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Posted by Caroline Edwards | On: Oct 13 2010

Getting your Children off the Gore and on Educational Games

As a mother of three active boys under ten who just can't see why they can't be allowed to play the latest versions of Crysis, Demon's Souls or Left 4 Dead 2, I'm always on the lookout for a way to turn all their energy towards something that could help them grow. I'm not about to plunk them in front of the TV to watch the Discovery Channel though; I can't believe that watching TV could be educational - no matter how good the intent of the programming. And so, I've been scouring the Internet high and low for educational games - something that could bring in my children a kind of respect for science and logical thinking, if possible. It so happens that I've come across several of these. Sometimes, my children share my enthusiasm for them, and sometimes they look at them like a bowl of bean curd and spinach on the breakfast table. If you keep looking and trying out new games for your kids, you are bound to get something that should grab their fancy at one time or another.

Let's start looking at some of the best science games there are for under-tens:

1. Red Remover - no this is not a game about fighting the communists. A child who fires up this game, will find a screen full of brightly colored building blocks, all stacked up in curiously precarious fashion. Some of the blocks are red, some are pink, and the rest are green or blue. The programming of the game understands gravity. Any block that is moved carelessly, will fall; the goal the child is tasked with is, the removal of all the red blocks, while paying attention to the kind of clicking that each color of block requires (a long story, that rule), and also paying attention to gravity. There are 45 levels to this Flash game; while an adult could quickly complete all of them, a child would have endless fun trying to make the laws of physics obey him.

2. Another favorite is a game called Cubic Disturbance (I had quite a time convincing my children that it didn't mean they had to do math). The goal in this game is to move a yellow block to the lowest level on the game. You can't possibly just pick it up and move it. You get it to move a little bit each time you strategically place a bomb next to it and let it off. Things work according to the natural laws of motion, and the fewer the bombs a child uses to achieve his goal, the higher the score.

3. Okay, these educational games are getting a little violent now - bombs first, and breaching a castle next in a game called Crush the Castle. If you've ever seen Castle Clout, press the Castle isn't that different. The story centers on the Redvonian king who has a terrible penchant for capturing and crushing castles. King Blutias of the neighboring state of Crushtania is so alarmed at being a tempting target that he goes and builds some very solid castles. It turns out that this just appears to the Redvonian King as a very tempting challenge. The child playing is the King's finest military mind, and it is his responsibility to find a way to Crush the Castle.

4. Final on her list of educational games for children is the attractively named Fantastic Contraption. It takes a child some time to really learn how the game can be entertaining, and that adds to its appeal. In the beginning of the game, you have a light blue box that contains a little red object. Your task is to get the red object from there to another part of the screen where there is a pink area. That is easier said than done; to get it there, you need to construct a vehicle with wheels, axles and all kinds of parts. The child's job is to build the vehicle out of mysterious-looking parts whose purpose doesn't entirely seem clear at first. It teaches your child the value of patience, and how you need to keep at it in the real world before you find out how something works.

Of all the games I brought to my children, Fantastic Contraption has been the biggest hit. It really is true; the more challenging and less available or approachable something is, the more children want it.

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