Have you ever wondered why children are so captivated by video games? These digital playgrounds expertly deliver an alluring combination of entertainment and challenge that’s hard to resist. Many of us know a child who, given the opportunity, would happily spend all day glued to a screen playing games.
Left unchecked, this passion for gaming has the potential to spill over into an unhealthy obsession. However, this same passion for gaming presents a unique opportunity for parents and educators. What if we could channel it into fun educational adventures? Could we tap into this passion for games and leverage it to engage students with exciting learning activities?
In this article, we’ll explore a variety of creative, screen-free activities inspired by video games and aligned with key academic topics.
From physical challenges that mimic game scenarios to imaginative storytelling quests, we have some exciting ideas to transform screen time into learning time.
Get ready for some screen-free fun to transform your child’s love for video games into a journey of educational exploration and creative discovery!
Screen-Free Educational Activity Ideas
These examples are a starting point for activity ideas and should be adjusted based on the participant’s age and ability.
Although originally intended for group classroom activities, most of these ideas can be modified for other settings or individual activities.
Craft game packaging
This activity blends creativity with marketing and graphic design, making it an ideal project for introducing children to various disciplines.
Children begin by embarking on a creative journey, envisioning their own video game. They delve into its world and consider what it will entail: Who’s it for? What’s the story? Who are the characters? What genre of game is it? Once armed with a rich set of ideas, they can begin designing packaging for their imaginary game.
As part of the process, introduce some foundational principles of graphic design. Guide children in understanding how typography, images, colour choices, and layout affect how a message is transmitted and received. Get them to consider their design choices carefully so that their decisions all have a degree of reasoning behind them.
Depending on ability level, the activity might culminate in a group critique whereby students can present their final designs and attempt to articulate and justify their design decisions. Doing this will help to build critical thinking and develop communication skills.
This activity provides insights into the creative field of graphic design and some behind-the-scenes aspects of video game creation. It highlights that design involves much more than ‘making something look good’.
Design a game map/world
This fun activity gets children to imagine the universe in which their game resides and ponder questions around it. Who lives there? What is the terrain like? Which adventures or stories take place at which location?
Storytelling is a core element of this activity. Students can explore the physical context of their stories, crafting unique locations and environments for their characters to inhabit.
Introduce a mathematical twist by creating a simple grid system which overlays the map. Children can then practice using grid references when providing vivid descriptions for each location. For example, “G:5 is where the wicked ice monster hides in the frozen forest”.
The map could be a simple 2D representation of the game world or expanded to include 3D models of buildings and environmental elements. Incorporating a range of materials and a vibrant colour scheme can really bring their worlds to life.
Compose a game score (without musical instruments)
Not everyone can access musical instruments or will have prior musical knowledge. This activity is an imaginative, practical approach to creating music and is inclusive for children of all skill levels.
Students are encouraged to explore how they might use their voices or everyday objects to create sounds. Rather than being about technical composition, this activity is about understanding how sound can be used to tell a story or evoke feelings.
Begin by discussing how different sounds might make us feel. Use relatable examples from everyday life to highlight this. Then, select a scene from an imaginary game and discuss what kind of emotion that scene might evoke.
Explore creating sounds with everyday objects – rustling paper, pouring water, rolling a marble on a hard surface.
Children can then storyboard the video game scene and create exciting sounds to accompany it. Their compositions could even be performed live as a group activity with someone acting as narrator.
The critical aspect of this activity is that it is something that everyone can be involved in creatively, regardless of ability level or resources available.
Build a video game inspired model or diorama
This hands-on project involves students imagining their video game as a tangible model, character or scene.
To incorporate an element of sustainability, choose recycled and discarded items for construction. This approach to junk modelling sparks the creative use of materials and fosters ecological responsibility.
Begin by defining the basic shapes and structures with selected materials, laying the foundation for your creation. These can then be refined by adding textures and surfaces using techniques such as paper mache (papier-mâché) or taping over objects and glueing on textural elements like cotton wool.
The final step involves bringing the model to life with vibrant paints and detailed decorations.
As an extension idea, a diorama can make the perfect prop for experimenting with stop-motion animation!
Write an article for a gaming-focused magazine
This activity is an opportunity to develop writing and literacy skills whilst considering how to communicate effectively with an audience.
Discuss different types of magazine articles, such as reviews, opinion pieces, and feature stories. Encourage children to select one aspect of gaming that they are particularly passionate about and set about creating an article to promote it. It might be a review of a specific game or a broader piece on gaming in general. They should consider their target audience and think about what message they want to convey and how best to convey it in an insightful, engaging way.
Get children to create a draft, outline their article, gather research, and structure their article accordingly. Introduce them to the process of creating a draft and making revisions.
Video game-inspired fitness challenge
Transforming a child’s enthusiasm for video games into a dynamic physical activity can add an exciting dimension to exercising. You can achieve this by gamifying a workout routine with video gaming elements to create an exciting, interactive experience.
Set up an obstacle course using props such as cones, ropes and mats to represent challenges in a video game. Integrate problem-solving tasks and puzzles along the course. Further enhance the experience with storytelling elements. As they navigate the course, children might ‘jump over lava’ (leap over strategically placed mats), ‘crawl through a dense jungle’ (manoeuvre under ropes or netting), or ‘escape a mysterious forest’ (dribble a ball around a series of cones). This narrative component adds an exciting and immersive dimension to routine and repetitive exercise, transforming it into a stimulating fitness adventure.
Track progress with timers, a point system, and rewards for achieving milestones. This progress tracking is intended to mirror similar mechanisms used in video games. Rewards, for example, might include gaining additional time or scoring bonus points for an error-free clearance of the course.
Code a simple video game (not screen-free)
Okay, so this activity is not completely ‘screen-free’, but we couldn’t include a list of activities for video game-obsessed kids without mentioning an activity to code their very own game. Even thinking about coding games can be daunting for some children, and having a passion for playing them can be a great hook to get them interested.
Coding also nurtures many problem-solving and cognitive skills, which are highly valuable outside the realm of programming, making it a worthwhile activity to explore.
Align the scope and complexity of this activity with students’ current levels of experience. Whatever your starting position in terms of prior knowledge, a wealth of information is available online, including lots of great free resources. Scratch and Raspberry Pi Foundation are great places to start.
Begin with a basic overview of coding and explore some straightforward commands and structures of coding, leveraging the interactive tutorials on platforms like Scratch. These guides are excellent for building knowledge and confidence.
Start simple and progress at a comfortable pace. It’s also worth managing a child’s expectations if they are new to coding. Creating a blockbuster game is not a realistic goal to begin with, so it’s important to celebrate small wins. Even animating a sprite to move from one side of the screen to another can be hugely satisfying.
Market research a new video game concept
We left this idea until last because it is perhaps the most flexible and open-ended. It can encompass a short activity to fill a one-hour lesson or be expanded into a multi-faceted project lasting several weeks or even months.
Implementation example for a one-hour lesson:
Introduction (10 mins) – Introduce the concept of ‘market research’ and how it can apply to all products, including video games. (10 mins)
Brainstorming session (10 mins) – Quickly brainstorm ideas for a new video game. Consider genre, target audience and unique selling points. Consider implementing constraints to keep things focused – for example, a game to encourage older people to keep fit or a game to promote sustainability.
Mini-survey (15 mins) – Students can devise five questions designed to gather opinions on their chosen concept.
Survey swap (15 mins) – Students can swap surveys with a partner and fill them out, providing feedback on each other’s ideas.
Discussion and closing thoughts (15 mins) – Conclude with a group discussion on the potential merits and downfalls of the concepts. Discuss the various insights and look at how these would be used to inform the design of a final product.
Implementation & outline for a 4-week project:
Week 1 – Introduction and research phase
Investigate market research and how it applies to game design.
Look at current trends, demographics and case studies of successful games.
Week 2 – Game concept generation and development
Identify a target audience and develop a detailed concept that aligns with consumers’ wants and needs.
Explore ideas for storylines, mechanics, gameplay, unique features and visuals.
Week 3 – Data collection
Create a comprehensive survey to garner feedback on the chosen concept. Involve a broad audience, including peers, friends, and family. Consider reaching out to industry professionals for feedback.
Week 4 – Analysis and presentation
Collate and analyse the survey results and incorporate them into a presentation.
Create visuals and a model of the concept.
Present the insights to a class, including a variety of engaging media.
This multi-faceted project approach allows for a much more comprehensive exploration of market research in the gaming industry. It gives students an understanding of the many processes involved and their impact on final game designs.
Hopefully, this collection of ideas ignites your imagination and aligns with your educational goals. We encourage you to use it as a starting point for inspiration. Modify the activities to cater for the specific individual needs of your learners. Adapting the tasks and making them more personal will enhance their effectiveness and help make them more enjoyable and impactful.
While this article primarily focuses on engaging children fascinated by video games, the underlying principles can be universally applied to other passions and interests. Whether your child is captivated by trains, nature, sports, or anything else, incorporating their interests into their educational activities can greatly enhance their learning experience and stimulate their curiosity.