As a parent or guardian, it’s understandable that you may be worried about the impact of video games on your children. According to the NSPCC, there are many risks associated with online gaming, such as cyberbullying, trolling, grooming and in-game purchases.
But it’s not all bad news - in fact, video games can be a force for good. As Andy Robertson, a journalist who specialises in writing about family video games, says: “Video games are also a place where children talk to their friends, learn social skills, develop compassion, find some peace and quiet or even a way to calm their fears.” Not only that, they hold a lot of educational value too.
To help you navigate the world of online gaming, and ensure you choose games that are safe and age-appropriate for your children, we’ve compiled a list of our top educational games. We’ve awarded 15 games the title of one of ‘Natterhub’s Safest Educational iOS Games 2021’. Congratulations to all the winners! But what criteria did we use to select them? Well, we took into consideration:
• Learning Ratings' and 'Community Ratings' from Common Sense Media, which are assessed by experienced educators.
• Whether the app is featured on Taming Gaming - a family friendly video game database, including ‘likes’ of approval from parents.
• Apple App Store age ratings and reviews.
• PEGI ratings, which look at the presence of violence, sex, bad language and more. It’s helpful to learn what PEGI stands for, and to see the numerical PEGI ratings explained in order to understand a PEGI meaning: PEGI stands for Pan European Game Information, which is a classification system for the safety of video games. Within PEGI, there are 5 classifications ranging from PEGI 3 (which includes games with virtually no sensitive content) to PEGI 18 (referring to ‘adult’ games with violence which can be extreme and visual).
HOMER Learn & Grow includes interactive games, lessons and more on a range of topics, including:
In fact, the developers claim it improves early reading scores by 74%! It’s designed by educators and tested by children to ensure the content is educational and age-appropriate.
If you’re looking for a party game to play with your children, Spaceteam is a fun family-friendly option. Two to four players have to shout “technobabble” at one another until their ship explodes! It’s a great social game that teaches children about teamwork, cooperation and communication.
"Spaceteam is a non-violent cooperative game about flying a spaceship by shouting instructions at each other. It’s easy to learn, chaotic and funny, and promotes good communication skills. Remember to work together… as a Spaceteam! " - Team Spaceteam.
Teach your children maths skills, like matching, sorting and classifying shapes, with Shape Gurus. Not only that, it also builds creative problem-solving skills too.
“Shape Gurus is a series of puzzles for preschoolers to solve in a safe, ad free environment. Preschoolers match, sort and identify shapes and colours in guided play, designed to be non-addictive. The settings menu is behind a parent gate to avoid accidental tapping, allowing kids to focus on the evolving story” - Shape Gurus.
Jungle Time is a fun and engaging way to teach children how to tell the time. Animal cartoons smile and roar as your little ones work out what time it is using a jungle-themed clock face.
You can learn with 12 or 24-hour clock notation and personalise based on beginner, intermediate or advanced learners.
“Jungle Time is an engaging, easy to use educational app that teaches kids how to tell time in multiple languages. The app is simple and fun for kids, and fully customizable for parents and teachers” - Jungle Time.
Build your own scene and create stories with Toca Life World. With over 90 locations and 500 characters, the possibilities are endless.
It’s a great way to engage children using locations that resemble the real world, like a hospital or office.
"Want to star in your own sci-fi movie? Design a house fit for a sloth? Or just hang out with your friends at the mall? In Toca Life World, you’re the boss! Feeling creative? Remember to check out the Character Creator and Home Designer tools. Start building your world today” - Toca Life World.
Fancy teaching your children how to learn code? Even if you haven’t got the foggiest when it comes to computers, ScratchJr can do the work for you in a fun and visually-appealing way.
It’s inspired by Scratch, a popular programming language used by millions of children around the world.
"ScratchJr is an introductory programming language that enables young children (ages 5-7) to create their own interactive stories and games. Children snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters move, jump, dance, and sing” - ScratchJr.
Not sure where to begin with phonics?Teach Your Monster to Read is a fun way for parents and educators to help their children learn about letters, words and sounds. Children get to create a monster and then go on a journey to improve their reading skills.
“We're delighted that Teach Your Monster to Read has been recognised as one of Natterhub’s Safest Educational iOS Games 2021. We work very hard to ensure that millions of children can enjoy teaching their monsters to read in a super safe and fun environment” - Teach Your Monster to Read.
Discover the wonders of the ocean with Beyond Blue - a game made in collaboration with the BBC’s Blue Planet. Children play Mirai, a deep-sea explorer and scientist, and go on adventure to learn about the world’s oceans. This is a relaxing and educational game for all the family.
"It was our ambition that Beyond Blue would bring real-world science, hope, and a sense of wonder to its players” - Beyond Blue.
Wordsmiths and puzzle fans will love Typoman. Use letters and words to solve problems and avoid monsters. Spell out words to progress through the chapters of the game, helping children to improve their spelling skills.
“We noticed that especially younger players are very curious about Typoman's gameplay mechanics and its unique usage of letters and words, so we’re very happy to receive this recognition” - Typoman.
This BAFTA nominated game tells the story of Nour, who flees to Europe from Syria. You’ll have to communicate via what looks like a messaging app to influence the decisions she makes on her journey.
This is a mature and emotionally-engaging educational iOS game for children aged seven and above.
Penrose was a featured on a list on Taming Gaming - made in collaboration with the National Literacy Trust - to help get children reading. But this is no ordinary story.
Children can move forwards and backwards through this non-linear story - and even shape the narrative itself. Words are highlighted and can be changed, which has repercussions later on in the game. This is a fun and innovative way to teach children about narrative and storytelling.
“Penrose is, at its core, a reading comprehension game. Players will need to think critically about the characters, their motivations, and the situations in which they find themselves in order to progress” - Penrose.
Like Penrose, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is also on Taming Gaming’s ‘Get Children Reading’ list. It’s based on the book that was published in 1982 and sold over two million copies. The game is fully interactive, with thousands of choices to be made for the characters.
“The development team kept much of the same material from the original gamebook and wrote many new passages allowing players to explore new areas of the mountain, keeping very much in the spirit of the Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson’s classic fantasy tale” - The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
This emotionally impactful game will help teach older children about post-WWII life. My Child Lebensborn is a ‘Tamagochi’-like educational game where you have to look after the characters by cooking, cleaning and providing emotional support, like giving advice about bullying.
The Guardian described it as a “tool to bring to vivid life the emotional texture of history.”
“My Child Lebensborn is a story-driven nurture game - a dark Tamagotchi - letting you experience the fates of Children Born of War. Take care of Karin and Klaus and help them survive in a post-war society. Find out what happened to their parents and try to find a better future” - My Child Lebensborn.
Take a step back in time - literally! - with Deep Time Walk. This family-friendly game provides an audio walking tour of our planet.
Walk 4.6km and, for every metre, you’ll travel through one million years of the earth’s history. Learn all about how the earth was formed and some key events in its history, backed up with the latest scientific research.
“Complemented by the tactile Deep Time Cards, the Deep Time Walk App is a kinaesthetic learning tool that enables anyone to experience a guided narration of the evolutionary history of earth and the interrelatedness of humans within the web of life" - Deep Time Walk.
This is another history-themed game to add to your list. Each chapter covers a different time period in the Third Reich’s history, from the Nazis’ rise to power to their fall in 1945.
"Through the Darkest of Times is a strategy game, that lets you play a resistance group in Berlin during the Nazi-time. You plan and execute actions to win supporters and weaken the regime. You need to balance morale of your members, get resources, and avoid getting caught by the Gestapo” - Through the Darkest of Times.
We hope you enjoy these educational iOS games! All data provided as part of this article was correct at the time of publication.
To compile the list, we took data from PEGI, Common Sense Media (where approved educators review apps), the Apple App Store and Taming Gaming, a directory of family-friendly games. All apps require either a Taming Gaming listing or a Common Sense Media rating of 3/5 and above to be considered for inclusion.
If you have any questions or feedback, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
There’s no more relevant issue for young children today than online safety. That’s why Natterhub combines 50 years of educational experience with a realistic approach to create a leading-edge platform that can make a real difference in children’s digital lives and turn them into safe, kind digital citizens.
Natterhub’s cleverly-designed interface looks and feels like social media, allowing pupils to create valuable learning moments through ‘structured play’. Our resources allow teachers to not just deliver against the demands of the online safety curriculum, but create truly impactful digital citizenship lessons. As well as learning the skills they need to safely use devices on their own, pupils are taught skills like empathy, kindness and resilience - skills that are vital both online and offline, and will last them a lifetime.
With the backing of TwinklHive, Natterhub now has users in over 50 countries. TwinklHive is a part of Twinkl, a global educational publishing house which offers primary and secondary learning resources to over 10 million members worldwide.
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