I am constantly amazed by how fast kids learn new things. Whether the latest craze is a particular video games, or a new trading card, or some kind of limited-edition collectible, I am constantly floored by the extend of the detailed knowledge they spout off that wasn’t there yesterday.
So, while driving my carpool of seven kids the other day, I got to thinking… what if they were actually LEARNING SOMETHING while they were happily absorbed?
I mean, have you ever noticed how fast kids memorize the entire deck of cards when you go to play a board game with them? These are the same kids that can’t seem to remember to pick up their rooms! (I’ve got a nifty trick for that, too… more on that later.)
So, I started wondering – at the end of the video game, what have kids really picked up that they can use next week, next year… in their lives? The game is over, but have they spent their time in a way that really serves them?
How do Pokemon cards really help my kids learn about real life?
If my kids can memorize every little detail about some mindless game, why not direct them toward something with a bit more educational value to it?
One of the main reasons (I think) is that the “educational” type of games are usually flat-boring. Just mentioning “educational” next to the word “game” will have some kids rolling their eyes!
But I’m a firm believer that there’s always a way to figure something out.
So I did an internet search for educational games that my kids would have a fun time learning, keep them engaged, and serve them in the long-term. I came up with only a handful of decent ones, and yes, I did buy them all.
When they arrived (and boy, was it a big pile!), I opened up all the boxes and we spent the next four weeks test-driving all the educational games I could find. I not only played them with my kids but as many adults as I could wrangle into our living room. We had professors, engineers, computer geeks, astronomers, math gurus, outdoor field guides… and we all played for hundreds of hours and ate pounds and pounds of popcorn.
Curious out which one came out on top?
Before I tell you this, I want you to know that initially, I wasn’t going to write an article that recommends a product, because normally I only write recommendations for free materials.
But this game was created by a 5th grader, and it was the best one out of the group.
The game is called Elementeo, and it was a clear winner out of the pack. The game contains playing cards, a board, and six different ways you can play it. The best part is, when kids memorize the deck, they’ve just learned the periodic table.
The basic idea is this: you have a set of cards. Each card is an element, like copper, iron, oxygen, etc. Your goal is to make your opponent lose all his electrons. Each element has a certain power and ability to move (like Magic and Pokemon), which is actually based on the element’s state of matter (solid, liquid, gas) and also its ability to accept electrons (valence shells).
This is not a mindless game made up by a marketing team (I’ll tell you about that in a minute). This is a real challenge dreamed up by a very inventive student who wanted to share his passion for science with others.
The other best part is – you don’t have to know anything about chemistry in order to play it! There’s another chemistry game that is currently the most popular on the market and is also ranked as the best by several toy companies… and it’s ridiculously difficult to play. In fact, I poured over the directions for over an hour, and was still left baffled as to how to actually play the game with my kids in a way that would enhance their education (and I actually know a bit about chemistry!) Needless to say, it had more value as a doorstop than anything that belongs on my game shelf, because the fastest way to kill a kid’s passion for science is to give them something as frustrating as this to figure out without any guidance or reason for mastering it.
So back to Elementeo: It’s a strategy game that has a lot of variation in it, because how you play really changes depending on what cards you have. You can combine elements into compounds for a harder game, or even try the fusion levels.
The other best part? My kids are absorbing the stuff they need to understand the science world around them. That makes me happy beyond words. Every day for the first month (no exaggeration), my nine year old pulled this out and begged to play it with me. And yes, he usually wins the game (although I do give him a good run).
I asked the creator of the game, Anshul Ssamar, to give a description of the product so I could share it with my readers. Here it is:
In the Elementeo Chemistry Card Game (v2), elements have their own personalities — Oxygen becomes Oxygen Life-Giver, Sodium becomes Sodium Dragon, and Iodine becomes Iodine Mermaid. Students create compounds, play with elements, and explore the world of science and chemistry!
In Elementeo, scientific concepts – from Newton’s Laws to Acid/Base cards – come to life and elements interact with properties. Oxygen Life-Giver can rust metals, Copper Cyclops can shock cards around him, Black Hole’s gravity can take opponent cards away, and elements can make compounds from Salt to Laughing Gas! The best part? You don’t have to know any chemistry to play.
Elementeo has 5 different levels of play: Element, Reaction, Compound, Alchemy, and Fusion and includes 50 unique elements, 25 compounds, 25 alchemy cards. And there are also 20+ DIY blank cards for students to create cards of their own and make them part of the game.
Elementeo and its founder, Anshul Samar – who began working on Elementeo in 6th grade – have been featured in Scholastic, Wired, PBS, and John Hopkins’ Imagine Magazine. When stories and games meet science in a world made for kids, they make an explosive mix of imagination, learning, and fun. Chemistry — just got crazier.
You can order it directly from Amazon:
If you are interested, I’ll let you in on the others that I really liked and my kids really enjoyed. You’ll want to check out my special page just for educational book and game recommendations here. Be sure to click “follow”, as I am constantly posting new educational recommendations and reviews.
Have fun, and let me know how it goes!