To get you started, here’s my current list of recommended, kid-friendly multiplatform games that you should be able to get a hold of on most devices, no matter where you are. More “lesson” style information on each will be forthcoming, but if you want to start playing here’s the preview playlist.
A cute game full of dragon babies whom you care for, feed, and watch over as they grow. Who doesn’t want their own, personal, dragon menagerie? Your task is to create a thriving Dragon Park that will attract as many visitors as possible. The game touches on principles of basic genetics, conservation, budgeting, resource management, project management, and planning.
I played this game with two sisters whom I was nannying, and they loved it! The initial excitement of creating a secret zombie virus that would kill the world led to more in depth discussions about the differences between bacteria and viruses, how we can keep diseases from spreading, and even how media hype impacts public health. Oh, and the girls? They were five and seven.
Its a kitty zen garden for your phone, perfect for really young kids and adults. NikoAtsume is a game of patience and order. You play as the owner of a small house, and your only action it to organize your resources to attract the neighborhood cats (some of whom will show up in costume). Managing your environment, sensitivity to the needs of others, and delayed gratification are winsomely presented on the backdrop of charming music and artwork.
A 3D puzzle game that is as full of mystery as it is of brain-teasers of all kinds. Pulled into an ever more intricate puzzle box, you solve one beautifully-constructed physical riddle after another. Great for team work, outside the box thinking, and lovers of steampunk, gothic-inspired environments.
This is a different kind of game experience all together. Where most mobile games pull you into a digital world, this one forces you to go exploring in your neighborhood and city. Aliens have come to earth and you must pick a side. On the one hand there is The Enlightened – a faction that believes that the knowledge and science brought by the outsiders can help humanity reach a new level of peace, prosperity and evolution. On the other hand there is The Resistance – the faction that resists alien influence in an attempt to preserve what makes us human. Once you have picked your side, you will be tasked with objectives that must be completed by visiting sites in the real world and engaging in a digital battle for the future of humanity.
If you are a lover of classic (specifically Wellsian) Science Fiction, a connoisseur of steampunk lore, or just looking for a new way to read together, this is a great game for you. You play as the valet to an eccentric man who has agreed to a bet that he can make it around the world in 80 days. Plan your fastest route, meet mysterious strangers, see the world – all from the comfort of your phone. It’s the best fun you’ll ever have learning geography.
Puzzle and Dragons:
A simple match three game on the surface, Puzzle and Dragon embraces the pokemon-style monster battle and capture structure. As you battle through the dungeons you collect new monsters, earn special edition monsters, and gain the ability to evolve existing monsters into new and more powerful versions. The artwork is colorful and the gameplay is simple enough that even a preschooler could engage easily, while older children and adults will enjoy more complicated strategy options. Less obvious are the pattern, number, and color recognition skills that can be mined out of every dungeon battle.
Had enough of Words with Friends or Hangman? Alpha bear is a freeform crossword puzzle which creates bears to populate your word tiles. The bigger the word, the bigger your bear and the better your score. Spelling, counting, and arithmetic skills can be explored as you build the biggest bear you can.
This is one of the best physics games out there. Tasked with getting your bouncing goo balls from one level to the next, you must use them to stack, stick, float and swing into your target pipe so that they can make their way to a better place. It’s like Lemmings meets Isaac Newton, with an offbeat, cartoonish art style. All of this is wrapped in an intriguing story about bringing kindness to an unkind world, and developing new forms of energy.
Not for kids who don’t get sarcasm, Fallout Shelter puts you in charge of an underground Vault meant to preserve humanity after a nuclear apocalypse. It’s your job to make sure your people don’t die. That’s it. Happy 1950s music and animation provides a hilarious overlay to an otherwise dark game of humankind’s last attempts at survival. It’s tough and really reading heavy, but a great exercise in resource management, basic human psychology, and how to prep for the end of the world. Note: One key way to grow your vault’s population is putting a male and female character in a room together alone. Some time later there will magically be a pregnant lady, and later, a baby. There’s nothing graphic, but if you don’t want to have that conversation yet, pick one of the other games.
If you have any additional suggestions let me know! But this should get you through the summer road trips, weddings, and reunions. Look for my first full Lesson next week!