Last Updated on October 4, 2023 by Editorial Team
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Social studies are integral to preparing students for life after high school. It’s also the subject that often falls between the cracks in classrooms, where teachers tend to focus on more “practical” subjects like math and reading. But if we want children to learn about history and government and how to read maps or tell time, some fun ways need to be employed in order to make social studies enjoyable!
Social studies help us to keep in touch with history, society, and the geographical aspects of our world. As it is a very fascinating subject, children usually enjoy stories from history. But the real challenge lies in remembering dates in history or facts about our universe. This can be made simpler by introducing games and manipulatives.
In this post, let us look at a few board games that will help a child gain knowledge of this subject more easily.
Inculcating social studies through gamification: What do the studies say?
Play is an important part of mental and social development. Games and activities provide information, presented in a format that is informative and enjoyable. Many board games encourage students to think critically. Playing a board game is an “inquiry-based research process, and in the process of finding answers, the child learns concepts. Board games are also an effective way to employ cooperative learning in the classroom.
Studies have suggested that games have long been used to teach geography, from primary schools to higher levels. Activities and games simulate the outer world and encourage students to engage in role-playing. The use of games has been aimed at generating a range of cognitive and behavioral impacts on students. They bring about knowledge acquisition and concept understanding and also provide motivational outcomes.
Research about the relationship between learning and board games has suggested that Board games are spaces for learning and learning spaces can enable the learning of various contents. In addition, board games allow for various interactions that result in players engaging in computational thinking, teamwork, and creativity.
Board games to learn and practice social studies
1. Great States Geography Board Game
The Great States Board Game is ideal for incorporating a little learning with fun. Through this game, the child can learn interesting facts about each state, including birds, flowers, locations, and capitals.
Turn by turn, the players flick the spinner and pick whatever card the pointer lands on. One must follow the card’s directions before the timer runs out. It’s a fast-paced way to learn about US geography with friends and family. Players answer questions and discover attractions, landmarks, and capital as they go on an adventure on the board. The winner is the player who answers the most questions before the timer goes off.
2. Continent Race
This exciting game is a global race to see who can collect the most countries from each continent first. The game is suitable for 2-4 players. Each player picks 7 cards. The cards are all color-coded. The goal is to collect four cards from each continent. The players arrange the cards in separate piles according to their continents.
With every turn, the player discards one card and then tries to arrange cards with the remaining cards in hand under the different continent piles they belong to. The player announces the name of the country and the continent with every card he or she places under the pile.
One can even pick a card from the discarded pile. After arranging according to continents, the player picks more cards; at any given time, the cards in hand must be 7.
Finally, there is a mystery card that has a question that has to be answered. The countries are checked with the help of the boards and the map on them. The player who has countries with all continents wins the game. Through this game, the children learn geography, the names of countries, and the continent they belong to.
3. Trekking the world
This is a board game that can be played with multiple players. Players have counters shaped like humans. Cards are distributed to each player. Turn by turn the player reveals a card and has to pick that particular spot on the map. The game begins with the trekker at the airport.
The players follow the instructions on the card which can be regarding mode of travel or other challenges. The player picks up points and rewards at each destination reached. A peg of the same color as the player’s counter is placed on each place visited. Each card has a picture and some info about the place depicted on it.
This is a very enjoyable game and the players get to know about the popular tourist spots and special facts of a country and continent. The person who completes all the challenges wins.
4. Flags of the world
This is a game that is suitable for younger children. There is a board with a world map and plastic flags. Each player picks up a flag and has to place it in its corresponding country. The place corresponding to the capital of the country has a hole into which this flag is fitted.
Small flags of 36 countries are given. The front of the green board is the playing board with the global distribution map. The back is the corresponding country of the flag name and pattern so that the children can check for errors. This game can be enjoyed by multiple players and is a good way to learn about countries, capitals, and their flags too.
5. Trek the national parks
This is an interesting family board game similar to the popular game, Monopoly. Currency is traded and the players travel to various National Parks across the country. The game is suitable for all age groups and gives an insight into 63 National Parks. The cards have information about the flora and fauna of each Park.
The game begins with players spending the ‘cash’ to travel to various destinations. The information about each destination is read out aloud. This continues by turns. The player who has visited the most places wins the game. A family board game with a lot to learn, the children discover new destinations through fun.
Chronology is a game for children who have an interest in history. The game has a set of 429 cards and more than 800 events. The players build their own timeline of cards. One of the players will read a historical event from a card. The other decides where that event falls in their timeline. If the guess is correct, the player gets to keep the card, and, the timeline grows. The first player to build a timeline of 10 cards wins!
The game is a good way to recall and remember important historical dates. The double-sided cards have a date mentioned on one side and the event on the other. The sequence of the game makes every round informative and challenging. Chronology is a simple and educative way to learn history.
7. Constitution Games
Constitution Games is an educative game of American history, the Constitution, and its application in today’s world. It is a good tool for teaching the politics of America. The players earn stars by correctly answering the 500 questions that teach American history. Answers include background information, historical consequences, and the significance or application to America today.
Challenges are in the form of a Game Czar who chooses the identity of the players. There are absurd twists and turns on Semi-Capitalist Street and the Path of Social Justice. There are funny rules of social justice and intrusive government. 100+ Social Justice cards that redistribute the player’s money and stars to the pork barrel. The game has 500 history cards, 100+ Social Justice cards, 70 Disappoint Big Brother cards, 50 score sheets, 8 Federal ID cards, 8 pawns, 2 dice, and 1 set of rules.
This game helps the players to understand how tyranny can be and therefore learn and appreciate the value of democracy and freedom.
8. 50 states
Fifty States is a board game where all the states are displayed on the board. Each player picks up a card. The player then shows the state on the map, recognizes the flag, and names the capital city, nickname, or postal code. When the state is identified right, the players get the card. The player who collects the maximum number of state cards wins the game.
The game is very challenging as one has to remember so many facts. Since all the 50 states are mentioned on different cards, this game can be used as a trivia or a card game too. It is an easy way to remember all the states and relevant information about each one of them. The child gains knowledge of the location and capitals of states.
9. American trivia
American Trivia is a family board game featuring mostly knowledge-based content rather than trivia. American trivia family cards have two sides. One has easier questions for younger children and the other with more difficult questions for older people, thereby allowing families of all ages to enjoy the board game together. The board game includes 1,440 expert-level questions in four categories, geography, history, arts, and general, and 1,080 Junior-level questions in three categories, geography, history, and general.
The game begins with a player picking up a card and answering the question. Once the child has answered the question correctly the counter can move ahead on the board. The player who gets the most questions right and has moved the most ahead wins the game.
This game can be played with multiple players. It is very informative and challenging at the same time. The players get to know facts about America with respect to its history, geography, and general knowledge.
10. Geography bingo
This is a traditional Bingo game with a geography twist. The person hosting the game calls out names of countries or capitals.
The players check if the called-out country is on their board. They place a wooden bingo chip on the name they have. One has to get five countries in a row to win. The game improves the child’s reasoning, critical thinking, and social skills. It updates the child’s knowledge about countries and capitals and is a fun way to remember facts.
Suitable for young children, it is a very good game to be played in groups. The game comes as a set of eight boards with 25 countries on each board. There are 50 country cards that give information about the capitals and their land area.
To sum up, board games help children learn important social studies skills including memory skills – by learning how to remember facts about each continent. The game helps to foster communication skills – by interacting with other players during gameplay; problem-solving skills – by strategizing what should be done next during gameplay; critical thinking skills – by thinking critically about what would happen under various circumstances; creativity – by creating new rulesets or scenarios if needed. All these features make board games exciting and learning while playing strategy to learn social studies without making it look difficult.
- Robinson, G. M., Hardman, M., & Matley, R. J. (2020). Using games in geographical and planning-related teaching: Serious games, edutainment, board games and role-play. Social Sciences & Humanities Open, 4(1), 100208. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssaho.2021.100208
- Bayeck, R. Y. (2020). Examining Board Gameplay and Learning: A Multidisciplinary Review of Recent Research. Simulation & Gaming. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046878119901286
Armed with a degree in Psychotherapy, CBT and Happiness coaching I have been a counselor for troubled children and their parents for over 4 years. Having a dyslexic child at home made the journey more personal. I have worked at Manovikas kendra for a year as a part time volunteer. In the process I have helped many children overcome learning disabilities and other psychological constraints to lead a fulfilling life! My most tangible victory is my dyslexic child has completed her plus two with over 80% marks and now has trained as a chef from the best college in Asia.