Back to School Games – The Board Game Family

Back to school games
Time to start up again!

The first sure sign that summer’s coming to an end is Back To School night. While it means an end to summer, I always get excited for Back To School night. I love taking our kids to see their classrooms and meeting their new teachers.

The atmosphere feels so electric with excited kids, teachers, and parents wandering the hallways. And even though kids may pretend to hate going back to school, you can still see the gleam in their eyes.

Whether your kids are getting back in school this week or next week or next month, chances are they’ll be dusting off their thinking caps pretty soon.

So we thought we’d cover a couple of board games that are well suited for school time. (Disclaimer for our wonderful site visitors outside of the US – while these particular games center on US states, make note that BrainBox has a huge range of countries represented in this line of games. So read on.)

BrainBox board game
Get your USA state thinking cap on.

BrainBox USA BrainBox games definitely work your brain. But more particularly, they work your memory.

The object of a BrainBox game is simple – win the most cards.

It’s also simple to play.

When it’s your turn, you pull a card from the box and study the picture and items on it until the 10 second timer runs out. You pass the card to another player and role the 8 sided dice. That player flips over the card to the question side and reads the question that corresponds to the number you rolled. If you answer correctly, you win the card.

Play them moves on to the next player and they get a chance to quickly memorize another card.

BrainBox board game
So much on each card to memorize.

Each card in the USA edition has about 15 different items on the card. But there are only 8 questions on the back. So each state card has unique questions to answer. And each time you play a card, only 1 question will be asked about it. So it would take a ton of plays to get familiar with each state card’s unique questions.

We found that when the kids won a card it was mostly because they knew something about that state from studying it in school. And that’s one of the big reasons to love this game – it drives home what kids are learning in school.

The rules state that the person with the most cards after 10 minutes wins. But we’ve found it hard to stop at 10 minutes when there are still cards left in the box.

BrainBox board game
With a wide variety of questions.

Here are some sample BrainBox USA questions:

  • What is the state capital? (You’d expect this question)
  • What is the name of the bay shown?
  • Which mode of transportation is shown?
  • Are there red stripes on the flag?
  • Who is the famous person shown?
  • Which university is shown?
  • Name two bordering states.
  • How tall is Devil’s Tower?

If the USA isn’t your cup of tea for learning, then check out the wide range of other BrainBox games like World, Nature, or even Dinosaurs.

Scrambled States of America board game
How well do you know US states?

The Scrambled States of America Game Another game focused on learning about USA geography is from Gamewright and is actually based on a book – The Scrambled States of America. In the book (and now the game) players learn the names, capitals, nicknames, shapes and positions of the states through a myriad of visual teasers, language riddles and geography challenges.

The object in The Scrambled States of America Game is similar to BrainBox – win the most cards. The big difference though is in how you play.

Each player takes an included map for reference along with 5 state cards (blue cards). Players then place their 5 state cards face-up in front of them to form their “State Line” and take a moment to get familiar with their cards.

Scrambled States of America board game
The State and Scrambled card decks.

The Scramble cards (red cards) are placed in the center of the table face-down. To begin, one player flips over the top Scramble card and reads it aloud. Players then race to be the first to find a match with one of their 5 state cards. Whoever is the first to slap and announce the name of their matching state, gets to collect the Scramble card. They then put their matching state card into their Home pile and draws a state card to replace it in their State Line.

The Scramble deck also includes “Go The Distance” cards. When those are revealed, players turn over the top card of the States deck and find which of the states in their line is closest to that state. The player with the closest state wins and places both state cards (theirs and the one just flipped over) in their Home pile.

Scrambled States of America board game
Sample states and things to find.

Once the State deck is depleted, the game ends and the player with the most State cards in their Home pile, wins the game.

Games Comparison While both of these family games help kids learn US geography, they do so in different ways and at different levels. The Scrambled States of America Game is a race against other players to find matches while BrainBox USA is an individual memory game.

In both games we found a certain amount of anxiety, but for different reasons. In one, the anxiety is in being too slow to find a match and in the other the anxiety is having a mind go blank.

But that’s not to say that anxiety is bad. After all, we are talking about school and learning here. Just ask your kids, there’s plenty of anxiety when it comes to school tests.

Where these games shine though is in taking elements of learning and putting them in a fun family atmosphere where you can learn together.

Now, we’re off to meet some new teachers…

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