🎲 Learn with Games 🎲

Ready to play?

When children play, they learn: they solve problems, cooperate or try to outsmart others, think about strategies and deal with all the emotions surrounding winning and losing. The superpower of games is that children learn while letting their curiosity run wild and having fun. 💥

This is not only true for children, by the way; teenagers, youngsters and adults also get excited by a game. And if that enthusiasm can combine with learning, it’s win-win!

Are you looking for a different way of learning, for playful forms of work that stimulate and challenge the curiosity of pupils and students?

Then you are in the right place. I’m Marion, I’m a teacher, mother, blogger and games geek. A combination of interests and practical experience that made for this website. On Kenniscentrum Spel (= Game Knowledge Centre) / Pen & Pion (= Pen &Pawn) you will find everything about the power of games in teaching and education. 🎲♟️🧩

From birth, children discover the world through play. It starts with Peekaboo and rolling with the ball. Of course you do it for fun and the bond you build with it. But at the same time, your child is practising motor skills and visual tracking. We humans, mammals, are made to learn through play.

Yet play gets less and less space as we grow up. Instead of a game, books, worksheets and iPads appear on the table: the serious work starts.

But do we really need to separate serious and play?

I don’t think so. Even stronger: I am sure. Because: serious = head and play = heart and emotion. The more you feel involved in a subject, the more you empathise, the better that content sticks. 🧠❤️

Moreover, the world is changing faster and faster and it is our job to teach children to navigate that changing world. You can increasingly look up knowledge. But how do you know if that knowledge is correct? How critical are you of your sources? In a game, you practice that when you have to judge your fellow players. Do you believe their fancy talk or are you cautious?

Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries met hand

A game is connecting with others

The world is becoming increasingly digital. This will continue to evolve in the near future, even to the level of wondering whether we are dealing with a real or digital person. I thought this video was a good example of it: is it real or is she/he AI-generated?

A game, whether online or offline, provides a setting to still really connect with others. Whether that is when you play a mission together in Fortnite or race each other in the board game Flamme Rouge. Unless you are playing solo, in a game you always have another player facing you.

Together, you sit at the game board (or screen) and have a common goal: the game. At the same time, there is room to talk, exchange, learn from each other, ask questions and get to know each other. Around 450 BC, the Greek philosopher Plato already said

You discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

I am a big believer in seeking connection. Not only in your own ‘bubble’ but also outside it.

A game is language

A game starts with reading the rules of the game: language.

Then you have to explain the game to your fellow players: language.

Players ask each other questions about rules that are or are not correct or whether or not you are allowed to perform a certain action: language.

You don’t just learn language from a textbook. You also develop language by using it. A game is a great context to elicit spontaneous language use from young and older language learners. Did I mention that I teach Dutch as a Second Language? I teach Dutch as a Second Language 😁 hence my special focus on this website on games and language.

Especially in the language lesson, a game should not be missing.

On this website, you will find games grouped by subject. Not only for language, but also for arithmetic and other subjects.

A game is practicing skills

When my son went to primary school, I learnt the word executive skills. They are skills you need to perform tasks. These skills are in addition to the content knowledge you learn at school.

For example, it’s about planning a task or making adjustments when something goes wrong.

Executive skills are important for all children, adolescents and adults, ut are especially in the picture for children, adolescents and adults who are (highly) gifted. A well-known image is that of the professor who makes inventions at a high level, but always loses his/her bank card (executive function: organisation).

A lot can be said about (highly) giftedness. That of the professor is an image, but there are all kinds of other types of (highly) gifted. Personally, I think a good image is: you are wired differently, think differently and like complex problems, ideas, conversations.

By the way, often people don’t discover they are gifted until later in life. Or they don’t dare to come out in front of it, because the word ‘gifted’ also has a kind of stigma attached to it: oh you, surely you are so smart (or you think you are so smart).

A game gives gifted children (teenagers and adults) a fun challenge, an opportunity to exchange ideas and to practise their executive functions.

A game is lifelong learning

In his book 21 lessons for the 21st century, Yuval Noah Harari philosophises about the (near) future in which technology is taking over more and more labour. Workers will have to retrain not once, but several times. How flexible are we in this?

🚀 One skill that the 21st century demands is that of flexibility and quickly adapting to new rules and challenges.

In the society of the future, there are jobs we don’t have today. Technology moves fast and can make your job obsolete just like that, requiring you to learn new knowledge and skills, skills (again). For adults, too, it is a lifetime of learning.

A game in miniature is such a changing environment. You have your moves figured out, but there are two more players in front of you who can change the whole game. How do you react to that? How flexible are you?

About this website

When I started looking into games and learning, I found all kinds of information: from game tips to research at home and abroad. Reviews, enthusiastic reports and practical tips from teachers and parents, home-made games for all kinds of subjects and practice situations, conferences and refresher courses.

But nowhere did I find this information collected. So that’s what I started doing.