have a BrainPOP subscription, and provides a lesson plan (written by yours truly!) to show how you can integrate the game into your instruction.
If you like a particular game on GameUp, click the game developer’s icon on the game page to see their full list of offerings. Most of the partners have a bunch of additional high-quality games on their sites that are available for free. I particularly recommend:
- Numbaland(gr. 3-8 math)
- NCTM’s Calculation Nation(gr. 3-8 math)
- Manga High(gr. 5-12 math)
- Explore Learning(gr. 3-12 math and science)
- Taking IT Global(gr. 6-12 seriously in-depth games on important real-world topics)
- NOAA(gr. 3-6 life science and environmental science games)
- iCivics (gr. 5-12 civics: really amazing simulations and teaching resources that all civics teachers should be aware of)
Awesome sites that your students will want to use on a daily basis
- ABCyahas K-5 games on language arts and math, as well as various other topics (both educational and just for fun.) There’s also a large collection of games available as apps if you have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch in your classroom.
- BBC UKfeatures a kid-friendly landing page which makes learning look like all fun and games, or use the schools-games page which organizes activities by subject area.
- Hooda Mathis an up-and-coming site for gaming that also has a separate section for interactive whiteboard games. There are also some PDF worksheets for some of the games and some math tutorials for grades 3-7.
- GameStar Mechanicnot only offers free games for students to play, but allows kids to make and publish their own games. Very cool!
Other fantastic sites worth mentioning
- PBS Kids is great for younger students. There are educational and just-for-fun games, which you can sort by subject area and skill. Be warned that some games are premium and require a subscription. I also like the PBS CyberChase collection of math games.
- FunBrain makes the list because I see kids return to the site again and again even when they have the choice to play non-educational games. My own students were always obsessed with FunBrain, especially Mad Libs Jr. and Grammar Gorillas. The online books and comics addition is wonderful. It’s not the easiest site for kids to navigate independently if they’re looking for a specific game, but that’s mostly because there’s so much there.
- IXL allows students to practice a variety of math skills online. These are not so much games as they are timed drills and practice sessions, which means it’s not particularly fun and doesn’t have a lot of higher-level thinking questions. What makes it worth mentioning here is the fact that it spans practically every math skill and concept from PreK-12 for free.
What did I miss? Any other favorite interactive websites and online games for kids that your students love?
Disclosure: I received no compensation from any of these websites. I work part-time for BrainPOP but was not asked to write this article or include their resources in it. This list reflects what I truly think are the THE best educational game websites for kids, and I regularly use them in schools with the teachers I coach.