The goal of our first game is to teach kids the alphabetical order. Why may you ask? There are of course already hundreds of alphabet games on the iPhone/Android market. Well, I have kids myself and I thought it would be easy to find some good games. Countless hours later I had only found a handful of really good games which are both educational AND are fun/interesting to play.
Most of the games were simply boring exercises with some fancy graphics. There is nothing wrong with exercises, but it is not fun. Adding a layer of fancy graphics does not help. This is often referred to as “chocolate-covered broccoli” (well, I like broccoli, but if you don’t it is not tasting better with chocolate).
The other problem I found was that most games required a lot of permissions to run. I don’t want my kids’ games to access my private photos. Why should they if it is not an app like Snapchat? Especially the permission to access the network is frustrating. It usually means that the app is not working when the device is disconnected. Worse, it usually also means that the app is full of advertisements. Maybe I don’t have to pay for these games, but I personally would gladly pay some bucks to protect my kids from all the ads and distractions.
So, with this in mind, it was clear to me that there is a huge gap in the market.
Ok, so how can we make a subject like the alphabetical order interesting and fun. Just putting letters in the correct order is neither fun or interesting. It doesn’t matter if a monkey or alien mixed them up, it is just a task of putting the letters in the correct containers.
To our rescue, we use the very old and famous board game “Snakes and Ladders”. It is a simple dice game most kids like and it is perfect. The player is standing on a platform with a letter and we randomly select another letter further down the alphabet. The player has to calculate how many steps to take to reach the selected letter. The player can jump left or right and climb up on ladders. If the player fails to take the correct number of steps he or she will fall down one level.
It is a very simple concept but perfect to use in teaching. The better the kid learns the alphabetical order the faster he or she will reach the goal but there is still a random element to make it fun. The game can easily be spiced up by adding props like small bombs and balloons, I think you can imagine what they do.
As long as the kid does not know the alphabetical order he or she will never reach the goal so it can be played alone, as a single-player game with the sole purpose of reaching the goal. But, which I think is very important in education, it can also be played together with your friends, all competing to get to the goal as fast as possible.